A wind chime stirs in the gentle breeze at home, as repeated in countless modern Japanese productions. Seven shots in a row, including a tracking shot with multiplane parallax effects, depict arriving airmen placing their bags of parachute materials in neat rows, and these seven shots are soon followed by an eighth of all the bags. Other amazingly long and detailed sequences depict uneventful guard duty and a team of skilled technicians assembling freshly developed photographs from a damaged spy plane into a composite image of an enemy installation. One scene shows a quick sketch being made of one of the characters, obviously inspired by the animation process. There are interesting attempts at naturalistic shadows, and numerous naturalistic touches in one scene of paratroopers waiting, jumping and fighting. Enemy soldiers, scattered by the paratroopers' assault, drop a deck of playing cards and scatter it beautifully as they run to and fro.
The use of funny animals here is even stranger than in the original. The pheasant hero, in his scene at home, alternates with his “wife” to feed his chicks continuously, none of them saying a word. I get the impression that the audio production was hurried, the film being released only four months before the war ended. Native islanders are goofy, both when depicted as humans in the historical flashback, and as monkeys of three species, one some kind of white-maned proboscis monkey. All three native monkeys are silly in the patronizing racist manner expected of a cartoon like this. They wear fez-like headgear, the stereotypical barrel organ mascot monkey hat, which resembles the single fat horn of the “demon” humans.
A wide variety of species including alligators, rhinos, elephants and big cats have trouble sitting through a class on the Japanese language. They use their natural advantages as animals to build an airport, rejoicing at the hard labour that will “liberate” the Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere. It is unclear to what extent the more powerful animals represent natives, or any people. As in Sea Eagles, the cognitive dissonance is quite severe, despite the Disney influence being more dominant.
The combat sequence, though brief, is almost humourless, unlike in Sea Eagles, and involves more screaming. Momotarō’s character design has smaller eyes, no lashes, and thicker brows. He looks more plump than last time, giving him a strong resemblance to Kim Jong-un. The final scenes are curious. British officers, fairly well voiced, conspire to delay surrender, apparently thinking that the Japanese forces are about to collapse, as would have been entirely accurate. Cut to Japanese children at home, eerily playing at being soldiers in a push against the US.
Unlike Sea Eagles, this is just as racist and self-aggrandizing as American WW2 propaganda. Still, considering it was made by one of the aggressors of the war, and so very late in the day, it is paradoxically peaceful and beautiful for its time. I’m glad it survived the US purge of Japanese propaganda materials.