Restored in 4K, Mitsuyo Seo’s Momotaro, Sacred Sailors has not lost its old film texture. The whites are crisp, but the darkest black areas tend to bleed in the charming way that old movies do. The film has not been retouched in any way to alter its quality, nor remove little blips and dust particles. It is a basic scan from 35mm inter-positive without enhancements. Therefore, the film may look as close to what audiences would have seen when it was released in 1945.

Japan’s first feature-length animated film was meant to be propagandist, but also works as pure entertainment. It is often musical, and the characters are beyond cute. There is no explanation why there is only one human heading a team of animals. Nevertheless, their navy activities may allow the viewer to learn Japanese. The A-I-U-E-O song has no coherent lyrics. Only the sounds of pronouncing the alphabet. It’s a bit like Japanese Sesame Street, to a tune at times reminiscent of The Sound of Music’s Do Re Mi. Such scenes are Disneyesque, which is logical since Seo was influenced by Fantasia (Disney, 1940).

With great attention to details, there are multiple layers of artwork involved. Because the black and white is so rich, ‘color’ is felt rather than seen. The shading, the density of the blacks, and the detailed textures in close-ups of woodgrain, leaves, etc., make modern 3D/Pixaresque films seem flat. Scenery is typically Japanese, and the changes in depth of field feel like a live action film. Even just in shades of grey, the green of the Japanese countryside or the blue of the sky are almost tangible.


Fantasia Screening : July 20, 5:10 PM (Hall Theatre)

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