Humans Above All

Though humans, animals, and machines all work together in Momotaro’s Sea Eagle and Astro Boy, there is a clear divide between the humans and their non-human companions.

In Momotaro’s Sea Eagle, it is clear that Momotaro is the leader. He is the only human on the ship and is much larger and more prominent than his animal troops. In every shot Momotaro is in he is in the center or the foreground: his animal companions either flanking him or attentively waiting for instruction. The animals are cute and innocent in comparison to Momotaro’s adult sobriety. At one point a dog keeps tickling a monkey’s butt with his tail and the monkey keeps itching the spot while looking at a map. Later on in the film a monkey jumps around from plane to plane playing with a little bird and delivers it back to its mother. These actions of jumping and tickling are common amongst children and so it is almost as if Momotaro is leading his pack of children into war. We never see Momotaro slip or bounce, he is always walking upright or standing in a powerful and sturdy stance. It seems as if the severity of the situation is apparent to Momotaro but the animals retain their childish innocence and just view it as a game.

Similarly the animals also control their technology they were playthings. Once a torpedo is deployed in the wrong direction the monkey jumps out of the plane, redirects the torpedo by pushing it while he is swimming, and then jumps back up to the airplane. The technology is at the beck and call of the animals and so they all of return home safe and happy. This is also why all the troops on “Demon Island” are men and not animals. It is assumed that the men, like Momotaro, understand the consequences of their actions and deserve to be invaded. Men are capable of evil, whereas it would be hard to believe that there is justice in bombing ships full of monkeys, rabbits, dogs, and birds.

As the humans are superior to the animals in Momotaro’s Sea Eagle, so the robots are inferior to the humans in AstroBoy. For the most part the robots are treated as slaves, performing demeaning acts in the circus and fighting each other like gladiators. Astro Boy was treated as a human by his father until he stopped growing, until he stopped acting exactly as a human child, at which point his father lost it and sold him to the circus. Once at the circus Astro Boy refuses to fight, displaying sympathy for the other robot, a very human emotion. He also shares his energy with the other rundown robots so that they can move again. At the end of the film there are robots featured on TV fighting for their rights. Though the robots have very humanlike qualities, the humans don’t quite accept them as equals. In both Momotaro’s Sea Eagle and Astro Boy the humans rank themselves above the animals and the machines.

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