Detachment from violence and the dehumanization of an enemy

Ogres running out of a burning building unharmed after Momotaro’s air raid.

The image above depicts Momotaro’s air raid on Daemon Island. Momotaro’s army of monkeys, dogs and pheasants have just launched a surprise attack, sinking the Daemon’s naval fleet and setting most of their base on fire. The image above is critically important to understanding the animated film Momotaro, for it sets the tone of a world in which violence is only carried out on objects as well as creating a broader propaganda message of conditions in Japan. In the image, we see ogres represented as round cartoonish white men with horns on their heads running from a burning building.

This imagery serves two purposes; the first is to bring humor to the world of war. The ogres are cute bumbling creatures that lack any grace in their movements. Despite the horrific fire in the background, there is no pain or fear visible for the ogres. This depiction creates emotional detachment in the viewers from the horror that would be created if the true suffering of war was displayed. The words “Run away, run away, everyone run!” along with the image of a burning building should create fear in the children that view this film, but instead their eyes are drawn to the comical sight of awkward little bald ogres with horns and dots for eyes.  A deeper understanding of the propaganda of this image unfolds when one considers that this film was created immediately after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Thus the thought of American soldiers being bombed is replaced with the image of the foolish round white ogre. This helps to objectify Japan’s enemy as nothing more than a cartoon.

This sequence affirms the events of the popular Momotaro folktale of the noble Momotaro traveling to Daemon Island to defeat the evil ogres. However, the propaganda message creates a link in children’s minds that the bombing of Pearl Harbor is as honorable as Momotaro’s quest to defeat Daemon Island.

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