Tag Archives: Astroboy

Technical Difficulties

World War II, while also being a travesty, additionally represented a shift in modern technology, an incredible advancement. With this shift, pop culture began fantasizing of the great future that these technologies will allow us. Therefore, it is not surprising that Momotaro’s Sea Eagles (circa 1942) and Astroboy (the manga was published in 1952, and the anime in 1963) incorporated technology in such an obvious manner, trying to demonstrate the ways that technology affects our lives. Both demonstrate a decidedly negative worldview in which humankind may be the creator of this technology, but they do not have the capabilities to utilize it correctly.

In Momotaro’s Sea Eagles, Momotaro utilizes his animal friends to conduct his very successful attack on Demon Island, for good reason. The humans (referred to as ‘demons’ in the film) are incredibly ineffective; when the attack begins, they scatter and bungle about the ships and eventually simply jump overboard, when they begin the assault on the grounded planes, the humans act similarly, and once the attack is almost completely over do some of the humans attempt to fight back, but they are only able to hit one plane which is able to escape. On the other hand, these animals are incredibly talented and utilize the technology extraordinarily well. During the entire battle, the animals are calm and collected and through their hands, all of their technology worked effectively and efficiently. When one of the torpedo was poorly aimed, the monkey in that plane immediately jumped out and corrected its trajectory, almost acting as the planes partner. The partnership is even further compounded as the plane that was shot, which, due to the serious nature of the damage done to it, should have been lost, instead is able to continue flying due to the monkey holding the wing together.

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The damaged fighter, which is able to continue flying thanks to the monkey holding it together.

The animals are clearly far more capable with technology, and Mitsuyo Seo (the director) is trying to subtly demonstrate that technology has increased far beyond our capabilities.

Astroboy shares a similar message, in fact, the first episode of the anime is mainly concerned with humankind’s relations with technologies, and how we are not capable of utilizing it. Astro was a revolutionary technology, even for the year 2030 it appears to be something far beyond humankind’s means. And yet, Astro’s father, the man who created him, and the rest of his team are consistently surprised by his capabilities as well as his limitations. These men who programmed and built him should not be surprised that he sees everything as a compilation of their atoms, or that he is capable of complex math. What is truly demonstrative of mankind’s deficiencies is that Astro’s father is unable to accept that his robot son, who was built to his specifications, is unable to grow, and he discards him.

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Astro’s father being absurdly angry about his android son’s lack of growth.

Astro is treated like an (admittedly poorly treated) animal, and sent to the modern version of a zoo, utilizing robots as some form of cheap gag. In later episodes when Astro is free he fights against those that would do evil. Just as Mitsuyo Seo did with Momotaro’s Sea Eagles, Osamu Tezuka is clearly trying to demonstrate that humans are incapable of utilizing all the good that technology can give us.

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Astroboy and Momotaro’s Sea Eagles: Humans as Machines or Robots as Humans?

Natalie Jongjaroenlarp, Japan 70

Momotaro and his partners in crime look on at the victorious scene at the end of the war.

In Momotaro’s Sea Eagles, humans, animals and machines join forces to combat against one enemy: the “demons,” or the Americans and British in a reenactment of the attack on Pearl Harbor. Monkeys, rabbits and dogs are the soldiers that are enlisted to help Momotaro win the war. This is a human war, yet animals and machines are brought in to help finish the job. The main focus is placed on the depiction of humans and animals as machines. Machines are made for a purpose. Once the purpose or goal is executed effectively, that is all machines are needed for. The machines are the planes, tanks and huge steamboats that are used during battle. They are made to destroy. Momotaro and his animal soldiers share the same objective. So, as a result, there are very few elements of humanity that are illuminated in this dramatization. Although there are scenes that show that humanity can never disappear even in the face of destruction, most of the scenes reveal the dark, opposing side of human nature. In the screen shot above, Momotaro and his soldiers are overlooking the scene near the end of the war on a steamboat. They are satisfied that the mission is accomplished and have no regard for human life. They only cheer in the face of their victory. This contrasts greatly with the fearful emotions that are shown with the Americans being killed.

In Astroboy, there is a focus on the relationship between robots and humans, though there are a few sequences that relate animals and robots together as well. Astroboy was built to replace Dr. Astor’s son, who died in a tragic car accident not too long before. Dr. Astor tries his best to teach Astroboy how to be human and live in society. Not long after, it seems that the only thing missing is Astroboy’s growth. Other than that, he is easily passed as a real human boy. Because Astroboy cannot grow, he is given to the circus. From this incident, it is evident that Dr. Astor and Astroboy’s relationship as father and son has deteriorated since the time that Astroboy was first created. In the beginning, Dr. Astor loved Astroboy as his own son and raised him himself. Once it is realized that Astroboy is unable to grow, Dr. Astor chooses to sell him to someone else. This reveals that, at the end of the day, Dr. Astor still sees Astroboy as a machine that he can control for his own needs. At the first test of loyalty, Dr. Astor sells Astroboy without any consideration for Astroboy’s feelings. Because there is a clear distinction between robots and humans, the robots will always be considered inferior to that of the human race. Because of the fact that humans look at robots as commodities, robots are given the status of “things” that people can exchange and sell at their own will. Yet there is an irony to this notion of commodities, as seen in the screen shot below. Seen here, Astroboy is helping the circus master in the aftermath of a bomb explosion. This reveals that robots are superior in that they are machinery that can withstand fatal forces, unlike humans. This draws a parallel to the mistreatment that the circus master previously gave Astroboy. Astroboy still has the heart to save him. So, that shows that Astroboy is a better human than the master.

Astroboy’s humanity shines through as he saves the cruel master who mistreated him.

Technology Conquers

While intertwining the role of machines, animals, and humans, Momotaro’s Sea Eagle and Astro Boy are related in a way that shows the contrasting roles of humans and their dependence on technology.

In Momotaro’s Sea Eagle, humans are portrayed as more evolved, more powerful, and the overall more dominant species over the animals. Momotaro comes off as a dictator-like figure that the animals look to for leadership and command. His dominance is shown in the beginning of the film where he gives the animal soldiers their commands to fly off and start off their journey to Pearl Harbor. He comes off as an intimidating figure with stern expressions in his eyebrows accompanied with an overall seriousness in his statue. The animals, on the other hand, give off a more childish disposition with their innocent smiles and soft, playful movements.  The animals in the film serve as the “doers,” where they are the ones who carry out acts of labor, fighting the battle under the command of Momotaro. These animals are fully dependent on technology to help them win their battle.

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Here you can see how Momotaro is portrayed as the leader over the animals.

The animals fly off in various fighter jets that contain a wide array of destructive machinery for the battle. In the film, the animals are shown in the fighter jet playing with toy blocks, giving the impression that they are simply passing the time as the jet moves toward the enemy for battle. The animals are completely dependent on the machinery here to bring them to their desired destination. As they are fighting, the animals give off a carefree attitude in expectation that the machinery will do its job by providing them with transportation and various explosives in their battle. As Momotaro is not seen in these fighting scenes, his leadership position in the film is emphasized. As the animal soldiers are fighting under human command, the inferior role of the animal character to the human character is evident.

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The animal soldiers carelessly playing with blocks on their way to battle.

In comparison to Momotaro’s Sea Eagle, the humans in Astro Boy are not the overall dominating figure, instead the human role actually becomes dependent on others to lead and save the day. This is especially shown in the scene where the circus tent catches fire and the whole human audience is in danger. As Astro is in the room with the other neglected robots, he motivates them to come together and save the humans despite prior mistreatments. As they are saving the victims of the fire, the frightened look on the human faces contrast with the heroic actions of the robots. The human characters do not serve as the leaders in this film, but serve as the ones in need; the roles are completely switched in comparison to Momotaro.

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The team of robots team up to save the lives of the humans.

In both films, the dependence on technology seems to serve as the common factor. In Momotaro, the animals depend entirely on machine technology to aid them in war whereas in Astro Boy, the humans depend on the robot technology to be saved from the fire. The relation between humans, animals, and machines result in somewhat of a hierarchy with machinery being of highest rank, followed by the role of the human character, then followed by the animal characters in Momotaro 

Genre Comparison in Anime – Momotaro’s Sea Eagle and Astro Boy

Animated film producers of works like Momotaro’s Sea Eagle and Astro Boy mix humans, animals, and machines to deliver thematic messages to audiences about camaraderie, loyalty, relationships, technology’s role in society and adventure. In Momotaro’s Sea Eagle, Mitsuyo Seo’s employment of animal soldiers commanding advanced weaponry is used for WWII propagandistic purposes. Led by Momotaro, the adorable animal crew fly planes, wield swords, drop bombs, sink ships, and set fire to enemy fleets. The cuteness of the animals downplays the seriousness of war, while invoking feelings of pride, honor, and nationalism in viewers. Although the setting is wartime, the film is infused with playful and jocular moments. In one scene, the monkey is seen playing with a little bird, bounding through the skies with it on his back. This friendly portrait contrasts starkly with the war effort. However, even in fighting scenes, the animals make wreaking havoc seem entertaining and fun. Momotaro and his crew’s bravery in attacking the ogres of Demon Island demonstrated the power of teamwork and strength through solidarity. How often do cute monkeys ride missiles or do tricks while burning down planes?  These endearing images were perfect for young audiences to accept militarism and the pride of being a Japanese soldier.

Monkey cheerfully holds his pistol during battle.

Osama Tezuka’s Astro Boy follows the adventures of a robot boy coexisting with humans in a futuristic world. Astro’s existence relies on the science used to create him. Although he is technically a machine, he exhibits real human emotions. His interactions with people, like his “father,” teachers, and the cruel circus manager, demonstrate his ability to think critically and genuinely feel joy, sadness, success and rejection. With his father, Astro behaves like an actual human boy, save for several unique interpretations of reality (like his chemical composition drawing of fruit) and his inability to age. Tezuka’s choice to show Astro’s perception of something like an apple on the atomic level reminds the audience that he is not, in fact, human. During his brief stint in the circus, Astro shows his ‘humanity’ by refusing to destroy his fellow robot opponent in the ring. Unlike a typical robot who would feel no loyalty nor attachment, he even goes on to rejuvenate rejected robots with his own energy supply. When the circus tent collapses in a fire inferno, they save the evil circus manager and show attendees even though they had been mistreated. This reinforces the human-like quality of robots to experience things like camaraderie and Tezuka shows audiences that peaceful coexistence between different groups, like animals and robots, is really possible.

Astro’s interpretation of a plate of fruit.

Although Seo and Tezuka used anime for different purposes, both men creatively communicate with viewers via the flexible and dynamic nature of animation. In reality, the blend of humans, animals and technology would have been expensive and impractical for production. Animation allowed them to unleash their imaginations without being constrained by anything except their drawing speeds and deadlines.

Astroboy Bombs Away!

Astroboy, a previously human boy converted to robot, is a well-known anime character within the country of Japan. In the introduction episode of Astroboy’s birth, Dr. Tenma creates Astroboy as a replacement for his son, Tobio, who died in a car crash. Astroboy quickly developed to be a selfless hero who prioritizes others safety over his own. Seeing the world as good, Astroboy continues to Astroboy goes on to save many people in the well-known television series across Japan.  

Astroboy’s popularity among the Japanese culture serves as a catalyst for the food industry. This convergence within television and marketing is called media mix, and this is exactly the strategy that Meiji’s Marble Chocolates used while promoting Astroboy through the production of their chocolates

Astroboy as an anime character presents many advantages when promoting food items. Firstly, his reputation within Japan is positive, especially among children. His high voice, strong moral values, and heroic instinct is attractive to both children and parents. A picture of Astroboy on a food item, such as chocolate, will serve as appealing to the consumer. As said by Marc Steinberg in “Candies, Characters and Merchandising, ”the very appeal of the product and its premium increasingly hinged on the wider circulation of the character image” (54).

It is simple, if the character promoting the food item is popular, then the product it is sold on will be popular. This strategy became successful due to the fact that Astroboy served as Japan’s first huge animation series (Schodt 71).

Secondly, Astroboy’s character is timeless. The fact that his character is animated provides many marketing advantages for the food industry. An animated character provides an easy process of recognition. If someone sees his the famous face of Astroboy, he/she automatically can make the connection to the popular animated hero himself. This strategy contrasts the role of a live action version of an animated character because with human actors, the character of Astroboy becomes less constant and disorienting. For example, the actor representing Astroboy might have been involved in another major movie, which might cause some initial confusion as to which character he is representing this time in the media. With his animated version, Astroboy is represented simply as himself. With this advantage of the animated character, the strategy of placing him on chocolates serves as beneficial to the company that is producing it.

Producing stickers and other advertisement incentives promoting Meiji’s Marble Chocolates proved to be successful. The traditional image of Astroboy flying in the air with his arms raised became increasingly popular, and “the more popular Atom became, the more Atom-related merchandise could also be sold” (Schodt 74). For example, Meiji released its caramel candies that included the incentive of an Astroboy sticker or magnet inside. This presentation of the rising animated star not only became the inspiration to buy the product, but also essentially became the product. (Steinberg 63).

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With such popularity in Japanese culture, Meiji’s Marble Chocolates and other Astroboy-related food items were successful in their sales. Astroboy is a likeable character who became increasingly popular in Japan. With Astroboy serving as the marketing face of these candies, the demand for these products shot up and Astroboy, once again, proceeded to save the day.

 

Astroboy Here to Save the Day!

Astroboy can do anything! He has super human strength, can fly through the sky, and has a heart of gold. Why wouldn’t you welcome Astroboy into your home for your children to watch and enjoy? Better yet, why wouldn’t you want to make him your mascot to sell your product? Astroboy can be seen as a bridge to humans and robots because he sees the world as equal and with out social distinctions between anyone. Why not make him a bridge to consumers and the product as well? The candy company Meiji had the same ideas and took advantage of the beloved Astroboy popularity and used him to be their biggest marketing advantage yet.

Originally the candy’s marketing technique was to use the cutest and most innocent little girl to sell their newest candy; marble chocolates. Even though using a cute, little girl in their commercials and on their wrappers was a good idea; using Astroboy was an even better one.  Because Astroboy was such a popular cartoon show, he could have been recognized on being on any product, even if it had nothing to do with the show.  Everyone knew the background of Astroboy and everyone knew who the character was. Unlike the actress everyone had to get used to seeing her being associated with the chocolate. Another reason for why the cartoon was a better choice to use for advertisement was the fact the character is more mobile. Astroboy can travel across the media with ease and is less expensive than trying to get an actor to do the same.

The propaganda for Astroboy also helped the marble chocolates because the show had blown up so quickly Astroboy had become a new sensation. Whatever had his face on it everyone, or at least the children, wanted one. The first step to making Astroboy their new spokesman was to add him to the campaign team for a limited amount of time. Little did Meiji know, it would become their main way of marketing their candy. Marc Steinberg discusses the transformation Meiji had gone through when changing their add scheme: “The explosively popular Atumo stickers had become the most desirable of premiums available at the time, which in turn made Meiji the number one chocolatier in Japan,” (pg. 58). By adding in, for a limited amount of time, stickers of Astroboy the candy company had created an incentive for the children to want to buy more candy and specifically the Marble Chocolate candy Children could now physically have astroboy and the only way to get it was through buying the chocolate. Adding to the characters image was very successful for Meiji, however the candy would not sell if there were no Astroboy associated with the chocolate. When the candy had become more and more popular the marble chocolates had become more and more dependent on the cartoon character. The head of the marketing department had told Steinberg, “We thought we were the ones in control [of the Atomu sticker boom] but it turns out we were the ones being controlled. The Atomu tail had started wagging the Meiji dog.” (pg. 63). Astroboy already had the strong association with the television show however the candy would not be recognizable any longer with out Astroboy. Not only does Astroboy save the day in the cartoon, he saves the day for the marketing team for Meiji.