Momotaro’s Sea Eagles: Uniting the Past and the Present

The animated Japanese film, Momotaro’s Sea Eagles, was released in 1943 as a propaganda film during World War II, shortly after the Japanese attack on the American naval base at Pearl Harbor, just two years prior. In order to garner support for the war, Japanese director and writer Mitsuyo Seo incorporates elements of the popular Japanese folkloric tale of Momotaro into the inciting and patriotic film. As the film begins, various dogs, birds, and monkeys, also present in the original tale, prepare for battle on a naval ship under the command of Momotaro.

The animals gather around an authoritative Momotaro

Within the first few minutes of the film, all the respective animals scurry about the ship as they line up in formation upon the entrance of Momotaro. As the commander of the ship, Momotaro is initially introduced in a position of power; the scene begins with a panoramic view of the ship as the animals line up around Momotaro, and slowly proceeds to zoom in towards Momotaro at the center of the crowd. In this pivotal shot, in which the entirety of the film is set up, Momotaro is the central authoritative leader amongst all these animals, effectively stirring up patriotism and nationalism in order to defend the country from Demon Island. It is in this scene, embodying the sole purpose of the film, that Momotaro’s large presence and strong leadership incite the determined and proud animals, foreshadowing the success of the eventual attack later on in the film. The established authority and influence of Momotaro in the film resembles that of the character’s leadership in the folk tale as he and the other animals take on Ogre Island. The characteristic similarities of Momotaro as a hero in both stories bring a relevancy of the folk tale into the present war at hand, effectively serving as a true propaganda film.

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