Momotaro’s Sea Eagles: A Fish in an Upside Down World

Directed by Mitsuyo Seo and released in 1943, Momotaro’s Sea Eagles was an animated propaganda film starring the Peach Boy himself along with his loyal servants taking on the seemingly arduous task of conquering Demon Island. The film is a dramatization of the events that took place during the bombing of Pearl Harbor. In the film, the Japanese are portrayed by innocent looking animals led by the youth general Momotaro. The Americans are distinguished as being oversized, drunken, and cowardly horned demons in the body of a human who would throw away their national pride to avoid a conflict. The film itself retains many aspects of the original folklore such that Momotaro commands the dog, monkey, and pheasant from afar as they engage in a surprise attack over the demons.

Little fish swimming through a big sky

The idea that the animals are attacking humans is portrayed not only through the title of the film but also through the scene where the paper koi attached to Torpedo Bomber No.3 appears to be swimming through the sky as the aircraft engages in a nosedive toward the demon fleet. The idea that the koi is swimming in the sky and the eagle is coupled with the sea represents the irony that animals led by a young general engage in armed warfare against the demonized humans. This romanticized idea is utilized in order for the film to appeal to its target audience: children.

The limited animation and warfare presented within the film further romanticize the idea of war and the atrocities involved. Unlike the anime today, Momotaro’s Sea Eagles produces a limited view on war through the use of looped scenes and restricted motions of characters. With children being the target audience, this sort of restricted view dilutes the idea of war and creates an entertaining aspect to it: completely opposite to the reality of war. The koi swimming in the sky represents this backwards idea of how war progresses and ultimately ends. The film ends with Momotaro and his crew awaiting the return of Torpedo Bomber No.3. Idealistically, everyone who set out for war shall return home safe, and Bomber No.3 is no exception. As the paper koi burns up in the final scenes, the aircraft goes down, and the crew is saved by none other than a sea eagle.

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