Learn About the Origin of Japanese Animation
Tadao Sato
(Film critic)
Japanese animation has developed into a significant, leading force of the industry worldwide today. While it now boasts the best in its quality and quantity, its long history cannot be overlooked.

It is said that the origin of Japanese animation dates back to 1917, when people studied French animation popular at the time and produced their own works by line art, where lines drawn on blackboards with white chalk were recorded with lines erased and/or added frame by frame. The first production studio specializing in animation came about in 1921, but the contents of their earlier works are unknown today as they have been produced at a small-scale, household industry level and have been dispersed over time.

Matsuda Film Productions which has been a longtime collector and preserver of Japanese silent films owns a number of Japanese animation works produced as old as around 1930 among its enormous collection. They are priceless works not only for their historical values, but also because most of them are highly entertaining, loaded with jokes. For example, in the newly produced DVD box set Japanese Anime Classic Collection, the work Dobutsu-mura no Daisodo (The Animal Village in Trouble) is very lively and filled with actions. Sanae Yamamoto who created this film later became one of the main establishing members of the first Japanese major animation studio, Toei Doga, and this is indeed the studio which brought Hayao Miyazaki and other major animators to the world. This work gives us a glimpse of the origin of today's Japanese animation.

The collection also includes six earlier works by the ultimate genius Noburo Ofuji who was first to demonstrate to the world the high artistic level of Japanese animation when he won an award at the Cannes Film Festival. Better yet, we are also able to enjoy the earlier, unrestrained works by Mitsuyo Seo, Kenzo Masaoka and more, who too raised the standard and later became the masters of Japanese animation. I am in great awe and deeply appreciate the people who have collected all these valuable works and have preserved them with such great care. Throughout the works, we sense the young energy and enthusiasm of the pioneers of Japanese animation which are serving as the sources of today's enormous cultural industry. It is a must-watch collection for people interested in Japanese animation. Splendid!!