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.
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.
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.