With the advent of modern technology, humans have utilized tools and mechanisms to their advantage. This relationship has slowly shifted to one of necessity. Today, humans rely on technology, and it’s become an integral part of contemporary lifestyle. Two pieces of film that portray this parallel are Momotarō’s Sea Eagle and Astro Boy.
Momotarō’s Sea Eagle is a Japanese animated propaganda film depicting various animals, led by folktale hero Momotaro, successfully bombing Demon Island. In this case the animals have been given human features. The monkeys talk and play games with each other, wear headbands, and fly planes. Given this personification, we can treat the animals as humans, and can analyze how they ultimately harness technology to their advantage.
The film portrays the animals’ dominance over technology in an almost comedic fashion: monkeys are seen jumping from plane to plane and at one point a monkey rides on a torpedo. This scene in particular is important in illustrating this relationship with technology. A monkey is shown riding a torpedo that bucks and moves as if it were a horse. In this case, the “human” controls the technology as if it was an animal, and presenting it in a comedic way affirms this dominance.
It’s important to note that without technology, the attack on Demon Island would not have been successful; it’s apparent that humans need technology. Momotarō’s Sea Eagle took place in 1942, but what about the future? How would this relationship change as technology progressed?
Astro Boy (1963) is a Japanese anime depicting the futuristic world of the year 2000. In this world, the humans have developed robots that not only help with every day life, but they also provide entertainment and have become a commodity. Relating to Momotarō’s Sea Eagle, humans are shown using technology (robots) and having complete control over them: there’s a robot circus where robots are forced to perform for the entertainment of humans. But where Astro Boy differs from Momotarōis with the portrayal of Astro Boy himself.
The story of Astro Boy begins with a human boy who dies in a car accident; he is essentially killed by technology. His father, wanting to reanimate his son, creates an advanced robot in his image, but he’s ultimately chastised for not being human enough. In the first episode, Astro Boy helps the enslaved robots gain freedom, and eventually gains rights for all robots. In a sense, Astro Boy epitomizes the future of technology and these events display what may happen in the future: technology will ultimately control humans. This vision is presented to us beginning with Astro Boy’s human death by technology and ending with the creation of laws aiding robots. An even starker example is in the second episode where robots are depicted creating more robots (the human aspect of technology has been completely removed).