Momotaro: Sacred Sailors

  (Redirected from Momotaro's Divine Sea Warriors)

Momotaro: Sacred Sailors (桃太郎 海の神兵, Momotarō: Umi no Shinpei)[2] is the first Japanese feature-length animated film.[3] It was directed by Mitsuyo Seo, who was ordered to make a propaganda film for World War II by the Japanese Naval Ministry. Shochiku Moving Picture Laboratory shot the 74-minute film in 1944 and screened it on April 12, 1945. It is a sequel to Momotarō no Umiwashi, a 37-minute film released in 1943 by the same director.[4]

Momotaro: Sacred Sailors
Directed byMitsuyo Seo
Written byMitsuyo Seo
Music byYūji Koseki
CinematographyMitsuyo Seo[1]
Distributed byWW: Shochiku
NA: Funimation
UK: All the Anime
Release date
  • April 12, 1945 (1945-04-12)
Running time
74 min

In English, the film is sometimes referred to as Momotaro's Divine Sea Warriors.


Screenshot from the film, where Monkey and Puppy are saying goodbye.

After completing naval training, a bear cub, a monkey, a pheasant, and a puppy say goodbye to their families.[5] While they are preoccupied, the monkey's younger brother falls into a river while chasing the monkey's cap and is carried towards a waterfall. The dog and the monkey work together to save the child just before he is swept downstream. A time skip occurs and Japanese forces are seen clearing a forest and constructing an air base in a Pacific island with the help of the jungle animals. A plane lands in the airstrip and from inside emerges Momotaro, depicted as a General, together with the bear, monkey, dog and pheasant, who by this point have become high-ranking officials. The subsequent scenes show the jungle animals being taught the alphabet via singing, washing clothes, given military training, and loading weapons in warplanes. The animal residents of the island are shown as simple primitives who are star struck by the glamorous and advanced Japanese animals.

A narration of the story of how the island of Celebes was acquired by the Dutch East India Company follows and it is revealed that the Japanese are attempting to invade it. The monkey, dog and bear cub become parachute jumpers while the pheasant becomes a pilot.[6] The paratroopers ambush a halftrack and hastily invade a British fort, causing the unprepared British soldiers to panic and flee. Momotaro, the monkey and the puppy are then shown negotiating with three clearly terrified, stammering British officials and after a brief argument, the British agree to surrender Celebes and the surrounding islands to Japanese rule. A brief epilogue shows children playing at parachuting onto continental America outlined on the ground. Plainly the United States is to be the target of their generation.

There are some musical scenes. Of note is The Song of AIUEO (アイウエオの歌, AIUEO no Uta), a scene where Japanese soldiers teach local animals how to speak.


The Naval Ministry previously showed Seo Fantasia (1940), the Disney film. Inspired by this, Seo tried to give dreams to children, as well as to instill the hope for peace, just as he did in the movie's predecessor, Momotaro's Sea Eagles. At that time, unlike German animation and American animation, Japanese animation was not fully promoted as a tool for propaganda by the Japanese government. Animation was not considered as effective as other mediums by Japanese government officials. As we can see in the first scene of the film, "For Children (小国民に捧ぐ Shôkokumin ni tsugu)", the film was designed for children. [7]

For a long time, the film was presumed to have been confiscated and burnt by the American occupation. However, a negative copy of the film was found in Shochiku's Ofuna warehouse in 1983 and was re-released in 1984.[8] A reproduced movie was later screened and the VHS package is now available in Japan.


The Song of AIUEO (アイウエオの歌, AIUEO no Uta) is famous for being given a homage in the series Kimba the White Lion (ジャングル大帝, Janguru Taitei) by Osamu Tezuka. Tezuka had seen the film in April 1945. He later said that he was moved to tears by the movie's hints of dreams and hopes, hidden under the appearance of war propaganda.

The film was selected for screening as part of the Cannes Classics section at the 2016 Cannes Film Festival.[9] UK based company All the Anime announced in May 2016 that would release the film on Blu-ray and in that same month it was also announced U.S. publisher, Funimation would also be releasing the film on Blu-ray and DVD alongside Spider and Tulip on a single disc.[10][11]


  1. ^
  2. ^ "Momotaro, Sacred Sailors". Shochiku. Archived from the original on 2012-04-08. Retrieved 2009-10-03.
  3. ^ Jonathan Clements, Helen McCarthy. The Anime Encyclopedia: A Guide to Japanese Animation Since 1917. Revised and Expanded Edition.—Berkeley, CA: Stone Bridge Press, 2006.—P. 12.—ISBN 978-1933330105
  4. ^
  5. ^ Clements, Jonathan; McCarthy, Helen (2006). The Anime Encyclopedia. California: Stone Bridge Press. ISBN 1-933330-10-4.
  6. ^ Clements, Jonathan; McCarthy, Helen (2006). The Anime Encyclopedia. California: Stone Bridge Press. ISBN 1-933330-10-4.
  7. ^ 1979-, Hagihara, Yukari; 1979-, 萩原由加里 (2015-03-27). Masaoka Kenzō to sono jidai : "Nihon animēshon no chichi" no senzen to sengo. Tōkyō. ISBN 4787273744. OCLC 905837834.CS1 maint: numeric names: authors list (link)
  8. ^ Clements, Jonathan; McCarthy, Helen (2006). The Anime Encyclopedia. California: Stone Bridge Press. ISBN 1-933330-10-4.
  9. ^ "Cannes Classics 2016". Cannes Film Festival. 20 April 2016. Retrieved 21 April 2016.
  10. ^ "Anime Limited Updates from MCM London Comic Con (Updated 3)". Anime News Network. 29 May 2016. Retrieved 29 May 2016.
  11. ^ "Funimation Licenses WWII-Era Anime Film Momotaro, Sacred Sailors". 31 May 2016. Retrieved 24 February 2017.
  • Patten, Fred (2004) [First published in Animation World Magazine 1, no. 7, October 1996]. "Momotaro's Gods-Blessed Sea Warriors: Japan's Unknown Wartime Feature". Watching Anime, Reading Manga: 25 Years of Essays and Reviews. Berkeley, CA: Stone Bridge Press. pp. 325–328. ISBN 1-880656-92-2.
  • Clements, Jonathan and Helen McCarthy (2001). The Anime Encyclopedia : A Guide to Japanese Animation Since 1917. Berkeley, CA: Stone Bridge Press. ISBN 1-880656-64-7.

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