Momotaro’s Sea Eagle: Hidden Message Works Better in Animation

As one of the most successful modified versions of the household folklore in Japan, in 1943, the famous Momotaro’s Sea Eagle presents the story that the Momotaro captains the armed and modernized fleet of animals to conquer the Demon Island in a brand new genre: animation. It could attribute most of its success to the adoption of animation genre. Not only does it symbol as a milestone of the orientation of the animation movies in Japanese history, but also it is through a quite effective and elegant manners as a key element that the movie, functioning as wartime propaganda, well conveys the message that faced with the existing and potential threats from outside, Japanese should be united and ready for sacrifice anytime to defend for their nation.

Categorized as propaganda, how to cater the taste of target audience and to make sense as the same time are essential to make them to believe the embodied message and cultivate them to deeply root the belief into their minds. It is easier for a thought to be ingrained in people’s mind when they are young. Meanwhile, in wartime, the young generation is the tomorrow’s fresh troops for the whole nation and the very group who possess the highest capacities and physical conditions. In 1940s, animation is quite a freshly new genre in Japan. The dramatized characteristics and demonstration offer a different experience to appreciate story and understand the idea, which is especially favored by young audience. Moreover, Japan has produced few their own animation using heroes from their own culture. Therefore, it is a good start to choose the fresh genre to attract the young audience to get involved in Momotaro’s Sea Eagle and think about their own culture.

Animation can be regarded as more unrealistic, full of imagination and exaggeration, which overcomes the limitation of real movies. At least at that time, to shoot a monkey flying on a torpedo was almost impossible. The animation can make it happen and clearly illustrate distinguishing characters. For instance, the captain Momotaro is the only human-like look and a Japanese face, which inexplicitly connects the audience with the hero in the movie by what they have in common. The audience will easily tend to agree with what Momotaro does and adopt the spirit Momotaro represents. Plus, since Momotaro has been a moral idol in Japanese culture for a long time, his patriotism and militarism will easily pass on to young viewers, as well as the hostile attitude to enemy and the violent means. In addition, in animation, it is relatively convenient to depict which group representing the justice by creating cute and smart monkeys, touching faces of rabbits, and dogs which symbol the loyalty and friendly in Japanese zodiac culture. As for enemy, the ugly, weird, and abnormal figures and the defeated end reveal the hidden message to young audience that they are the just side and they are smart and capable enough to beat the floppy enemy by force.  By promoting the war, it adopts funny pieces that depict how the enemy flees during the sudden attack, instead of showing the bloody and scared real battlefield.

Thus, for young viewers, the war is beautified and justified, their braveness and intelligence is confirmed, while the enemy is uglified and seem that they cannot withstand with even a single blow. The national ideology is built up into their mind in such an easy and powerful way.


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