In the classic tale of Momotaro, the divine boy born from a peach seems to represent an ideal Japan. He is polite, a hard-worker, and a strong, natural leader but is never boastful. Furthermore, Momotaro has a divine purpose, to rid Japan of a particular evil group of ogres on a faraway island. To do this, Momotaro recruits a dog, a monkey, and a bird to join his cause, and interestingly, the animals do all the fighting. When only the Chief Ogre remains, Momotaro’s role is to “negotiate” the terms of the Ogre’s surrender. Clearly, Momotaro is thought to be a leader and strategist rather than a simple soldier.
In the above shot, taken from Momotaro’s Sea Eagle, we see Momotaro as a proper military leader. He is about to give orders to his animal soliders, who will go to attack the faraway island on which the “ogres,” which are clearly American soliders, live. His facial expression is determined and serious, he is poised and stands with his legs and shoulder-length, one hand rests on his sword as if to show that he is prepared for battle at any moment. I imagine that WWII-era Japanese would like to think of themselves represented this way – young, but strong and determined, ready for anything, and serving a divine purpose. While the divinity of Momotaro is not explicit in the anime, such divinity is surely implied by the very use of the name Momotaro.
It is interesting to note that in Momotaro’s Sea Eagle, Momotaro does not actually accompany his animals to the island. He gives the orders from afar; he consoles the soldiers when it appears (briefly) that one plane has been lost. But he need not step foot on the island himself to garner victory, perhaps representing Japan’s ability to rule the colonies it had been acquiring similarly.