A monkey, a dog, a pheasant, and a bear travel southward after resting in their villages at the foot of Mt. Fuji. A squadron flies to Onigashima under the command of Momotarou. Parachutes blossom in the sky. Momotarou and company will take over the island after a swift and successful mission. The village children pretend parachuting with glee as they run towards Mt. Fuji.
Momotarou: Umi no Shinpei is a war propaganda movie considered to be Japan's first feature-length animation work. It was produced with funding of 270,000 yen from the Ministry of the Navy. The movie was considered lost following the end of World War II, but its negatives were rediscovered in 1982. Shochiku's digital restoration of the film was screened at the 2016 Cannes Film Festival.
I have a new laptop and now I'm back to befoul MAL with more silly reviews of bad, obscure anime that nobody asked to be reviewed. Let the universe howl in despair for I have returned! Time to review Momotaro's Divine Sea Warriors!
The year is 1945 and Japan is very rapidly losing the war in the Pacific. The Japanese navy has been utterly decimated and is simply unable to keep up with America's manufacturing strength and output. Japan's resources are running bone dry and most of the Japanese merchant fleet has been sunk by American submarines. All of Japan's best pilots were trained in
Germany and now virtually all are dead. Germany has been knocked out of the war, so no new quality pilots can be trained. The Soviet Red Army is now steamrolling Japan's Army in China and Korea. By the summer of 1945, all Japan can do is try make the predicted American invasion as slow and painful as possible. Hopefully, the Americans will accept something slightly less than absolute surrender so Japan can lose the war with some honor intact.
With all this going on, a branch of the Imperial Japanese Navy decided to force a Japanese Communist to make a propaganda cartoon against his will in which a bunch of furries conquer America! This...is that story.
Hey kids! Did you know the Imperial Japanese Navy is awesome? It's true! They are all very handsome and dashing and have HUGE cocks. My big brother is in the navy and he says they have the best ships EVER! Seriously, the first 30 minutes of this film are a bunch of woodland creatures endlessly praising the navy. We're off to a great start when I'm immediately reminded of Brazil's Ratatooing, where the CGI abominations won't stop praising the food. I love that at no point in the movie does it say anything positive about the Japanese Army. Fuck those guys! They can make their own stinking movie!
Part 2 of the film is where the little animals decide to sing the Hirigana alphabet...for 10 minutes. This segment is the direct Japanese equivalent of this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xz6OGVCdov8
Now we enter the final act and it's FINALLY time to wipe out the American Navy located at the "Devil Islands". The Japanese forces are all drawn as furry animals besides the folktale character of Momotaro, who is leading the Japanese forces for some reason. The American troops are all portrayed as humans and have no folktale characters like Paul Bunyan fighting for them, so they have no chance! The Japanese Furry forces slowly parachute down onto American ships, which don't fire at them for...reasons. The Americans at Devil Island surrender immediately without a fight and this causes the entire country of America to surrender right away. Some animal school children play games and the movie ends.
This was filmed in black and white despite most animated feature films being in color by 1945. I'll give this movie a LOT of slack though because Japan couldn't afford to waste a lot of money on this film. It's a miracle that it turned out looking as good as it did. I can only imagine the horrible working hours and conditions that went into the making of this film. What's interesting is that it doesn't look anything like American cartoon films of the 40s like Pinocchio, Dumbo, Bambi, Song of the South, etc. Instead it resembles Max Fleischer cartoons from the 1920s. In case you don't know your animation history, that's the guy who inspired all the art from Cuphead.
Screaming children and one of the most annoying songs I've heard in a children's movie. One thing I will say is that the English used by the Americans is shockingly some of the best English I've heard in an anime! That's because they used Japanese ambassdors that actually spoke English instead of professional voice actors who are sounding out their lines phonetically. Amusingly, most seemed to have learned English with a British accent. So you have American characters voiced by Japanese who sound like Brits.
I'm not just giving this a low score because it's Axis propaganda. I'm giving it a low score because this is one of slowest, most joyless children's films I've ever sat through. When I found out the director really didnt want to make this film and was forced, it made perfect sense. That's exactly what it feels like. The best part of this film is seeing the ending credits roll. At least Japan can rest easy that their Axis partners Italy and Germany have both made even worse cartoons. Italy made all the animated Titanic films, while Germany has Dingo Pictures. That's one of the nicest things I can say about Momotaro's Divine Sea Warriors. At least it isn't a Dingo cartoon. Although now I really want to see an edit where the Japanese Furry Force is visited by their ally Obersturmbannführer Wabuu!
Alright, I can't exactly rate this fairly. This was considered the second anime in history, while the first being "Imokawa Mukuzo Genkanban no Maki."
This anime was made in 1945, when at that time they still didn't know much about colored film. So, for this anime, I'm not going to give it one of those complicated reviews, since it wouldn't be fair when I'm comparing it to anime in this decade.
It doesn't have good animation style, yet what do you expect. The animation style was creepy, but I can see why. It has an old school plot to it, very original.
The highlight, I'd have to say,
was the music. It had very nice music incorporated in the movie.
Overall, I can't really rate it. Not many people are going to want to watch this. If you ARE planning on watching it, however, then I can give you a few useful tips.
If you like poor, black and white animation style, then this is for you. Along with simple movements. If you like old school music, and louder than needed sound effects, then here you go. I can't really say anything more than that. I know this review might not have been that helpful, but it's the best I can give you for this particular anime.
Yes it's a wartime propaganda film, but one that spends as much time with cute animal soldiers packing and eating their bento lunches as it does with any fighting. It's only in the last fifteen minutes of runtime that there's any War at all. There are also extended scenes of singing alphabet songs, hanging laundry and feeding birds.
The animation is amazing, of course continuity is a little jumpy which considering the conditions of it being made make sense, so a lot of the scenes have little jumps and skips in the motion. Still the movement is remarkably three dimensional, and the characters have very expressive
When compared to the Disney wartime movies, these one lacks the coherent plots and punchy action and quick gags. It's all rather hallucinatory, slow moving and brilliant in its own way, but definitely not one for all tastes.
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