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Director: Chuzo Aoji
Release Date:
 1931
Stars: Momotaro
Rating: ★★★½
Review:

Momotaro's Sky Adventure © Chuzo AojiIn ‘Momotaro’s Sky Adventure’ (also known as ‘Aerial Momotaro’) Japanese animation pioneers Aoji and Yasuji Murata tell a tale about that great and friendly warrior from Japanese folklore, Momotaro, who had been brought to the animated screen by Takamasa Eigasha in ‘Momotaro the Undefeated’ (1928).

Surprisingly, Aoji and Murata move our hero into the present. Momotaro is visited by a couple of Antarctic island birds who call for help against an evil (American?) eagle. Together with his loyal friends, monkey, dog and pheasant, he flies to the remote island in a propeller plane, being fueled twice by birds on the way. When the quartet arrives, they battle the eagle in the air in an overlong fighting sequence, which at times is strangely reminiscent of a modern computer game. Momotaro finally decides to capture the fiend alive, and he’s celebrated as a hero by the grateful birds.

‘Momotaro’s Sky Adventure’ is Japan’s very first propaganda cartoon. It shows an early form of nationalism and anti-Americanism. Momotaro would grow very popular during World War II, representing Japan in many wartime films, and starring Japan’s very first animated feature, ‘Momotaro’s Divine Sea Warriors’ (1945), commissioned by the Japanese navy. This transformation of the folk hero into a nationalistic figure begins with this cartoon from 1931. Indeed, ultra-nationalism and militarism overtook Japan in the early 1930s, which e.g. resulted in the annexation of Manchuria in the summer of 1931.

Importantly, ‘Momotaro’s Sky Adventure’ shows Japan’s national hero as the military strong friend of its weaker neighbors. This portrait of Japan as a benevolent big brother to all other Asian nations was played out throughout Japan’s militaristic period, and this propaganda story indeed managed to delude people like for example those Malay who, when Japan invaded their country in 1941, at first welcomed the Japanese as liberators from colonial Britain, only to find them far worse oppressors than the British had ever been…

‘Momotaro’s Sky Adventure’ is available on the Japanese DVD Box Set ‘Japanese Anime Classic Collection’.

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Director: Dan Gordon
Release Date: November 20, 1942
Stars: Superman
Rating:
 ★★★
Review:

Eleventh Hour © Paramount‘Eleventh Hour’ is Superman’s second war cartoon, after ‘Japoteurs‘ from earlier that year. It’s one of the earliest World War II cartoons dealing with Japan.

In this short Superman himself is the saboteur, destroying ships, bridges, airports and tanks in Yokohama, Japan. The furious Japanese capture Lois, who stays with Clark Kent in Japan, and threaten Superman to execute her if he doesn’t stop his sabotage.

Superman reads this ultimatum all but too late and he’s only just in time to rescue Lois from the firing squad. Lois returns home, but Clark Kent stays behind, implying that Superman keeps on doing his sabotage work, a message that must have been comforting to the home-front.

The story of this cartoon is quite original, if not very well-constructed. Unfortunately, by now Superman has been reduced to an expressionless figure, making him a boring character to watch.

Watch ‘Eleventh Hour’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Superman film No. 12
To the previous Superman film: Showdown
To the next Superman film: Destruction, Inc.

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