Human Hegemony and Privilege

In Momotaro’s Sea Eagle, Momotaro is an only human being character on the Japanese side and others are animals, rabbits, dogs, birds and monkeys. These animals are fighting against demons under the direction of Momotaro who is a leader figure and makes orders. In Astro Boy, Dr. Tenma treats Atom, a machine, as an object after realizing that Atom does not work as a real human being, his son. Both in Momotaro’s Sea Eagle and Astro Boy, human beings actually depend on powers and forces of animals and robots but humans are also depicted as a hegemonic and a privileged figure to animals and robots. Social hierarchy is constructed, humans and animals and humans and robots have an unequal relationship in two films.

In Momotaro’s Sea Eagle, Momotaro is directing animals and just gives orders to them. Through animals’ behavior on the ship and attitude toward fighting, we can see a captain-soldiers relationship but also a master-servant relationship between Momotaro and animals. It is obvious in Japanese that Momotaro talks like a boss or a higher hierarchal person to the animals. These animals are loyal to Momotaro and go fighting with no questions or doubts. With a human hegemony and privilege, Momotaro stays on the ship during animals are attacking demons and risking themselves. When Momotaro announces that one plane did not come back, animals look sad or worried but Momotaro is just speaking unemotionally like he does not care about them. In this film, a hierarchal relationship of humans and animals are depicted by their attitude and behavior, and Momotaroconsciously acts with the human hegemony and privilege.

Momotaro giving a direction to animals as a captain

In Astro Boy, human beings abuse their hegemony and privilege over robots as machines. Even though robots gain civil rights in end of the film, they are used as just an object by human beings until then. Robots have feelings but since they are owned by humans as a property, they are not seen as equal to the humans and cannot object to their owner. In this film, human beings and robots also have a master-servant relationship and they have socially different statuses. Dr. Tenma treats Atom like his son and cherishes him with his love, but once he realizes that Atom cannot be an actual human being since a robot does not grow up and have human aesthetics, he sells Atom to a circus. The action of buying and selling between Dr. Tenma and the circus owner and the action of the circus owner’s forcing robots to work until they run out of power represent the human hegemony and privilege. Robot’s gaining civil rights at the end reminds me that African American gained their civil rights in the U.S. after the long term of slavery and discrimination. The relationship of human beings and robots might seem the same as the one of European American and African Americanback in old days.

In two films Momotaro’s Sea Eagle and Astro Boy, social hierarchy is depicted and human beings are always the top of it. With a higher social status, humans depend on animals and machines with the human hegemony and privilege over them. The social inequality is depicted through the relationships of human beings, animals and machines in both films.