Momotaro’s Sea Eagle Implications

Jacqui Ostermann

Momotaro’s Sea Eagle Implications

     Momotaro’s Sea Eagle uses food and drink to characterize the two opposing military infantries. Millet dumplings are eaten by the dog and the monkey in this sequence (the characters used to portray the Japanese). The dumplings, as well as the animals, reference the child’s folk tale for which the film was named, Momotaro, and connote a childlike innocence and a reverence for the past. On the other hand, scenes depicting the “demons” of Demon Island are full of beer bottles. The alcohol is used to help contort viewers’ images of the inhabitants of Demon Island. The difference of food in this film is as simple as the difference between good and bad. Millet dumplings are a patriotic symbol of Japanese strength, and are reserved for Seyo’s heroes, while alcohol, a vice, degrades and condemns the pitiful villains.

The two screen shot above are from the frame in the film that most closely relates back to the Momotaro folk tale. In the legend, Momotaro (the Peach Boy), a dog, a monkey, and a pheasant, all journey to defeat the Ogres that have been plaguing Japan for years. On their way, Momotaro, out of the kindness of his heart, shares the dumplings that his parents baked for him with love (the best dumplings in all of Japan). The ties to the tale can easily be seen in the frame above as the monkey and the dog eat their dumplings to gain strength before defeating the demons of Demon Island for the glory of Japan. The dumplings are used in this seen to keep ties to the original Momotaro legend, which creates a sense of nostalgia and trust in viewers, since Momotaro is a character they are quite familiar with. This is the last scene before the bombing, and it uses close ups of each character: the monkey, the dog, and the pheasant, to create a sense of intimacy. We, as viewers, see each of these characters, cute and happy, and want nothing more than for them to succeed. The scene is fun, and used to connect viewers with the film’s heroes. Although battle and destruction is imminent, the only hints of that truth are the words to the otherwise pleasant sounding battle cry and the loud buzzing of the airplane engine. What Seo really wanted to focus on in this scene, was not war, but its great heroes.

This thinly veiled pro-Japanese Pearl Harbor propaganda piece, paid for by the Japanese Ministry of the Navy perverts the image of Americans in order to glorify the Japanese heroes of the attack. The Demons are displayed as boorish and blockheaded. They are large, fat gluttonous creatures with no courage. As they see they are being attacked they all fly overboard in fear. The camera alternations between shots of the Japanese torpedoes and the deck of the demons’ battleship emphasize the demon’s disorganization. The torpedoes are drawn to appear powerful, direct, speedy and accurate. This is in direct contrast to the way the demon ship deck is portrayed. The camera angle must be widened, or the drawing simply more zoomed out, as the focus shifts from the torpedoes to the demons. The torpedoes’ narrow path is easy to show up close, but the purposeless and unplanned maneuvers of the demons are a chaos that only a wider angle can hope to catch. No music plays during this scene. All that can be heard is stumbling and incoherent mumbling as the demons scramble uncoordinatedly from one side of the ship to the other. Once all the lackeys are overboard, defeated and flung into the depths of the ocean by their own incompetence, the focus is shifted to the head demon (depicted above).
In this scene, alcohol is used to dehumanize the inhabitants of Demon Island. In this time of crisis, the leader of the demons shows no honor. He does nothing to defend his island, or save his people. All he is capable of is pulling out another bottle that was tucked away in his shirt. This depicts the demons as creatures driven by their vices, and beings that are unable to make any contributions to society. This defamation of the demons on Demon Island makes pitying the complete destruction of their military vessels a near impossible emotion, which pushes the films not-so-subtle pro-Japanese undertones.


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