Telling Japanese Ideology

Mmotaro’s sea eagle is a short propaganda film released in 1943. Momotaro goes to Onigashima to attack demon living there depicts the attack of Pearl Harbor in 1941. At the same time that the film dramatizes the attack as the success story, it tells young viewers about the national ideology, such as predominance of men over women and imperial sovereignty effectively in order to whip up war sentiment for the children as one purpose.

It is clear that younger children is a target of the audience from the fact that the film sets up a number of entertainment aspects, such as quite childlike in both appearance and behavior, to endear young audiences. Also, even on fighting scenes have the upbeat childish background sounds. The purpose is to separate the film for the reality of the war by reducing the serious situations that Japan is facing.

Unlike the folklore of Momotaro, rabbits appear in the films as the fourth animals, but they do not go to the demon island to fight. Rabbit is often characterized as girls rather than boys in Japan. During the war, women are not engaged in the fight, but they worked hard for their countries and stayed home to protect their family instead of their husbands or fathers engaging in the fight. As one phrase “men work outside home, and women wait for men coming back while doing housework” means, the film tells the relationship between men and women in Japanese society.  The shot below is a scene that rabbits are seeing other animals off with Momotaro. First, they look sad with anxiety, but they wave their caps strongly to show that their hopes for other animals’ attack to enemy and responsibilities they have, staying home to protect their families. Existence of rabbits unlike folk tale and their behaviors tell younger viewers about relationship between men and women in Japanese society.

rabbit waiving their caps

At the time that the film is released, The Constitution of the Empire of Japan states the Emperor as the head of state and the imperial sovereignty.  This system is clearly seen from the obvious relationship between Momotaro and animals. Unlike the folklore, Momotaro is not actually going to fight on the demon island and is seeing other members off with rabbits. Momotaro behaves as a boss, while animals are obedient to him. He stays on the ship and just gives direction during animal’s attack toward the demon islands. He never becomes emotionally even when he announces sad fact that one plane does not come back, while animals have sad face expressions. They show their anxiety, but they still seem to believe their safety. At the war period, people who were against war were called “hikokumin” or un-Japanese as traitors.  Those animals’ obedience to Momotaro explains the Japanese society that emperor is absolute being. Not only their behaviors but also their belongings; for example, their headbands on which rising sun was printed and flags on which “Japan’s best,” that they put on are symbols depict their unification under the hierarchal relationships.


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