It is clear in Momotarō’s Sea Eagle that the animals are completely subordinate to their human leader. However, this relationship seems to be one of respect; the animal army gives its obedience to Momotarō because they feel he deserves it not because he demands it. The exact opposite plays out in Astro Boy where humans and robots are in completely different social classes: the robots compete for equal rights and humans demand their subservience. Comparing these two films, we see that humans assume a position of power, yet the way they treat animals and machines varies greatly.
The relationship between Momotarō and his animal army is best shown during the beginning of the movie: the animals scamper around preparing for battle but suddenly become alert and well –behaved the moment their leader, Momotarō, shows up. The film sets the relationship between the boy and his army immediately, saying that he is in command of the ship and of all animals aboard it.
The fact that his soldiers are not human shows how he is intellectually above them and deserves their respect. Before Momotarō shows up, the animals show their innocence by jumping around and playing with each other on the ship as they get ready. There are few moments of a bunny or dog performing important tasks, but the feel is that they are playing a childish game instead of actually preparing for war. These small animals are on a completely different level than Momotarō. He is a human with the strategies of a seasoned general in command of a submissive army of children who are unable to oppose him in any way.
Rebellion is the key theme in Astro Boy, the story of a kid robot who is oppressed by his human owners. Astro Boy finds himself at the mercy of his master’s emotions; one day being the pride of his creator just to be cast out the next. He ends up being sold away to a carnival where he is treated as a slave. Astro Boy, along with the other robots at the carnival, shows human compassion for robots and humans alike.
The relationship between humans and robots here is not one of respect like for Momotarō, but one of depressing dominance. As the episode Birth of Astro Boy progresses, Astro Boy tries to show that he is not inferior to his human oppressors. He shows compassion for other robots and fights to show that he should not be treated as just a machine. His carnival owner does not give him freedom even after Astro Boy saves his life. However, the robot rebellion finally succeeds as a news program shows the passing of legislation that grants robots human rights. The robots had to struggle and endure slavery before they were granted rights they felt they deserved. This idea of gaining equality defines the relationship between humans and robots in Astro Boy.
The relationships between humans, animals, and robots in these two films have the common factor of the humans being superior. Yet, where the animals in Momotarō’s Sea Eagle had respect for their human leader, the robots in Astro Boy had fear and the hope for equality.