Of Animals and Robots

Momotaro’s Sea Eagle and Astro Boy both put heavy emphasis on non-human characters like cute animals and robots. While the animals under Momotaro’s command are animals with human-like characteristics that follow orders with no thought, Astro Boy is the robot with human-like characteristics that exhibit human spirit, that is, decision making and compassion.

Momotaro’s Sea Eagleis a propaganda anime about the legendary hero Momotaro and his commanded loyal animal troop defendingJapan’s honor and successfully destroying the enemy base. The animals wear human clothes and do human hand gestures, they are capable of flying airplanes and attacking the enemy nation, and furthermore they play with human toys and make use of tools to achieve their goals. Their treatment from Momotaro is dignified and indiscriminate as he expects them to behave like fully socialized human. But that is about s human as the animals get. Although they have the cognitive ability to carry out orders fluently, they are essentially mindless beasts who make no decisions of their own. In a way they are like little robots.

Animal Troop line up in front of Momotaro

Astro Boy features the adventures of the forever young robot Atom with recurring theme such as the quest of human nature. Atom boy in contrast is non-organic in composition. He did not originate from a mother; instead he was the replica of a beloved, deceased young boy. Atom is expected by his creator to be a human boy. And when he fails to grow up his creator heel turn, treats him like dirt, and sells him to the circus fully expecting him to be a slave to human. But he doesn’t just follow orders as a good robot should have. While Atom tries to execute orders flawlessly, he does it out of compassion and decision making. Atom not only evaluates them, judges them, he made decisions against his orders when it violates his moral values. In one scene Atom carried out a robot dual fight to please his new owner, but refuses to finish off the defeated robot. This non-organic robot is more human than his cruel human counter parts. And in a way, Atom is more human than the cute animals from Momotaro’s Sea Eagle.

Atom refuse to finish off the robot

Their differences are strongly influences from the War. Momotaro was a propaganda product of World War II, where the animals resemble model Japanese citizens, executing orders effortlessly and projects sincere faith to the empire. Atom emerges during post warJapan, whereJapantries to keep up with scientific new discoveries and rebuild what remained of its crumbled empire. It was an era of doubt, reasoning, and the evaluating of what went right and wrong during the war, and to ultimately heal and move on. As a result, the animal troops of Momotaro are more obedient, keener to directions whereas Atom the robot boy is far more introspective when he carries out his actions.

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