Wartime is a theme about the classing of different factions for power. It cam be either based upon real world wars, or fictional wars.
With the Japanese invasion of China in the 1930s, the fairy tales and fables of Early Anime were gradually co-opted into the military machine, the anime creators tempted by offers of funding and, for the first time, wide distribution. Early emphasis was on austerity and unity in the face of potential threats. Yasuji Murata's Masamune and the Monkeys (Saru Masamune, 1930) dwells on the virtues of righteous intervention, depicting an incident in which the swordsmith Masamune comes to the aid of a monkey, and is consequently bestowed with the blade that will one day save his own life. Like many other anime from the period, it tacitly advanced Japan's demands for an East Asian "co-prosperity sphere," and her right to interfere in the affairs of other countries in order to overthrow Western imperialism. Murata's Aerial Momotaro (Sora no Momotaro, 1931) featured a war between penguins and albatrosses on a remote island near the South Pole, broken up by the timely arrival of the Japanese hero Momotaro. Yoshitaro Kataoka's Bandanemon the Monster Exterminator (Bandanemon: Bakemono Taiji no Maki, 1935) focused on a tough Japanese hero who comes to the aid of oppressed villagers, volunteering to clear an infestation of tanuki from a nearby castle. The shape-changing creatures have disguised themselves as beautiful women (with shades of Betty Boop) in order to distract him from his mission. Yasuji Murata revisited the plot of Dreamy Urashima with his One Night at a Bar (Izakaya Hitoya, 1936), the Dragon King's Palace of legend presented as a drunken hallucination by a man who, like the Japanese nation itself, has yet to wake up to reality-in this case, the inevitability of conflict.
In the wake of the League of Nations' condemnation of Japan's expansion into Manchuria, attacks on foreign powers became more blatant. In Takao Nakano's Black Cat Banzai (Kuroneko Banzai, 1933), a peaceful parade of toys is disrupted by a fleet of flying bat-bombers, each ridden by a clone of Mickey Mouse. Snake-marines with machine gun mouths land on the beach, and the invaders kidnap a doll. The islanders beg for help from a book of Japanese Folk Tales, which obligingly disgorges Momotaro, Kintaro, and several other Japanese folk icons. The story ends with a celebration, as all the dead trees sprout cherry blossoms.
Shiho Tagawa's popular manga character Norakuro joined up in Yasuji Murata's Corporal Norakuro (Norakuro Gocho, 1934). This comprised another warning about drunkenness, in which the titular stray dozed off and dreamed he was attacked by monkeys. The emphasis on humor continued with the uncredited Sky Over the Shanghai Battle-Line (Sora no Shanhai Sensen. 1938), in which two comical Japanese pilots observed the Chinese war theater in a biplane. Similarly, Noburo Ofuji's Aerial Ace (Sora no Arawashi, 1938) featured another pilot fighting giant clouds in the shape of Popeye and Stalin-Foreign Influences were no longer welcome.
In 1939, the increasingly oppressive Japanese government passed a Film Law bringing the media under greater central control. The onset of war with America in 1941 brought greater funding, but also greater pressures on filmmakers. Kajiro Yamamoto completed The War at Sea from Hawaii to Malaya (Hawaii-Marei Okikaisen, 1942) in just six months, recreating Pearl Harbor with special-effects footage from Eiji Tsuburaya, creator of Ultraman (*DE). Its success prompted the Japanese Navy to attempt similar triumphs with animation, ordering Mitsuyo Seo to make Momotaro's Sea Eagles (Momotaro no Umiwashi, 1943). Retelling the Momotaro folktale with enemy caricatures, the film pushed the boundaries of animation in Japan with an unprecedented running time of 37 minutes. With animation cels in short supply (nitro-cellulose was a crucial ingredient in gunpowder), Seo's animators were forced to wash their materials in acid and reuse them for this tale of the bombing of Pearl Harbor in fairy-tale form, destroying the original artwork even as they shot each frame of animation. In order to get the right voice for a caricature of Popeye's Bluto, seen on the deck of a sinking ship, they also sampled the original straight from a reel of the American print-copyright law hardly being an issue at the time. The film was immensely popular with children on release, and was even screened in the palace for Prince Akihito (the current Heisei Emperor). The Navy authorized Seo to make an even longer sequel, and the result was Japan's first full-length animated feature, Momotaro's Divine Sea Warriors.
Other anime of the 1940s show signs of increasing desperation, as Japanese defeats become harder to ignore. Sanae Yamamoto's Defeat of the Spies (Spy Gekimetsu, 1942) depicts Roosevelt and Churchill sending three agents onto Japanese soil, although they are swiftly unmasked. In Ryotaro Kuwata's Human Rugby Bullets (Tokkyu Nikudan Sen, 1943), a sports match between Japanese dogs and foreign monkeys attempts to make light of Japan's use of the taiatari ramming attack-a chilling precursor to the following year's kamikaze attacks. Animation was also a major component of the ten-minute short Nippon Banzai (1943), best described as Japan's Why We Fight. In it, evil British soldiers are shown oppressing the natives of Asia beneath a hot sun, which segues into the rising sun of Japan's flag. Cartoon fish dance in and out of the wreck of the HMS Prince of Wales, while Chiang Kai-Shek is first portrayed as a marionette (with his wife, operated by Allied "advisers"), then as a gleeful child with a toy plane (a snide reference to the Flying Tigers). The anime sequence ends with Roosevelt impeached and Churchill's trademark cigar falling from his mouth in shock, before returning to live-action footage exhorting young men to join up.
In the aftermath of the war, the surviving animators in Tokyo worked on Sakura. Anime struggled for some time amid conditions of deprivation in which many had understandably more pressing problems, and early postwar anime are largely feel-good Fantasy and Fairy Tales such as The Magic Pen. Sanae Yamamoto would help recreate anime with the establishment of his studio Nippon Doga in 1947. Bought by Toei in 1956, the company would form the foundations of Toei Animation, and with it, the beginnings of the anime industry as we know it today.
The war, however, remained a taboo subject for a decade, with the anomalous exception of Zero Sen Hayato and occasional references as origin stories in shows such as Gigantor and Big X. As the babyboomers reached maturity, several anime began alluding to the war through future allegories such as Star Blazers, and the devastation wrought by the giant aliens of Macross.
After the success of the anime Diary of Anne Frank, producers realized the value of children as protagonists-caught up in a conflict not of their own making, the brutalized innocents of Barefoot Gen, Grave of the Fireflies, and their many imitators allowed history without discussion of responsibility. The Hiroshima Peace Festival film prize became dominated by Renzo Kinoshita, whose short anime included Pica-Don (1978, the nickname of the bomb that destroyed Hiroshima), Tobiwao Is Taken Ill, Last Air Raid Kumagaya (1990), and the unfinished project Okinawa. Outside the art-house theaters however, popular representations of the war became increasingly fantastic, as a nostalgic craze for "retro" anime transformed into an obsession with rewriting history-Kishin Corps and Sakura Wars would have met with joyous approval from the government censor in 1941.