Walking the Line: A Look at Social Hierarchies within Astro Boy and Momotaro’s Sea Eagle

Regarding the relationships between humans, animals, and technology, each film portrays these relationships in conjunction with the film’s intended use. Astro Boy intends to imbue life and vitality within the commodity, rather than resigning it to the function of a mere tool. Thus technology merely nuances the humanity of each character; it cannot be isolated from the humans that interact with it. Momotaro’s Sea Eagle, however, seeks to lend each category a distinct role conducive to patriotic duty; such explicit hierarchy empowers the film’s propaganda value. The opening scenes within each respective film demonstrate these differing relationships. 

Within Momotaro, technology is immediately introduced as a tool and an extension of the characters’ sense of nationalist unity. The scene opens on the ship. At first, the ship appears as an ambiguous, yet bold, presence among the dark waves; such grandeur creates a sense of power. Then, as it becomes more clear that they are on a boat, the animals are shown working together to prepare the boat with war weaponry. The animals are silhouetted. ImageVisually, they lose any sense of individuality: they are a collective, collaborating with the machine.  The technology here serves as an adhesive bond, allowing the animals to work together for the common cause.

Meanwhile, a human leader, Momotaro, is in charge of all the animals. In contrast with the silliness of the animals, Momotaro exudes utter seriousness. No matter how much the animals bicker, play, tremble with fear, etc. Momotaro holds the same stable, fierce expression.  Even this mere visual detail bolsters the reliability of human leadership within the film, building the viewer’s sense of trust in the established hierarchy. 

However such trust is not present in Astro Boy. Throughout the episode, technology’s role is neither consistently detrimental nor beneficial. For instance, within the opening scene, technology presents itself as both positive and negative entity. The scene begins with Tobio driving pleasantly down the road in his hover car; while he does drive the hover car, the focus is not on this piece of technology but Tobio himself. Shots either show him in relation to his environment, panning out, or close ups of his face; technology, here, merely emphasizes Tobio’s sense of bliss, and establishes the setting. ImageWhile the technology of Astro Boy‘s world is potentially quite impressive, the show does not ascribe the same sense of self importance that Momotaro does in showcasing the battle ship, missiles, etc. 

This deemphasis on technology’s disparate power carries through to the part of the scene where Tobio is killed. The scene pans from the scraps to Tobio’s cap; this shot deemphasizes the line between where Tobio’s machine begins and he, the human, ends.Image Suddenly, the remains seem a part of Tobio. Here, technology is not functioning as a separate entity, but merely as an extension of the characters. This is only one of the many ways that Astro Boy challenges the viewer’s definition of life. Within the scene, as in others in the show, life seems to extend beyond the boundaries of flesh and blood. 




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