To address Momotarō’s Sea Eagles and Astro Boy in the context of genre requires that we acknowledge both works represent media that have consciously adapted other genres, traditional tales in the former and manga in the latter, to genres that are most recognizable as wartime propaganda and the anime series. Though this does not fully problematize genre in respect to either of the works, it can provide a basis to look at the relation of the characters to the technology depicted in the narratives.
As I stated in my previous post, I believe that an important element of wartime propaganda is to construct an “other” in opposition to the creation of a national self. In Momotarō’s Sea Eagles the depiction of the relationship of the ogres to technology is one of reliance, while the tribes of Momotarō exhibit a mastery that allows them to employ the technological advances of the modern while still belonging to a shared past; one that is conveyed to the audience by both Momotarō the character himself in the visual anime, and in the meta-narrative that the Japanese audience brings to the film. The filmmakers use the medium of anime to morph abilities of the characters and their relationship to the technology, for example the monkeys can swim like a torpedo with the aid of a magical helmet and are able to mimic flight by climbing and jumping on moving planes. The planes themselves can be replicated by the sea eagles that come to the aid of Momotarō’s troops at the end. Notably the bearded ogre is not afforded such rescue from any type of mythic fish. The invocation of the shared past through the source material is combined with the interaction with technology to present dual tribes of the modern. The Japanese led tribe is polymorphic and makes use of the modern with ease; the Western tribe comprises grunting humanoids and cannot function once their technology has been stripped from them.
Astro Boy the anime recognizes the divisions that technology can create (conspicuously the character does not recognize division), but unlike Momotarō’s Sea Eagles vision of mastery, Astro Boy might seem to argue for progress through morphing the human emotion into technology; something that would reflect the birth of the genre of anime from Manga Eiga and Dōga, as the technology allowed the pictures to move, thus become more human. The technology in Astro Boy is inherently connected to both progress and human fallibility from the opening frames of the first episode. The progress and the modern is seen in the city and the speed of Tobio’s car; the fallibility in the truck pulling from the alley incurring the fatal accident. Thus the opening frames set up the themes that are played throughout, this is specifically mirrored later in the same episode in Dr. Temma’s fantastic creation and subsequent betrayal. This abandonment of Astro Boy provides a metaphor for our relation to technology. Atom Boy cannot grow; thus in his morphology, he is as he is and always will be. This results in Temma viewing him as an object, an artifact of technology that once created will continue to exist in stasis. It could be upgraded or discarded, Temma chooses the later, now blind to the humanity in what he has produced.