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Momotarō’s Sea Eagles (1943)

Momotarō’s Sea Eagles aka Momotarō no Umiwashi is an animated Japanese propaganda film produced in 1942 by Geijutsu Eigasha and released March 25, 1943. Whilst running at 37 minutes, it was treated as a feature-length film.

Although recorded as being produced with the cooperation of the Japanese Naval Ministry, there was in fact no cooperation in order to protect military secrets, although the Japanese Imperial Navy endorsed the film.

Featuring the “Peach Boy” character of Japanese folklore, this film was aimed at children, telling the story of a naval unit consisting of the human Momotarō and several animal species representing the Far Eastern races fighting together for a common goal.

In a dramatization of the attack on Pearl Harbour, this force attacks the demons at the island of Onigashima (representing the Americans and British demonized in Japanese propaganda), and the film also utilizes actual footage of the Pearl Harbour attack.

Bluto, from the Popeye cartoons makes an appearance in this film as a stereotypical drunk. This is one of few examples of the Axis nations using American cartoon characters to portray the United States in animated films, just as the Allied forces used Hitler, Mussolini, and Hirohito, as well as Nazis and Japanese soldiers in their propaganda films

A sequel, Momotarō Umi no Shinpei (1945) also exists. Running at 74 minutes, it is credited as being Japan’s first feature-length animated film.

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