"Momotaro, Sacred Sailors" restored edition of Mitsuyo Seo’s 1944 film; Screening followed by discussion with Ian Condry (MIT) and Jennifer Fu (Funimation)

Sponsored by GSL

About the film

Mitsuyo Seo’s “Momotaro, Sacred Sailors” is the first feature-length animated film produced in Japan. Written and directed by Mitsuyo Seo (1911-2010), “Momotaro, Sacred Sailors” was a propaganda film released in 1945 during the final months of World War II. Mitsuyo Seo was a key figure in the development of Japan’s anime industry. This restored film premiered during opening weekend of the 2016 Cannes Film Festival in the Cannes Classics program.

Short synopsis

On the eve of a parachute mission during the war in the Pacific, a group of navy paratroopers, a monkey, a dog, a pheasant, and a bear, go home for a brief visit before heading off with their squadron to their base in the South Pacific. Lead by boy warrior Momotaro, the squadron prepares to attack the enemy on Devil’s Island. On the eve before the attack, we learn why Momotaro and his squadron are called “sacred sailors.” A story is told of a ship with white men arriving at a beautiful island. The captain tricks the king into thinking they are merchants and he welcomes them on the island. Quickly thereafter, the crew reveal themselves as pirates and then plunder the island.  All that remained was a legend that “sacred sailors will come from the east” who will “free the people.”  Momotaro and his compatriots are these sacred sailors. The attack on Devil’s Island finally begins. The paratroopers quickly overpower the horned, white devils, who then surrender to Momotaro unconditionally. Peace returns to the South Pacific.