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Ō-Atari Sora no Entaku

Entry updated 20 June 2022. Tagged: Film.

["The Plane Cabby's Lucky Day"] Japanese animated film (1932). Marvel Graph, Kyōryoku Eiga-sha. Directed by Teizō Katō. 10 minutes. Black and white.

In the future year of 1980, mankind dwells "in the sky" (actually in skyscrapers) and the land has been ceded to talking animals (see Uplift). A human cabby on a long fare is forced to stop in the clouds to repair his plane, where one of the local birds informs him of a nearby Island possessing rich treasure.

With its fascination with a future modernity, including Inventions that allow for aerial traffic control and food cooked in seconds, The Plane Cabby's Lucky Day is a prime contender for the title of Japan's first science fiction Anime, a generation ahead of Astro Boy (1963-1966). However, its genre trappings soon fade, leaving it little different from numerous other 1930s cartoons that repackaged Fantasy as an allegory for Japanese Imperialism. Despite resonances of Fritz Lang's Metropolis (1926), it makes no attempt to engage with the political implications of the Social Darwinism it depicts: the animal proles are all happy participants and willing dupes. A human passenger's desire to be taken to "the South Seas" not only refers to Japan's colonial ambitions as a fait accompli, but also as an enduring, albeit distant and backward, addition to the Empire. Meanwhile, even the animal inhabitants of the new-found isle that the hero plunders are happy to offload their diamonds on him, to the greater benefit of his aged mother, and leading to the closing homily: "Charity is a good investment." [JonC]


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