Black and White, Good and Bad

Anime in Japan has been and is still currently used to teach children lessons by showing them a set of cute characters illustrating a lesson in a fun story. Current animated television shows or movies might teach basic lessons such as perseverance or honesty, but Mitsuyo Seo, director of Momotaro’s Sea Eagle, an animated film from nearly sixty years ago, aimed to teach the children of Japan about war and about how it was acceptable and good for Japan. The film dramatizes a system of national ideology by using cute animal soldiers commanded by the great Momotaro to represent the Japanese army and this army goes out to destroy the fat, clumsy demons which represent the American army.

The system of national ideology that the film sets out to dramatize for young viewers is at its most basic, a system of good and bad and the good have to defeat the bad, and in this case the Japanese, or Momotaro’s army, must defeat the American, or demon army. The oversimplification of war makes it easier for children to understand. This film is an effective war propaganda film for children, specifically Japanese children, because the film uses the character Momotaro, who is from a well-known folktale of the same name that every child in Japan is told. Automatically Momotaro’s army’s opponent is the enemy and there are no questions asked.

To appeal to younger viewers, animation is a good method as the characters can be shown just as the creator wants them to be portrayed. In this film, the Japanese soldiers are portrayed as cute and playful, but they are also smart and efficient soldiers. The viewers see how quickly and efficiently the animals get ready for battle. Even during battle, for example, the monkeys know exactly what to do to form the chain to fet off and on the planes. They never stumble and when they do make mistakes, such as when one monkey’s tail gets stuck in a window of a plane that is about to blow up, he is saved by one of his friends.

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Monkeys efficiently making a climbing chain

In contrast to these cute and cuddly, but still efficient, animal soldiers, the demon soldiers, who are supposed to represent the American army, are fat and clumsy and there seems to be no sense of organization. Even if Momotaro wasn’t used as the commander of the animal army, the film makes it easy for the young viewers to see this contrast and automatically label the animals as the good force and that they must defeat the demons. By making the demons clumsy and stupid, they become laughable and pathetic characters that children would not want to relate to and cause young viewers to have an even stronger attraction to the animals.

Momotaro’s Sea Eagle uses the story of Momotaro and animation to oversimplify war into terms that children can recognize and understand. Momotaro is identifiable and his animal army is cute and fun to watch while the demons are easy to ridicule, making it easy for young viewers to label what as good and bad.

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