Review of 'Momotaro, Sacred Sailors (Momotarô: Umi no shinpei)'

momotaro.jpg I saw this as part of the London International Animation Festival (2017) at the Barbican Cinemas. It was a newly restored print and shown alongside the short “Spider and Tulip” (1943).

Momotaro is billed as the first Japanese animation (anime) feature and was written as a piece of war propaganda as it starts with the return of several navy veterans to their homes. Soon they are encouraging their fellow animals to do what they can for the cause and prepare to attack the forces of the west. Amongst the cuteness (“kawaii”) of the animals there are seriously jarring images of the same animals firing machine guns and killing opposing forces. The enemy, when on the screen, is portrayed as being headed by fools and idiots (particularly the English whose accent is also ridiculously parodied).

The animation here is quite good for the time period and the print looks amazing. I can see a lot of people might grow bored of the piece as it goes on but as an important piece of history (both political and in Japanese animation) it is quite fascinating, as a piece of entertainment not so much.

As for “Spider and Tulip”, this is a delightful, light animation of a young ladybird seeking to escape the unwanted advances of a spider keen on having the ladybird visit his web-hammock. The style here is light and very pleasant reminiscent of Disney's Fantasia (slightly earlier in 1940) and one cannot help that the Japanese animators may have been influenced by it.

Rating: “It is OK but I have some issues”

Review Date: 2016-12-04

Directed by: Mitsuyo Seo

Studio: Shochiku Mediaworx

Year: 1945

Length: 74 minutes

Genre: Japanese Animation