Animals and Robots: The Difference is Life

In early Japanese anime, humans have been portrayed as possessing absolute power and control. Evidence from Momotaro’s Sea Eagles and Astro Boy suggest that humans reign atop this fabricated hierarchy between the humans themselves and animals and robots. Being the pinnacle of evolution, humans have been conditioned towards a state of mind that revolves around human sovereignty over lesser beings. In this case, they seek out control over animals and robots, commanding them to perform everyday tasks that can easily be done by humans themselves. While this total control can lead to either complete respect or total disapproval, humans still thwart their dominance over the weak. The former is evident in Momotaro’s Sea Eagles in which Momotaro is able to command his animal army while retaining complete respect from his subordinates. The latter is then evident in Astro Boy in which humans have forced robots to take on impossible tasks such as emulating a biologically developed human.

Momotaro is giving his troops the location of the demons.

Beginning with Momotaro’s Sea Eagles, Momotaro himself is seen directly communicating and interacting with the animals aboard his vessel. Even though he is the general spouting orders to his animal troops, the crew respects him fully. Momotaro can easily join his crew in the attack on the demons, but they instead value his supremacy and would die for his protection, so the crew departs leaving Momotaro behind to keep watch on the ship. This interaction between human and animals shows a distinct hierarchy in which the subordinates greatly revere their master. Momotaro’s position aboard the ship is made evidence through specific scenes which distinctly set him apart from the rest of the crew. The screen tends to focus on Momotaro when he is speaking to his crew. Many of these shots contain only Momotaro which means that no other is on the same level as him. Momotaro’s position earns him the right to be featured in his own solo shots. The character design of Momotaro is also an indication of his position as the leader. The animals appear to be drawn smaller than Momotaro because the leader needs to be the biggest so that he stands out from the crowd. Very few distinctions are made between each animal’s character designs, but Momotaro is highly decorated which reflects his high status. Despite this hierarchy, the animals still remain loyal to Momotaro, and the crew is seen celebrating together at the end of the film.

Get out of my house! You’re not a real boy!

Astro Boy on the other hand demeans the position of robots. Initially the robots were revered as ingenious creations which facilitate human life, but over time their positions began to decline rapidly. As seen in the first episode of Astro Boy, the creation of Astro Boy left Dr. Boynton speechless and in awe at his creation. He loved this new robot with all his heart, but this love soon became resentment after Dr. Boynton discovered that Astro Boy is unable to age like a normal human boy. Dr. Boynton’s total control over Astro Boy soon became corrupted, and this resulted in the Dr. Boynton throwing Astro Boy away. The relationship between humans and robots is solely material, as made evident in the first episode. Astro Boy then meets up with other discarded robots who have met the same fate that he has. The cause for this lack of care appears to be the fact that robots may seem to be alive, but they are essentially inanimate. They cannot share the same relationships as animals because they are not living under the same context.

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