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Manga / Zipang

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"A new country has taken shape in my mind. An independent island surrounded by the sea, and brimming with strength, is standing right before our eyes. Its name is Zipang."

A modern JMSDF Aegis destroyer named the JDS Mirai travels through time back to the Battle of Midway . . . and the crew doing nothing. Fearing a Temporal Paradox, the ship's captain decides to stay as isolated as possible, while trying to figure out a way back home. This course of action does not go as planned, due largely to an Imperial Japanese Navy officer the executive officer rescues, who reads the contents of the ship's library - and thus learns the true nature of the war and what came after it.

Created by Kaiji Kawaguchi, who also wrote The Silent Service and A Spirit of the Sun, the manga ran from 2000 in the Weekly Morning (Shūkan Mōningu) Seinen manga anthology magazine, and wrapped up in 2009 with 43 volumes published. A 26-episode anime adaptation was aired in 2004 which adapts the first 70 chapters of the manga, and it was licensed by Geneon for distribution in North America.

Compare and contrast Zipang's events with the actions of the crew of the USS Nimitz in the 1980 movie The Final Countdown, where that ship was sent to Pearl Harbor.


  • 2D Visuals, 3D Effects: The water in many of the scenes in the anime adaptation, especially those involving Mirai sailing through the water. Otherwise, the cell shading is quite well done.
  • Ace Pilot:
  • Affably Evil: Lieutenant Takumi Kusaka is a patriot and loves his country and people, and does care about the lives that Japan is losing in the war. After his rescue, he learns from Mirai's archives the fate of Japan for the next 60 years, but decides that Japan can do better and envisions Zipang, a Japan that settles the war strong, independent, and on favorable terms. Much of the story revolves around Yosuke trying to stop Kusaka from changing the outcome of the Pacific War, and turning his dream into reality.
  • Alien Space Bats: How the time storm comes to exist, how it works, and why it's targeting the Mirai at that particular time.
  • Alternate History: The story revolves around whether the temporally displaced crew should meddle with history, and later on stopping one person who desires to do just that.
    • As Mirai's impact on history, unintentional and intentional, grows, the crew are finding that they can no longer rely on their records of history as they knew it.
    • The point that highlights the changing timeline is when Yosuke discovers that the Mirai's presence and actions has lead to his father being run over by a car as a child and killed, making Yosuke a person who no longer exists in this timeline.
  • Anyone Can Die: Aside the fact that some historical figures can and will die, the Mirai's crew isn't exempt from this. Not even their captain, as the manga version shows later on.
  • Artistic License – Military: A warship with the capabilities of the JDS Mirai would have needed to use at least half of its ammunition to stop a single WWII-era airstrike. Most of the second airstrike would have gotten through. The ship would have been out of ammunition (with no way to reload) very quickly. It would have then been target practice for WWII-era Allied aircrews.
    • There's also the less obvious issue of fuel and spare parts. Something like JDS Mirai is powered by gas turbines. Those use jet fuel and the closest WWII-era equivalent is kerosene, which would not have been available in sufficient quantites to keep her fueled. Spare parts? Not available at all.
  • Batman Gambit:
    • Kusaka and Yamamoto orchestrates the betrayal of Mirai's plan with the IJN's to avert the slaughter at Guadalcanal to bombard the US Marines out of existence, knowing that Mirai would not sink a warship with thousands of Japanese sailors even at the cost of 20,000 American lives. They did not expect Mirai to Shoot the Bullet.
    • In a ploy to destroy Mirai and remove this potent symbol Japan's future defeat, IJN Lieutenant Taki indirectly leaks her course to the US Navy, and then feigns ignorance of the danger to takes hostage Kadomatsu and the Chief Petty Officer Yanagi aboard his submarine, threatening to surface and expose the submarine to air attack when Mirai tries to evade the American scouts, counting on Mirai to Leave No One Behind and fight to save her crew aboard the submarine.
  • Butterfly of Doom: The reason why the main characters are fearful of causing changes in history:
    • The IJN intelligence officer Yosuke rescues from a crashed plane causes changes that drive the rest of the story.
    • Yosuke's father is killed in an accident a few days before Mirai arrives at the Japanese mainland, turning Yosuke into a man who no longer should exist.
    • Yonai points out very clearly that helping Japan, even with the best of intentions, will be negative in the long run as the militarist government will eventually run Japan into the ground.
  • The Captain: Captain Saburo Umezu. He's also the Mellow Fellow.
  • Colonel Badass: Commander Hutton. While he's definitely not a gentleman, the flight groups under his command have never lost a man in their prior engagements. And then there's when he rams his plane into Mirai's bridge under a hail of autocannon fire, and survives.
  • Cool Boat: The Mirai fits in that it is a modern AEGIS ship in WWII, which means it practically outclasses everything in the seas. That, and the ship it is a quite realistic design, which is a nice change of pace from the more fantastical designs of other fictional vessels.
    • It's supposed to look realistic: the Mirai is mentioned as a fictitious Yukinami class destroyer, a variant of the real Kongo class destroyer designed to carry helicopters, which is in turn a modified version of the American Arleigh Burke class destroyer. (Interestingly, the JMSDF has since brought the Atago class destroyer into service, which is a real variant of the Kongo class intended to carry a helicopter, making it a real-life version of the Yukinami class for all intents and purposes. They even predicted, with impressive accuracy, how much larger a Kongo would have to be to add those capabilities.)
      • Not so much a prediction of a future capacity as a prediction that Japan would start building a version of the Flight IIA Burke-class destroyers (the first Flight IIA Burke, which added the hangar, was USS Oscar Austin (DDG-79), which entered service in 1998).
    • And of course there's the several appearances of the Battleship Yamato, a real-life Cool Boat in that it was the biggest battleship ever built.
  • Cool Plane: The Umidori, the fictional VTOL scout craft of the Mirai which looks like the result of a tryst between an Apache attack helicopter and an Osprey.
    • For classic plane fans, there are several WWII aircraft, most prominently the Dauntless dive bomber. While scores of them were chewed up by the Mirai's modern weaponry, one piloted by a particularly gutsy and lucky pilot managed to score a solid hit on the Mirai by ramming it . . . and the pilot lives too.
    • There's also the Spit Fire Mark V piloted by Ace Pilot Singh, one of only two on entire British Pacific Force, who takes the Alliance's side. Hurricane, Mosquito, Beaufighter, and Blenheim are also in his squad.
    • The Zero makes a few appearances on the Japanese side. In particular, the rare floatplane version of the Zero intercepts the Umidori when the latter is sent to reconnoiter the Chichi Jima (a fairly heavily inhabited neighbor of Iwo Jima that does not have the real estate to support a real airfield).
    • The A-29, a civilian long distance plane also makes an appearance. Capable of travel from Tokyo to New York, it gets missions to travel Tokyo-Singapore and Singapore-Berlin. In Zipang's timeline they even pulled it and came to Japan to boot. They didn't survive in Real Life history.
  • Cool Old Guy:
    • Isoroku Yamamoto. When told by Captain Umezu about his future deathnote , he just expresses his satisfaction of dying on the front lines.
    • Mitsumasa Yonai.
  • Cut Short: In the anime, the plot is not resolved in any way, instead just petering out when they ran out of episodes.
  • Deliberate Values Dissonance: The differing mindsets of the militaristic Imperial Japanese and the more pacifistic modern-day crew of the Mirai are explored in several instances.
    • This shows up again in the encounter between former Prime Minister Yonai and the main characters. Yonai opposes the warmongers but believes that, for the future peace and prosperity of Japan, a painful and destructive defeat is necessary. The main characters have trouble buying into his line of thinking.
      Yonai:note  Japan from my time... is fooling itself. In order to keep its Imperialist stance, it is using the trendy military authoritarianism. But if it keeps going on, one day Japan will fall. And I think only the harsh reality of defeat, can allow Japan to wake itself.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: Kusaka is killed, preventing his quest to get a nuke made, but not before convincing Kadomatsu to do the right thing. Thanks to him, Japan was able to surrender in 1944 instead of 1945 without being nuked or occupied through Operation Downfall. The Imperial military is demobilized and its mandate is changed to a defense force instead of having a Self-Defense Force. However, the JDS Mirai was wiped out and sunk.
  • Fedora of Asskicking: Yosuke wears one in the civilian attire he acquires to blend in with the time period.
  • For Want Of A Nail: The Mirai notably declines to be the nail right the point at which it is commonly agreed by historians that a nail could have done Japan any good- the ship pops in on the first day of the Battle of Midway, in which Japan lost four aircraft carriers and is considered to have begun its defeat, but heads for home instead of the battle.
    • Her passive and pacifist attitude slowly changes as the crew is unwillingly and unavoidably drawn into the conflict as the crew grapple with their moral responsibility to save lives and their duty to their countrymen and country. Later on, realizing that changes in the timeline are inevitable, Masayuki decides to become that nail and achieve Kusaka's vision.
  • Freudian Trio: played with.
    • Yosuke Kadomatsu: The Executive Officer and second in command of Mirai, and the levelheaded Ego of the trio. This is implied by Captain Umezu when he selected Yosuke to accompany Kusaka to Malaya, explaining to him that while Masayuki is likely to kill Kusaka at the slightest hint of going off track and Kouhei probably won't do so, Yosuke still hasn't made up his mind about him.
    • Masayuki Kikuchi: The Weapons Officer, and Superego of the trio. He's serious, calm and rational in making decisions, and this is highlighted when he proposes sinking the USS Wasp to prevent her from sending another attack squadron after the damaged Mirai. It's subverted however in the aftermath of the Wasp's sinking, when he breaks down in a Heroic BSoD over having sunk the ship and taking possibly hundreds of lives. Later, seeing the inevitability of changing history, he embraces Kusaka's vision and stages a mutiny on Mirai, overthrowing the captain and proceeding to work with Kusaka towards Zipang.
    • Kouhei Oguri: The Navigation Officer, and the intuitive ID of the trio. He's friendly, laid back, as seen when he makes an impromptu friendly visit to the IJN personnel aboard Mirai's resupply tanker and rather impulsive in making decisions. He often clashes with the more pragmatic Masayuki on issues such as taking lives in self defense. Later he remains on board Mirai to watch Masayuki after Masayuki mutinies and overthrows the then captain Yosuke.
  • Get Back to the Future: Soon after being Trapped in the Past, they sail the Mirai to the same location where they encountered the phenomena that sends them to the past in the hopes that they would be able to go back to their own time. It fails, with many of the despairing crew blaming it on the recently rescued IJN lieutenant aboard the ship. This point of the story marks the start of Mirai's reluctant and ever growing involvement in the events of the war.
    • Ultimately, unlike how The Final Countdown played out, Mirai and her crew, never get to return to their own time.
  • Glass Cannon: While Mirai's weapon systems are second to none, she's still a missile destroyer from a time when armor has been rendered obsolete by technical advances in warfarenote  and therefore has no armor, relying on her active defenses to defend herself.
    • For Mirai, this is the cause for her demise, when she is destroyed by American crossfire.
  • Hero Antagonist: The Allied Powers are this to the Mirai whose crew found themselves fighting along side the Axis Powers' Empire of Japan.
  • High-Speed Missile Dodge: Mirai has to dodge a spread of torpedoes when an American submarine catches her dead in the water as she attempts to Get Back to the Future at the location she first appeared in 1942. She does, and does so again to another spread of torpedoes, and the captain of the submarine comments that it should be impossible for a ship to get up to speed from a cold start in only a matter of minutes.
  • Historical Domain Character: This is a Historical Fiction featuring a 21st Century warship that is Trapped in the Past. Some of those that appear include:
  • Historical Villain Downgrade: The Friend-or-Idol Decision faced by the crew largely ignores the five-to-twenty million people who died due to Japanese economic mismanagement or War Crimes and focuses instead upon Japan's two million military and one million civilian dead. This can be considered accurate in the sense of reflecting how a SDF crew, being Japanese (even in the modern-day), would (like most countries) have a historical view skewed towards the Japanese people's experiences and suffering during the war, giving less weight to the suffering they inflicted on others. The Mirai's crew feeling such a way with complete uniformity is more questionable.
  • Idiosyncratic Episode Naming: Each chapter of the manga starts with 'Wake (No.)'.
  • In Spite of a Nail: Though the timeline in the Pacific Theater differs greatly from actual history, the European Theater proceeds as history dictates. Knowing Italy will surrender, the Pacifist faction wants The Emperor to propose peace to Allies. This fails because Kusaka also knew, and he informs the Tojo/pro-war faction so they will prolong the war.
  • Intimidation Demonstration: Used on the American forces on Guadalcanal beach when Mirai fires a disarmed missile into the American's food depot, together with cheesy radio messages, to convince them to withdraw and buy time for the Japanese naval engineers to withdraw from the island. it fails, and the landing party from Mirai are endangered by the marines sent into the jungles, culminating in the second deadly clash for the Mirai's crew
    • Used again on Yamato when whey intercept her shells to persuade the IJN to back down from obliterating the American marines.
    • Fails with disastrous consequences when Mirai tries to intimidate the attack squadron from the USS Wasp into retreating by taking out only half the squadron.
  • Interservice Rivalry: Shows up between the Imperial Army and Navy. This is very much Truth in Television.
  • Japanese Spirit: Colonel Tsuji is a fanatic of this trope, but gets disillusioned in Guadalcanal. Before this, Kusaka challenges him on it:
    Kusaka: (Places a gun on Tsuji's head) "If your absolute faith helps you dodge this bullet, then I too will believe in the human spirit."
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Commander Hutton may be brash, unrefined, cocky, rude, and partakes in many vices, but its shown that he does deeply care about his men. He is horrified by the deaths of his men and the subsequent sinking of the Wasp, and is overjoyed when they find his wingman and friend alive.
  • Killing in Self-Defense:
    • The battle that unfolded at Guadalcanal between the landing party and the US Marines after they stumble into each other. Highlighted is a scene during the battle where Yosuke gets into a life and death melee with a soldier, and is forced to kill him in a very personal way. This event goes on to haunt Yosuke.
    • The decision to sink the USS Wasp, killing possibly hundreds of sailors, rather than just damage her flight deck, was because any attack that didn't destroy her would be quickly repaired and leave the Wasp free to relentlessly attack the already damaged Mirai. This leaves a bad taste in everyone's mouth, and leads to Masayuki's Heroic BSoD.
  • Macross Missile Massacre: Averted in that Mirai is only capable of launching 2 short rangeSea Sparrow missiles per salvo, and was only able to intercept a salvo from Yamato because of the latter only fired a limited ranging salvo of 3 shells and the ingenuity of their weapons officer.
    • Still, with her short-ranged missiles and gun, she was able to rapidly decimate an attack squadron of 40 planes hell bent on sinking her.
  • Meaningful Name: The name of the ship, Mirai, means "future" in Japanese.
  • Moral Myopia: The Mirai's crew would like to stop the war so that the Japanese people won't suffer as much as they did in the original timeline... with little mention that in doing so they are helping Japan's brutal military dictatorship to drive their country and their people into the ground before they are inevitably defeated by the weight of Allied industrial superioritynote . That millions of people are suffering and dying pointlessly as a direct result of the regime's refusal to surrender is not debated or mentioned.
    • Despite wanting to end the war early and save lives, the Mirai's crew only approach their problems from a perspective of helping Imperial Japan. They do debate letting the war run its original course without their interference, and even consider destroy the Mirai so Imperial japan cannot use them to further its aims; indeed this is an important plot point. However, no one ever considers defecting to and helping the Allies to bring this war to a faster conclusion.
    • Yonai points this out to the main characters; that to ensure a peaceful and prosperous Japan in the future, nothing less than total defeat must be inflicted on the Japanese to shake them out of their warmongering mindset, and that any actions of Mirai that helps the Japanese, even if it's with the best of intentions, will cause harm in the long run.
  • My Country, Right or Wrong: Though they try to avoid mucking with the timeline, once things start to spiral it never even occurs to the crew to side with Britain and/or the USA - you know, countries with governments that aren't brutal military dictatorships responsible for the deaths of millions.
    • Deconstructed during a Heroic BSoD by Masayuki. He was the pacifist who seriously thought about resigning from the SDF when Japan might have to send its forces to support the US during its conflicts in the Middle East. But he insists that the Mirai has no choice but to fight the Allies because, like it or not, they are a Japanese warship and every Allied ship and plane they came across in the past saw them as an enemy and attacked them.
  • My Name Is Not Shazam: The name of the ship is Mirai, not Zipang.
  • Number Two: Yosuke Kadomatsu, the XO and the main character.
  • Normal Fish in a Tiny Pond: An Aegis destroyer is already a powerful force in a modern conflict, but the Mirai against a force 60 years before it is nearly unstoppable, capable of sinking all the capital ships - sans battleships - of a WWII battle fleet before they can even spot her. Mirai, with its weapons and knowledge, has the power to change history, and the crew grapple with whether they should use that power do so.
  • Officer and a Gentleman: the IJN officer they rescue from a crashed seaplane fits this trope to a T.
  • Pacifism Backfire: The crew of Mirai struggle throughout the story of trying to live up to their humanitarian and pacifist ideals in a world war ruled by the principles of total war and combat pragmatism, and some of the actions they take to avoid conflict and minimize casualties come back to hurt them.
  • One-Hit Kill: The USS Wasp was sunk with a single Tomahawk missile.
  • Patriotic Fervour: Kusaka dearly loves his country, and this motivates him to use the knowledge from the Mirai after his rescue to change history and save Japan from a humiliating defeat.
    • Tsuji fanatically believes that the Imperial Army can overcome anything and any odds with their Japanese Spirit alone.
    • This and his devotion to the Imperial Japanese Navy is what motivates Lieutenant Taki to destroy the Mirai, which he sees as the symbol of Japan's and the navy's defeat.
  • Punch-Clock Villain: The Imperial Japanese military depicted in the anime and manga are just everyday rank-and-file soldiers who have various flavors of patriotism and My Country, Right or Wrong, friendships with their comrades-in-arms and families themselves back home and can be friendly with the crew of the Mirai.
  • Red China: In a way, Mao's army show up as enemy of Imperial Japanese Army. The myriad other Chinese foes like Yan Xishan, and Chiang Kai-shek, don't.
  • Ramming Always Works: Hutton dives his plane into Mirai when his bombing attempt fails, inflicting serious damage and killing several crew members when his plane crashes into her bridge.
  • Refusal of the Call: At the morning of their arrival at the day of The Battle of Midway, they get a front row seat to the battle, but refuse to intervene, deciding that it is not their purview to interfere with history. However, whether they like it or not, their presence alone and their efforts to merely survive is changing history, and they struggle to come to terms with it and adapt to this radically different world.
  • Rogue Soldier: Takumi Kusaka. He resigns from the Imperial Navy and heads off to attempt to utilize the raw resources in Manchukuo to sustain Japan's war economy and later build a nuclear weapon outside the authority of the Japanese military.
  • Shoot the Bullet: To prevent the IJN from bombarding the American marines and Mirai's own landing party on the beaches of Guadalcanal, Mirai intercepts the first salvo that Yamato fires. This only succeeds because Yamato fired a limited salvo of only three shells and is surprised and intimidated into standing down by the interception and the following threats.
  • Shown Their Work: For the most part, the show does a remarkably accurate job of portraying various aircraft and ships that appear throughout the series.
    • Not only the characteristics of the destroyer—the writers also did their homework on moon phases. To be clear: both the 4 June dates, in 2004 and 1942, are correctly shown (full moon and last quarter, respectively). Attention is called to this, and it's one more thing that proves something has gone wrong.
    • Curiously in the midst of all the Shown Their Work, the Mirai's superiority only lasting for the first thirty or forty targets it engages is never discussed in the anime (though it is in the manga). It would be quite possible for WWII enemies to mob it to death.
      • This is an important plot element twice in the anime version. First, when the Yamato arrives to shell Guadalcanal, Masayuki mentions that, since they will soon run out of missiles to intercept shells with, the only choice they have is to attack Yamato directly. Later, he suggests that they intercept the US naval bomber squadron when they are closer with cannon and short range missiles because they only have so many long range missiles.
  • Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism: The JMSDF trains its people to emphasize non-lethal methods, something that wears off as the crew face the realities of life and death combat.
  • Standard Hollywood Strafing Procedure: A traitorous Manchukuo Imperial Air Force officer pulls this off during a parade in Changchunnote  in an attempt to assassinate Emperor Pu Yi. He misses on his first attempt, and is foiled by Yosuke when he turns his plane around for another strafing run.
  • Tagalong Reporter: A reporter who came aboard to do a highlight of the JMSDF is trapped in 1942 along with the crew.
  • Take a Third Option: Kusaka desires to create a self-sufficient Japanese Empire without the enormous burdensome and undefendable East and South East Asian coloniesnote  using the vast undiscovered resources of its Manchurian colony, giving Japan the resources and feasibly defensible area to end the war on favorable terms. The name of his vision: Zipang.
  • Tempting Fate: One of the American pilots wonders what Mirai can do with its single cannon. He's shot down with a single shell from that very cannon a second later.
  • Trapped in the Past: One of the few instances where the characters make an honest and serious attempt to keep their heads down.
  • Those Wacky Nazis: They do not appear much, the story being set in the Pacific Theatre of the war. However, they do occasionally appear, and they become a plot point when Kusaka convinces Lieutenant Tsuda to try to assassinate Hitler.
  • Visionary Villain: Kusaka. His vision also makes him the Foil to the main characters, who fear a Temporal Paradox that would make the future they came from unreachable, and even when they come to terms with the inevitability of changing the future, go about unsure of what they should do with the power they have at hand.
  • War Is Hell: The story has no reservations in expressing the brutality of combat, its aftermath, and its psychological impact on the crew. Neither do the battle-honed contemporary Japanese and American soldiers get spared from it. It also deconstructs the impersonal nature of 'pushing buttons to make blips on the screen disappear' that the technology of modern conflict allows.
  • Weapon of Mass Destruction: Knowing that Japan will lose the war with its current course, Kusaka starts a project in China to build a nuclear weapon to use against the Allies, and succeeds.
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist: Kusaka dearly cares about his country, after learning the fate of Japan after the war from Mirai's library, plays and manipulates the crew of the Mirai, and various actors in the Imperial Japanese government and military in a grand scheme to Take a Third Option between defeat and empire and create his vision of a strong, self-sufficient, proud, and undefeated Japan.