The Japanese Zero was a revolution in itself. The Japanese designers were given the daunting task of designing a plane that needed to have firepower, range, altitude, and speed. These things may have been possible with a better engine, but the Japanese lacked this factor. Left with no other choice, the designers were forced to take on radical revisions. What was needed was a drastic weight reduction. A new super aluminum formed the shell of the craft but weight restrictions forced the pilot to go without armor protection, and without self sealing fuel tanks. The result was a fighter plane that was the backbone of the Japanese Navy. The Zero is arguably the best fighter of World War II. Its aerodynamic design gave it a smooth design. Its low weight and broad wings gave the Zero fantastic lift, making it extremely agile. During battle, a Zero could out maneuver any U.S. plane with ease. Complex exercises could be executed in a fraction of a second by an experienced pilot. "In some respects the Zero was the greatest fighting aircraft of World War II. Because of its clean design, low weight relative to engine power, and high lift, the Zero was extremely nimble. At low speeds it could turn inside any U.S. plane with ease. A good pilot flying a Zero could perform complicated maneuvers in a split second." -- John H. Leinhard
The Zero was a perfect fit for the Japanese Navy. It would dissassemble quickly and was adept at carrier take off and landing. In addition to these attributes its light weight gave it a range of 1,100 miles, ideal for the vast Pacific theater.
The Japanese Zero was the perfect naval plane, and a perfect fit for the Japanese carrier strategy.