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People never talk about this.
One of the most interesting periods of japanese animation history is the very early years.
Before established studios and techniques, the industry was a free-for-all of experimentation.
Mixed in with the troubles of a world war, these initial years are fascinating and very
rarely discussed.
Which is a shame became loads of animators and directors that worked during this period
are disregarded in discussion about anime history.
Directors that are pivotal for the birth of anime.
The birth of Japanese animation can be dated back to the beginning of the 20th century,
well over 100 years ago.
Unfortunately, little work from this period has survived, some films having only been
discovered a number of years ago.
These were either artistic tests or commercial work.
Many commissioned films exist in company records but not in a viewable form.
In 2004, A film reel was found, and distributed online as Katsudou Shashin, experts dated
it back to 1907, which if true makes it the oldest known piece of japanese animation.
Containing only 50 frames, it's not a huge stylistic insight, but it certainly has historical
There are a number of films in the following decade too that are unfortunately lost in
An artist at the time, Oten Shimokawa is responsible for many of these films.
He was a cartoonist for a magazine at the time and created 5 short animated movies in
1917 as experiments.
A year later we have footage of Urashima Taro, a short film that was found in an antiques
shop in 2008.
Instead of cel animation that would be used in later decades, these works were made with
cut-out animation.
This is when animators would literally cut out shapes and move them between each frame.
There was obviously no sound or colour and very limited movement.
But these relics give us an insight into where future styles started.
Up until the later 1920s, animators had no way of getting their projects funded, there
was just no demand for japanese animation.
Disney films could be imported in and played for a fraction of the cost.
But, around the mid-20s, japanese animation started to gain traction.
One of the most prolific and important names of the period is Noburo Ofuji, a director
who became extremely interested in animation as a medium and started producing short films.
Ofuji's early work consisted of him experimenting with basic movement, using primarily cutout
He would animate various characters in front of backgrounds to tell simple stories.
One of his early works that really fascinated me was The National Anthem in 1931.
He became interested in german shadow puppet animation and created this short film.
The movement is smoother than cutout animation but even more limited.
What I liked was how well the silhouette effect excelled in certain areas.
It created an eerie atmosphere and some awesome psychedelic imagery that was rare at the time.
It's one of the earliest works that I felt an artistic connection with and it's really
interesting to see the various avenues directors were experimenting with here.
A few years later in 1934, Kenzo Masaoka made one of the medium's most important movements.
He created Chagama Ondo, the first fully cel-animated anime.
This was a big step forward for Japan in terms of catching up with western animation and
allowed for much higher quality movement.
Many animators still use cel animation today and digital techniques are based off of this
Chagama Ondo was 2 short films, featuring a group of Tanuki's exploring a temple.
The style is typical of the time, lots of bold, curved lines and circular movement.
There was no real camera movement, Masaoka would set up a static background and have
characters move around it like a play.
But the animation was impressive for the time, mimicking the style of Disney.
Later in 1935 we have Norakuro, which was the first manga adaptation, a format that
would become an industry standard later on.
This was directed by Matsuyo Seo who becomes one of the most important individuals in the
The film featured a lot more movement in elements outside of character designs.
We would get subtle camera pans and perspective shots.
Seo created this in the style of a cartoon or short film, rather than previous works
that looked more like comic strips of theater plays.
Norakuro seems different thematically from a lot of the other works during this period.
It's not a old folk tale told with animals, it's more comical, which is a nice change.
Seo was revolutionary once again in 1941 with his short film, Ari-Chan.
He was the first director in Japan to fully use Multiplane camera technology.
Something that Disney were once again, already utilising.
It allowed an unbelievable amount of extra depth to their animation.
Ari-Chan had a real sense of a 3D perspective.
Having characters move in all directions instead of just left and right.
As you might have realised, Seo was hugely influenced by Disney.
His use of chirpy orchestral music, with movement that moved in sync with the sounds and his
round, animal character designs.
They were all influenced from Disney's work in the 30s.
Seo was one of the first animators to really start pursuing the competition.
And Ari-Chan is a great example of the progression japanese animators were making.
I mentioned earlier that directors found it hard to find funding for their movies.
Well now they had an option.
The Japanese government were actively funding films, but there was a very strict set of
rules on what was allowed to be made.
A lot of these became propaganda films.
Kenzo Masaoka returned in 1943 to create one of the first examples of this: Kumo to Tulip.
A 15 minute short film about a spider chasing a ladybird.
Like I said, the thematic content of these films were influenced by the government and
looking back now seem to have strong racial and nationalistic undertones.
But that doesn't mean the film's technical achievements can be ignored.
The animation is some of Japan's most complex so far, with characters seeming 3-dimensional
and backgrounds having a more realistic tone.
Depth of field was used strongly giving the insect world a real sense of scale.
The butterfly's character design is important to note too, you can see it's distinct resemblance
to what would later become the standard anime character “look”.
Japanese animation was progressing faster than ever.
Seo then directed two groundbreaking films.
Mamtoro's Sea Eagles in 1943 and Mamtoro's Devine Sea Warriors in 1945.
They were essentially propaganda films that showed the Japanese military beating foreign
Devine Sea Warriors is incredibly important as it was Japan's first ever feature length
anime film.
But it wasn't just blatant propaganda, although Seo was commissioned by the military, he instilled
themes of hope, encouraging the younger generation to dream positively.
The movie was telling a unique story.
And it was a huge milestone in the development of Japanese animation.
Audio was still in its infancy but movement was smooth and Seo incorporated a dynamic
range of camera work.
Again, the character designs were very Disney-esque but the beginnings of Anime's distinct style
were there.
Seo even started to animate background elements and used the multiplane camera to enormous
Mamtoro's Devine Sea Warriors is this period's peak.
Animation in Japan had gone from scarcely animated comic strips to complex feature films
that were beginning to rival their foreign counterparts.
And even more exciting technology was just around the corner.
After the war, the rate of animation production in japan plummeted.
It would take years before a similar level of progression would be matched.
Directors like Noburo Ofuji and Kenzo Masaoka would continue to work on Anime but many others
including the legendary Mitsuyo Seo were forced out of the industry by a lack of work.
Ofuji's work took a very dark turn, for example his film Kumo no Ito in 1946.
It showcased a bunch of really creepy bodies with imagery of humans burning and what seems
like a depiction of hell.
Again with the returning spider imagery.
Seo completed one film after the war but couldn't find a distributor to release it.
He never returned to anime.
With the forefather's of japanese animation growing old and the industry seemingly drying
up, it seemed the medium was doomed.
In 1948 Kenzo Masaoka and film producer Zenjiro Yamamoto tried to hold onto their fleeting
medium by forming a animation studio.
Unfortunately they didn't receive any substantial work until almost a decade later where a company
named Toei purchased the studio.
They started production on the wildly important Hakujaden, the first ever colour anime film.
It was even released in america a few years later.
Hakujaden is responsible for reviving an almost perished industry, establishing Toei Productions
and the system of anime studios and inspired the next wave of animators and directors.
Stylistically, the film was completely different from previous anime works.
Instead looking more like traditional oriental paintings than its wartime predecessors.
Although work had been scarce over the last 10 years, the skills of animators had still
improved and complex objects full of colour and depth were being animated.
It was one of the first time realistic humans had been depicted too, rather than basic animals.
It felt a lot close to the overseas competition, with colour inviting a welcomed atmosphere.
I don't think Hakujaden was as well directed as previous anime projects though, a lot of
the compositions and camera movement seemed very basic, usually just panning back and
forward instead of utilising a full 3-dimensional perspective.
Regardless, Anime needed this and it completely kick-started industry again.
The next few years saw various small animation projects broadcast on TV rather than in cinemas,
a whole new market.
Things like Otogo Manga Callander were short stories that would be sprinkled throughout
a network.
But in 1961 a individual named Osamu Tezuka, who had been working at Toei saw a brighter
He formed his studio Mushi Production with the goal of making anime a TV industry.
He released Astro Boy in 1963 and changed the whole game.
This single series created the template that every anime would follow for the next 60 years
and opened the floodgates for countless other TV anime over the coming years.
Tezuka drew inspiration from works like Momotaro and Hakujaden to establish his style, a style
that would also be the basis for the next 60 years of anime.
Osamu Tezuka had a dream of making anime a global medium and rivalling Disney, and Astro
Boy was the perfect start for that dream, the birth of anime.
Japanese animation explodes into a stylistic melting pot after this and new genres and
creators start to appear every year.
You can look more into what happened next in another video i've made: The Stylistic
Evolution of Anime that looks into the following decades.
But I hope this video had given you an idea of where it all came from and the practitioners
that kick-started the medium.
You'll have noticed that i've been putting a lot more content out lately and that's
set to continue, so please make sure you're subscribed and keeping an eye on the channel.


The Birth of Anime

196 タグ追加 保存
二百五 2019 年 9 月 11 日 に公開
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