By Tyler Trosper / May 31st, 2016
Funimation has acquired the distribution and theatrical rights to the restored edition of Momotaro, Sacred Sailors. At 76 minutes and over 50,000 animation cells, the film is heralded as one of the very first feature-length anime. It was written and directed by Mitsuyo Seo near the tail end of World War II as propaganda. With Funimation’s help, the film was shown at the 2016 Cannes Film Festival in the Cannes Classics program.
Momotaro is a spin on the classic Japanese fairytale of the same name, though the boy born from a peach fights monsters that represent the Allied Powers in the film. Funimaton provided a 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.