Japanese Animation – The Forgotten Anime History

Japan Animation has a long history of animation, that in fact, it dates back as early as cartoon animation. It’s even presumed that Japan animation may actually predate american cartoon animation. In July 2005 several Japanese newspapers reported a discovery of a small film stock of animation film in a private residence in Kyoto, Japan.

The aged film was approximately fifty frames long which accounts for a little more than three seconds of screen time. The film shows a boy in a sailor uniform drawing characters for a movie picture on a blackboard.

Unfortunately, a lot is unknown by this great Japanese Animation. Discoverers were unable to pin down the artist responsible for this great discovery and they are also unable to accurately date the exact age of the film. However, it’s speculated that the film may date around 1907, which would predate the first Japanese animation by ten years and the first american cartoon animation by seven years.

Though, since the film cannot be accurately dated, the jury is still out on declaring the small Kyoto film as the world’s first animation.

But even without the discovery of the Kyoto film, Japanese anime still has a very long history. In January of 1917 the first five-minute anime short was screened publicly and created by Oten Shimokawa, Mukuzo Imokawa the Doorman (Imokawa Mukuzo Genkanban no Maki).

To produce the Japanese anime Mukuzo Imokawa the Doorman, Oten Shimokawa used a similar technique that was used in first animated short called Humorous Phases of Funny Faces, produced by J. Stuart Blackton in 1906.

To produce the animation, both artists used stop-motion techniques that virtually applied to the same principles that makes static images in a flip-book to appear as if the animation were moving at thumb speed. The essential method was drawing separate images on a blackboard in chalk, film them for a frame or two and alter them slightly and film it again.

As Japan Animation moves into the 1920′s, like cartoon animation, there were many great films produced as theatrical-shorts. A few of the earliest and still viewable today are: The Mountain Where Old Women are Abandoned (Obasuteyama) 1924 and The Tortoise and the Hare (Usagi to Kane) 1924.

One of the most remarkable anime films in the twenties was The Whale (Kujira) 1927 as it is the first anime to feature sound. The Whale (Kujira) anime feature was only a simple silhouette, animated to move in time with the William Tell Overture instrumental song.

But none the less, Japanese animation has a long thorough history that goes back as far as the ever-expanding history of animation. And while many of these anime animations are now forgotten, Japanese anime still continues to invent and re-inventing new styles of animation for the world-wide audience.