Momotaro’s Sea Eagle: the Momotaro spirit in a real war time


Momotaro, known as “Peach Boy”, is a famous folktale character in Japanese culture. Featuring modified Momotaro, an animated Japanese propaganda movie, Momotaro’s Sea Eagles is produced with the cooperation of the Japanese Naval Ministry and endorsed by Japanese Imperial Navy in 1942. Targeting children, this movie is telling the story of a naval fleet consisting of the human Momotaro and several animal species, including dogs, monkeys, rabbits, and pheasants, fighting together for a common goal to destroy the Demon Island. In a dramatization of the attack on Pearl Harbor, demons at the island of Onigashima was attacked by this fleet, alluding to the Americans and British demonized in Japanese propaganda, and the film even uses actual footage of the Pearl Harbor attack.

Although it is the original Momotaro story is so popular that every Japanese knows the details and it is often used as a moral model to educate children, the Momotaro has different versions and each one represents different national values across the history. The Momotaro’s Sea Eagle gives a brand new annotation of the Momotaro spirit under the World War II, when the united Japan is growing as a morning star, threatening the division of worldwide power structure, while the whole nation is struggling to exist with their traditional values, faced to the shock from a westernized culture and ideology.

There is one belief unchanged throughout the history: the weak can overcome the strong as long as the weak has faith and braveness so that the power of god will facilitate them to the final victory. In the original story, compared with their physical looks, the Momotaro and his companions cannot beat the enemies in the demon island. However, they seems have the supernatural power to deter the enemies. The same in the movie, animalized soldiers not only possess the special skills that human being does not have, such as monkey’s agility, but also go beyond the physical limitation, which only can be and imaged in the cartoon. For example, the little monkey forces the torpedo to turn over from the wrong direction.

The monkey soldier is guiding the torpedo back to the correct direction.

The first difference is from the energy generation, which is the “the best millet dumplings in Japan” in the original story. However, in the movie, there is not such a super nutrition generator at all. Besides, possibly influenced by the modern trend of the scientific thought, their attack success relies more on the organized modern military strategy and developed weapons. Even the Momotaro has his title as a capital, rather than just a peach boy.

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Momotaro is encouraging all the soldiers before the attack.

What’s more, the attack is a more national issue and individual’s desire. In the original story, Momotaro is the person who comes up the idea to destroy the demon island, organize a small group to put the plan into practice, and in the end they take back the treasures ever after with his old adoptive parents. Even for the monkey, the dog, and the pheasant, all their allegiance to Momotaro comes from their worship towards his determination and braveness, not from their inner connection to Japan as a same country or nation. However, in the movie, the animal soldiers and Momotaro are just superior-subordinate relation. What bonds them together is that the united recognition towards their country and nation, which is well reflected by the scarves with Japanese flag they wear. In the end, what they get in return to award them is the honor of being a national hero, not the explicit treasure.

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All the soldiers are inspired by the nationalism.

All those difference or similarity is targeting to cater to the purpose of the warlike promotion to serve the national strategy, which one kind of Momotaro values represents.

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