Symbolization of Momotaro

YoungEun Kim

Mcknight, A.

Japanese 70 – Dis 1C

28 November 2013

Symbolization of Momotaro

In the Japanese fairy story, Momotaro, the main character was born from a peach and the old women bring to her house. When she and her husband try to eat a peach, suddenly a boy comes out of peach. They believe this boy as a heaven sent gift, so they name a newborn boy, “Momo” from the peach and “Taro” from the elder son. In Japanese culture, the peach represents fecundity because it looks like women’s hip. A few years later, Momotaro sets out on a trip to get rid of a plunderer in the island. During his journey, he makes his colleagues who are a dog, a monkey and a bird. Momotaro’s Sea Eagle is an animation version of Mitsuyo Seo and describes the Pacific War when Japan attacked Hawaii on 1941. When children watch this animation, they are going to think that America is the enemy of the Japan. In this animation, Momotaro is a captain of his army and he has some subordinates who is a dog, pheasant and monkey to attack the demon island. They started to attack by air and finally induce the enemy’s surrender. During the war in the animation and book, the millet dumplings are important role to Momotaro and his camaraderie. In the book, the author states that “Attempted to continue in in animation after war, but with Japanese animation, along with other aspects of Japanese cinema, being dependent upon war and its money, peace drove hhim and many others like Massaokka out of the Business” and “ Seo was saddled with the ideologically suspect but technically masterful Momotaro films as his primary legacy (P.228) Animation version and children’s story version are pretty similar to finish with a happy ending. Both of them describe Japanese “liberation of Asia”, as proclaimed by the government at the time. Furthermore, they try to give dreams, hope and peace to children with these stories beyond the appearance of war propaganda. The devastated Japan was on the verge of an unthinkable defeat, the film depicts Peach Boy who is a heroic figure from Japanese folklore. Momotaro has recruited some cute animal friends into his ever so friendly and noble crusade to “liberate” southern islands in the Pacific and South East Asia region. In this animation, everybody can know the Momotaro’s army represent a Japanese army as a good and the other side represent the United States army as a bad. At the end of traditional fairy tale and animation Momotaro defeat the demon island and return home with wonderful treasures.

This animation depicts the significance of the millet dumplings. The millet dumplings are not only foodstuffs during the war, but also fighting spirit to Momotaro’s forces. For instance, the monkey shows a bag of millet dumplings to his colleagues before departing and says this is a millet dumpling to improve fighting spirit. Furthermore, these dumplings do an important role during the war. Monkey eats the millet dumplings and it makes him encourage and gain strength. In the book, The Momotaro’s old woman prepared the millet dumplings before going to war. This part exactly shows how food is an important role in the society; his parents would think the most needed things are food during the war. That’s why the old woman cooked the millet dumplings and it assists Momotaro to make his subordinate who is a dog. The author describes about dumplings as “the best millet dumplings in Japan. I cannot give you a whole one; I will give you half-a-one” (P.25). After that, the dog accepted to go with a Momotaro. The millet dumplings make their camaraderie promote and important foodstuffs during their travel to war. Someone would say they just share the food, however Momotaro and dog can be closer and feel fellowship by sharing the millet dumplings

The story and animation describes a Momotaro as a good leader to recover the defeat from the United States. The character, Momotaro, indicates a lot of importance for that period. The author describes, “While Momotaro became a central figure in Japanse moral education, and he was also frequently used during WWII to represent nationalist military values (P.228). The Momotaro’s enemies are actually the classic American cartoon characters; they are characterized as a devil and a bitter satire on the United States. . The interesting part is the Americans are described in human and the Japanese are depicted in animal form. Even if the American is in a human, he has a demon horns on his head. He drinks a lot of bottles of beer, behavior badly and totally different from Momotaro. On the other hand, Momotaro is an esteemed leader and describes as a strong, upright, faithfully in the army and tries to do his best for the justice. Momotaro was commandeered by propagandists as a legendary patriotic hero in this animation.

In Talkie manga which we watched in class, it has also similarities to Momotaro story. The Disney characters come on the scene, they start to plunder and behavior badly like an American soldier in Demon Island in the Momotaro’s Sea Eagle. Momotaro’s Divine Sea Warriors is dreamlike, haunting and strangely sinister, but despite its intentions it is in fact, the father or mother of all Japanese animation. Those stories, mangas and animations are emphasized on the good and devil, in other words, Japan and America. Even though the background of this story is like a darkness war, by finishing with a happy ending, those really trying to symbolize the positive thinking, hope for peace, and Japanese greatness.

Between Momotaro’s Sea Eagle and the Japanese fairy story has a pretty similar theme, however there are differences. Both of them are about defeating the enemy, however, the book is a more likely heroic tale and gives an important lesson from the characters. For example, the book is focused on Momotaro’s personal things. He went out to defeat the enemies, make some subordinate and come back to his house with a happy ending. Furthermore, Momotaro lives happily with the old woman and old man at the end. In the book, it is based on children who need to learn an important lesson. On the other hand, Momotaro’s Sea Eagle is more tend to be a documentary theme. For instance, the animation is emphasized on the war between Japan and the United States in 1941. The animation doesn’t describe the Momotaro’s birth and fellowship as the book. When the book comes to give a moral to children, the animation more focused on describing the confidence, Japanese greatness and the relationship between Japan and America. Therefore, the book is more likely children to read, but animation is based on the Japanese traditional fairy tale, so it is a good not only children, but also adults.

The animation and book is actually different genre, so those have a different narrative form. The traditional fairy tale’s narrators have traces of orality, use of iterative tense and impersonate animals. For example, the book starts, “Very, very long a go”, it is the example of using iterative tense in folkloric. So, the traditional fairy tale tends to use a form of once upon a time tense, and repeated when something need to be emphasized. On the other hand, the animation doesn’t use this kind of method to develop a story

In the story of Momotaro, the food is a significant theme; it unifies the Momotaro and his camaraderie’s fellowship, teamwork and heroism. The millet dumplings are not only foodstuffs during the war, but also fighting spirit to Momotaro’s forces. Furthermore, Momotaro gives a half of the millet dumplings to the dog, and dog accepted to be camaraderie of Momotaro. Food can be a trivial thing; however it is the most important thing people live. Some people would say the main theme of this novel is about the good triumphing over the evil. However, the food symbolizes the fellowship, the method of fighting spirit in the Momotaro. Moreover, Momotaro is described as a legendary patriotic hero in the book and animation, they teach the patrioticism and Japanese greatness to Japanese children and adult.


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