Holding Out For A Hero: Heroism in Minamata and Momotarō’s Sea Eagle

The character of Momotaro seems to stand for the typical humble and loyal Japanese citizen, always willing to do what they feel is right and proud of their origins as well as their nation. Momotaro symbolizes all that is right and good in Japanese society. In both Minamata and Momotaro’s Sea Eagle we see these qualities in Momotaro himself as well as in the people affected by the mercury poisoning. For example, in the documentary, those whose lives were affected by the mercury poisoning attempt to do what is right and confront the Chisso factory by purchasing small shares from the company in order to gain entry to the annual stockholder’s meeting and voice their concerns.

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Those affected by the mercury poisoning vow to continue fighting for justice against the factory.

In Momotaro’s Sea Eagle, Momotaro  is the captain of a gang of animals on a mission to destroy demon island. In this film, Momotaro is the embodiment of Japanese loyalty, leadership, and strength that every Japanese person could identify and relate to during the war time. From the Japanese point of view, Momotaro is a selfless character doing what he believes is best for the nation and others. In both the films, a hero is imagined to be someone that embodies justice. In Minamata, the heroes are those that are seeking justice for those affected by the Mercury poisoning. In Momotaro’s Sea Eagle, Momotaro believes he is achieving justice by destroying the evil on Demon Island. Justice is the virtue that must be met if any act is going to be considered heroic, though the definition of justice for the heroes of the films may vary. The hero must be in touch with the “common people.” They cannot be seen as superior than them, for if they are the common people cannot relate to the hero. The duty of the hero is to stand up and fight for what is right and just. In both films, the heroes follow through with their view of justice. Their duty also includes being a prime example for the rest of the common people to follow. They are supposed to be the embodiment of what each citizen should strive to be in a particular society. In Minamata, that hero would be one that seeks justice for others and stands up to those that commit unjust acts, such as the fertilizer factory. In Momotaro’s Sea Eagle, a hero would be one that is not afraid to take on the role of a leader and bring justice to those who deserve it.

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Momotaro preparing his animal army for the attack on Demon Island.

In conclusion, the main trait of a hero seen in both of these films is justice. These Japanese films portray the character of a hero as a loyal and humble person not afraid to act on what they believe is right and willing to put up a good fight in order to achieve that.

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