Momotaro: Leading the Troops

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The most important shot of Momotaro’s Sea Eagle is when Momotaro is instructing his troops on how to enter battle. They are planning a surprise attack on the island, Hawaii, and he is reviewing the strategy with his troops: where, when, and how they should attack. This scene demonstrates Momotaro’s power and intelligence. Momotaro is standing in the foreground looming much larger than the monkeys, indicating his presence is more significant than theirs. The monkeys are lined up in the background standing at attention, but they are still rather silly looking in comparison to Momotaro’s stark features, his arched eyebrows and his straight stern mouth. Half the monkeys are smiling and some of them have their view blocked by the ears of their companions, they come in various sizes and are standing with their feet together and their bellies out. This contrast between Momotaro and the monkeys emphasizes the seriousness with which Momotaro regards his mission, and the willingness with which his troops follow him. The monkeys may look silly but they are standing at attention and listening to Momotaro’s every word.

The fact that the troops (in this scene) are monkeys and Momotaro is a human also emphasizes Momotaro’s superior intelligence. Monkeys are viewed as primates, the creatures from which humans evolved, and so Momotaro is the clear leader. This shot also affirms the idea from the folktale that Momotaro was born to lead. In the folktale Momotaro leads a dog, a monkey, and a pheasant to fight the ogres on Ogre’s Island. Here Momotaro leads monkeys, rabbits, dogs, and birds to fight the “ogre” Americans on Hawaii. Though in the film Momotaro does not lead the fight himself, but rather remains on the ship, the same idea of him as a just and strong leader is conveyed. The seriousness of Momotaro and the playful silliness of his animal troops enforces violent Japanese patriotism.

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