The 4 Atagos -- Atago, Chokai, Maya, and Takao -- were similar in configuration to the earlier Nachi class, but had engineering and armor improvements. All these ships were constructed in intentional violation of the naval treaty restrictions, although still close enough to pass for their classes (as long as they weren't weighed in drydock like the Italian Zara embarrassingly was).
These were fast, powerful, and exotically beautiful ships -- Japanese masterpieces.
Chokai was a flagship and Admiral Mikawa commanded his 7 cruisers and 1 old destroyer, when they raided the Allied invasion anchorage at Guadalcanal in what became the Battle of Savo (Island), night of 7/8Aug42, and sank 4 Allied heavy cruisers (HMAS Canberra and USS Astoria, Quincy, and Vincennes).
Atago and Takao accompanied fast battleship (or battle cruiser) Kirishima in (the) Second (battle of) Guadalcanal, night of 14/15Nov42. According to Whitley (in Cruisers of World War II), they hit our modern American battleship South Dakota with no less than 16 8" shells. However, after watching Kirishima rapidly pounded down by Washington's 16" guns, they and the accompanying destroyers wisely withdrew at top speed.
All the Atagos saw considerable action, and despite all its armor, Maya blew up spectacularly when caught by one of our submarines on the way to the Battle of Leyte Gulf. (It is believed that our magnetic torpedo fuse device finally worked and detonated right underneath Maya's ammunition magazines.) Takao survived the war and was surrendered in Singapore, after being further damaged by British midget submarines, like those that had crippled Tirpitz.
Photos of the recognition model of the class from various surface and aerial angles:
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