Friday, June 18, 2010

Lost and Found: Momotaro's Divine Sea Warriors

The Story
Japan is famous for its animated films, be it movies like Howl's Moving Castle, Akira or La Blue Girl.  Okay, maybe not so much for that last one.  The question is this: how did they get started?  The answer lies with Mitsuyo Seo, a cartoonist who started out making war propaganda films.  In 1942, he made Momataro's Sea Eagles, a film about anthropomorphic animals battling the evil Americans.  In 1944, he followed it up with today's feature movie, which just happens to be the very first full-length animated film in Japanese history.  Some argue that it was Sea Eagles, but that is only 37 minutes long, as opposed to Divine Sea Warriors' 74-minute length.  Anyhow, Seo actually became viewed as too Leftist and left the industry.  Some other big invasion thing happened and most believed that all of the films of this type were burned- lost to history.
Was It Found?
Surprisingly, yes.  After 40 years, a negative copy was found in the Shouchiko Depot.  It was restored and re-released in Japan.  As far as ending up in America, well...Sea Eagles involves the animals actually bombing Pearl Harbor.  What do you think the odds of someone releasing this film here are exactly?
As I stated already, this is the first full-length animated film in Japanese history.  There have been hundred since and all of them follow in this movie's footsteps.  Fortunately, the whole 'destroying America' thing has mostly been cut out of subsequent film.  They've still made a dozen movies after samurais killing the evil Christian infidels, but that's a story for another day.
Up next, a film about  man dressed like a Bat...but from 1930?  How did we lose that?  Stay tuned...

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