Over the last several decades, iconic anime stories of pocket monsters and magical girls, Super Saiyans and man-eating Titans, have made a huge cultural impact from Japan to the rest of the world. With 2017 marked as the centennial celebration of Japanese animation as a medium, Funimation is proud to release Momotaro – Sacred Sailors—the first feature length Japanese film ever—and Spider & Tulip—a beautifully animated classic whose influence can be seen in anime today: two formative 1940s anime features that mark major milestones in the development of an art form and industry.
For this upcoming release, we’d like to take a moment to talk about these works and their influence, as we all key features of the release itself. Originally created in 1945 during World War II, Momotaro – Sacred Sailors was thought lost to history during the American occupation in Japan, until a negative copy was discovered in 1983 in movie studio Shochiku’s Ofuna warehouse. Early in 2016, with the financial support of Funimation and other partners around the world, Shochiku restored the film, and we are now able to bring the first true feature-length anime film to North American audiences in a stunning high-definition version.
Funimation’s double-feature release of Momotaro – Sacred Sailors + Spider & Tulip features an 18-page booklet featuring writing from renowned anime scholar and author Helen McCarthy, covering the nature of the films’ creation and the influence they has had on the anime world (such as inspiring the “father of anime,” animator and manga artist Osuma Tezuka). The book also includes essays about the film’s historical context and restoration, translated directly from materials from Japanese movie publisher Shochiku.
A little history about our titular hero: Momotaro, often translated as the Peach Boy, has long been a popular figure in Japanese folklore. The story goes that a child came to earth inside a giant peach found floating down a river. A woman and her husband tried to open the peach to eat it, thus discovering the child inside. He then explained that he had been sent by Heaven to be their son.
During World War II in Japan, Momotaro, already seen as something of a Japanese hero, appeared in many wartime films and cartoons, including Momotaro – Sacred Sailors. In these depictions, targeted to children, Momotaro represented the Japanese government and army, with the animals representing the citizens, and the demon (Oni) representing enemy powers such as the United States. History is written by the victors, so they say, and while wartime depictions of characters or international forces do not agree with modern sensibilities, Momotaro – Sacred Sailors’ importance as a artifact in the history of the medium cannot be denied.
We are very excited to have the opportunity to release this iconic title. Be on the lookout for Momotaro – Sacred Sailors + Spider and Tulip coming to Blu-ray and DVD May 9th, 2017.