Momotarō’s Sea Eagles: Propaganda for Children

Momotarō is ingrained in the hearts of many people of Japanese descent.  Much like many European fairy tales, it tells the story of a young boy from humble beginnings who struggles and is eventually able to obtain victory.  Young children hearing this story for the first time may see Momotarō as a role model. Mitsuyo Seo’s anime adaptation, “Momotarō’s Sea Eagles”, exploits Momotarō because he is a role model for young children.

The anime opens with this happy, fanfare-like overture and depicts a boat rolling on the ocean waves.  Animals are shown preparing to go to battle; after a couple of scenes, the hero is finally depicted.  The animals are depicted in a very cartoony, playful way.  Ironically, these animals will be fighting, yet they have very childish, playful mannerisms.  Finally Momotarō appears, but only for a brief moment.  Most of the attention is spent on the animals preparing to attack a tropical-looking Onigashima, the island of the ogres.  The “ogres” however, do not even look like the traditional ogres from Japanese myths.  In the original story, the ogres were blue and red and had hideous faces.  In the anime adaptation, they seem to resemble humans, but do not look like Momotarō.  After destroying the naval fleet at Onigashima, the animals return back to Momotarō and celebrate their victory.

The depiction of Onigashima as a tropical island makes it clear that this is a depiction of Pearl Harbor.  Also, representing the ogres as alcoholic, heavyweight and unintelligence is not a coincidence. This is an attack on Americans as well as propaganda in support of the attack on Pearl Harbor.  However, adults in Japan probably already have this conception of Americans and the recent attack on Pearl Harbor.  Instead, the target audience is young children, who have most likely heard of at least one version of the Momotarō story.  Their hero is commanding this fleet of animal pilots to attack Onigashima, an island of overweight human-like figures.  Although the hero is not the main focus of the anime, despite being in the title, he is important in the process of the bombing.  To children, he would appear to be an important figure who commands his troops from afar.  Therefore, he remains unharmed and can still be a valuable person for the war effort.  Because Momotarō seems to be leading attacks, the children will support their hero to eliminate the “ogres”.  The use of cute animals is also effective in war propaganda.  None of the animals die during the anime, which gives an even greater sense of victory.  It also makes the war seem more appealing to young children.  This creates a large gap between a child’s perception of war and the realities of war.  Therefore, the target audience is led to believe that war is an enjoyable activity and their hero, Momotarō, is a leader of the troops.

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