Momotaro’s Lesson of Good Karma

by: Natalie Jongjaroenlarp, Japan 70

Monkey is giving back the little bird, safe and sound.

In Momotaro’s Sea Eagles, a popular Japanese folktale, the “peach boy” is shown as a strict figure of authority who will stop at nothing to obliterate the “demons” of Onigashima. Even though the film is set in the backdrop of war and violence, there are small sequences that remind the audience of the original folk tale of Momotaro.

The shot above is near the beginning (about 11 minutes in or so). Before this scene begins, the little bird is upset and flies away from the mother/caretaker only to wind up on the wing of one of the war planes that the monkey is on. In this particular screen shot, one of Momotaro’s warriors, a monkey, retrieves a little bird that has gone astray. Shown here, the monkey gives the bird back to the mother or caretaker in charge. As will be seen later, this act of kindness comes around full circle when the monkey and his fellow passengers on board are in trouble once their plane goes down and crashes into the ocean. The mother/caretaker bird comes to repay the monkey by saving the plane’s passengers.

This surfaces the main message, or theme, that is reflected in the original story: good deeds will never go unnoticed. It affirms the reputation of Momotaro’s good character that is stressed in the original folk tale. This idea contrasts in an important way with the terror of the war as the backdrop of the animation film. Even in the midst of the violent nature of the war that goes on, there is still a small spark of hope that humanity has not lost the ability to come together and help one another in times of need.


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