Imperial Navy (1981)


Imperial Navy (連合艦隊, Rengo kantai) is a 1981 Japanese film directed by Shue Matsubayashi. The film is a retelling of the downfall of Japan’s Imperial Navy.

Also known as The Imperial Navy, The Grand Fleet, and Rengo Kantai (original title).


In 1940, despite the opposition of the commander-in-chief of the Combined Fleet, Isoroku Yamamoto (Keiju Kobayashi) and other officers, Japan signs the Tripartite Pact with Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy as it prepares for expansion in Southeast Asia. Masato Odagiri, son of shipwright Takeichi Odgairi, graduates from the Imperial Japanese Naval Academy. A year later, his friend, Eiichi Hongo, is promoted to naval lieutenant.

During the attack on Pearl Harbour, Eiichi is in the raid as part of a Val dive bomber crew from the aircraft carrier Zuikaku. The raid is a success, but is tempered by the non-presence of the American carrier fleet. In February 1942, the battleship Yamato is designated as Yamamoto’s flagship, and Takeichi is drafted as a reservist. He is assigned to the ship as a launch pilot.

Not long afterwards, the American navy launches a counterstrike in the Doolittle Raid. Following this, Yamamoto orders a massive naval strike at the American-held island of Midway, but the Japanese carrier force is met and sunk by the US carriers. Several months later, after the Guadalcanal campaign, Yamamoto is assassinated as American pilots intercept and shoot down his plane. Eiichi returns home to Japan and marries his fiancée, but is soon recalled to participate in the Battle of Leyte Gulf. Off Cape Engaño, the Zuikaku is sunk, and Eiichi is among the casualties as he had given his life jacket to Shinji, Masato’s younger brother, who was assigned to the ship as a navigator. Elsewhere, the Yamato, now serving as the flagship of Takeo Kurita’s Centre Force, withdraws from Leyte without having engaged in battle.

In April 1945, the Yamato is assigned to participate in Operation Ten-Go, a suicide mission to Okinawa. Shinji has also been reassigned to serve on the battleship. Masato, now a kamikaze pilot, is also due to participate, and asks Shinji to stay with Takeichi during the battle. As the Yamato and her accompanying fleet sails down to Okinawa, it is intercepted by American planes and sunk with a heavy loss of life. Shinji and Takeichi are both killed in battle. Masato observes the sinking, while contemplating on his own death. The film ends on a scene of Eiji’s wife, child, and father playing on a beach as the credits roll.


  • Keiju Kobayashi as Isoroku Yamamoto.
  • Toshiyuki Nagashima.
  • Yūko Kotegawa.
  • Kōji Takahashi.
  • Kiichi Nakai.
  • Tatsuya Mihashi.
  • Tetsurō Tamba as Jisaburō Ozawa.
  • Kōji Tsuruta (special appearance).
  • Hisaya Morishige.


Imperial Navy was released theatrically in Japan where it was distributed by Toho on 08 August 1981. The film was the highest grossing domestic production in Japan in 1981. The film was released in the United States by Toho International on 28 November 1983. It was released to home video by Sony with an English-language dub.

Historical Accuracy

While the film is generally accurate in its portrayal of the Pacific War, two inaccuracies occur during the Battle of Leyte sequence. In the film, the Center Force is seen withdrawing from battle at the San Bernardino Strait. In fact, it had engaged the Taffy 3 unit of the Seventh Fleet for two hours off Samar before withdrawing from the battle; in addition, the sequence in which the Zuikaku is sunk was reversed with the withdrawal.

Production & Filming Details

  • Director(s): Shue Matsubayashi.
  • Producer(s): Tomoyuki Tanaka.
  • Writer(s): Katsuya Suzaki.
  • Music: Shinji Tanimura and Katsuhisa Hattori.
  • Cinematography: Katsuhiro Kato.
  • Editor(s):
  • Production: Toho and Toho-Eizo.
  • Distributor(s): Toho.
  • Release Date: 08 August 1981.
  • Running Time: 145 minutes.
  • Rating: Unknown.
  • Country: Japan.
  • Language: Japanese.

Video Link

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.