Momotaro's Divine Sea Warriors - Also translated as Momotaro: Sacred Sailors is a 1945 Japanese animated propaganda film directed by Mitsuyo Seo for the Japanese Imperial Navy
Anyone interested in the development of Japanese anime will find this film of great interest.
It is available on YouTube
When Seo (1911-2010) decided to become an animator he was turned away by the largely family-run companies. He joined Prokino, the leftist proletarian film group that was brutally suppressed in the early 1930s, with Seo suffering at least one arrest. He later worked with Masaoka Kenzo until he started his own company in 1935, where he made Norakuro and other cartoons until his firm was absorbed by Geijutsu Eigasha. After making what was billed as Japan’s first feature-length animation, Momotaro’s Sea Eagles (1942), he joined Masaoka at Shochiku to make Momotaro’s Divine Sea Warriors (1945), which was released only four months before the end of the war, but influenced many artists, including the manga master Osamu Tezuka. Seo attempted to continue in animation after the war, but with Japanese animation depending a lot on wartime government support, peace drove him and many others like Masaoka out of the business." From Zanka Films
This is the first Japanese feature-length animated film. The film is a sequel to Seo's 1943 film Momotaro no Umiwashi (Momotaro's Sea Eagle).
The film follows the adventures of Momotaro, a Japanese folktale hero who is born from a giant peach. Momotaro and his animal companions, a monkey, a dog, and a pheasant, set out on a journey to defeat the evil British demons who have invaded a Pacific island.
The film was produced during the Second World War and is heavily propagandistic. It portrays the Japanese as benevolent conquerors who are bringing civilization to the primitive islanders. The British demons are depicted as cruel and savage, and their defeat is seen as a victory for Japanese imperialism.
Momotaro: Sacred Sailors was a critical and commercial success when it was released in 1945. However, after the Japanese surrender in August of that year, all copies of the film were ordered to be destroyed. It was not until 1983 that a single copy of the film was rediscovered in a warehouse. The film has since been restored and released on DVD and Blu-ra
Momotaro: Sacred Sailors is a controversial film, but it is also an important historical document. It provides a unique perspective on Japanese propaganda during World War Two
In recent years, Momotaro: Sacred Sailors has been reinterpreted by some scholars and filmmakers as a critique of Japanese imperialism. The film's dark and violent imagery, as well as its portrayal of the islanders as passive victims, has led some to suggest that it is a subversive work that undermines its own propagandistic message.
Momotaro: Sacred Sailors was a groundbreaking film in terms of its animation, and it is still considered to be one of the most visually impressive Japanese animated films of all time. The film's use of aircraft and other modern weapons also reflects the Japanese military's obsession with technology during the war.
Overall, Momotaro: Sacred Sailors is a complex and fascinating film that can be interpreted in many different ways. It is a valuable historical document, but it is also a work of art that can be enjoyed on its own terms.