Emergence of Japanese Animations: A Brief History

  • Animated television series in Japan began its productions in 1917 via trial-and-error drawing techniques using animated short films from France and the US. As the Great Kanto Earthquake in 1923 hit Japan, the anime industry had to start all over again from nothing. More struggles had to be overcome with respect to innovation, appearance and audio as Japan’s anime industry faces its toughest competition—Disney cartoons—not to mention the cost of production. The first talking anime and colored film were release in 1929 and 1932 respectively.

    Pre-war and World War II

    During the release of the first voiced over anime and colored film, Ofuji Noburo has received an international recognition for his animated film Bagudajo no tozoku (The Thief of Baguda Castle). Using a cutting and pasting technique with chiyogami (colored paper) as his media, Ofuji Noburo was able to make an innovative animated film that was well-received outside Japan.

    Soon, more promising anime talents get recognition in Japan. However, as the Second World War approaches, the supply to make animations becomes short with all the national funding directed to the military. Films are becoming more and more difficult to access. Hence, emergence of the first full-length film in Japanese anime—Momotaro: Umi no shinpei (Momotaro’s Divine Sea Warriors). Produced by the navy, the film runs for 74 minutes in Black and White and is released before the end of the war. The film was made with an intent to boost the morale and commitment of the people to war.

    Post-War Anime

    After the war has ended, GHQ (General Headquarters of the Allied occupation) consolidated a group of 100 anime artists in Tokyo forming the Shin Nihon Dogasha (New Japan Animation Company). The goal was to facilitate the allied forces to raise a campaign towards democracy. However, as many of the artists were solid and firm with their independence and territoriality, the company soon was divided as disagreements ensued from its very inception. Eventually, the project was disbanded and GHQ surrendered all hopes to persuade each artist to switch from militarism to democracy. Today, Toei Animation and Studio Ghibli are some of the biggest animation studios in Japan that cater to millions of fans worldwide.

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