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What Was The First Anime Ever Made?

“Anime.” It doesn’t matter who one is; this term may conjure images of thrilling adventure, stylized art or even your teenage daughter talking enthusiastically about her latest obsession. In Japan, the term refers to any animation in any form. Still, the rest of the world has taken the time to refer to energy specifically that originates from Japan. Do you know what was the first anime ever made?

What’s the difference? Doesn’t animation consist of a collection of drawings that move regardless of the location you’re drawn in? There isn’t a specific general term for energy in any other region in the world. What made anime be seen as unique and develop into the stylized form that we recognize and love in the present? The answer goes back to the past century…

This was the first film to be released in Japan, and, therefore, the first animated film was made in late 1916 or the early part of the year 17 by Shimokawa Oten. It was produced using chalk and was less than five minutes in length. The confusion stems from the fact that most earlier Japanese films were discarded when the reels had been completed.

The practice that remained mainly was lost in the destruction of several cinemas and film studios during the Great Kanto Earthquake in 1923 and destroyed during attacks in World War 2, or dissolved as time passed. The nitrocellulose that early films were printed on was fragile and highly flammable, not the best material to preserve.

What Was The First Anime Ever Made?

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You can see one of the first animated series on the left, and to the right is famous illustrator Shimokawa Oten.

The first Japanese animated film that we know is commercially available in Dekobo Shingacho — Meian No Shippai (Dekobo’s New Picture Book A the Failure of a Great Plan) in February 1917. However, 1917 brought the release of over 20 short animation films from Japan! Amid World War 1 and animation was a new interest. Manga creators Oten Shimokawa, Junichi Kouchi and painter Seitaro Kitayama, were enthralled by the new medium. Employed by film studios that already existed and working with small teams, the three artists created the dazzling output of the first year. They are referred to as “the fathers of anime.”

The films they produced were not like the animated films that are made nowadays. The running times were minimal, often around five minutes and didn’t use transparent cels or colours. The first films were produced using chalk on a piece of paper, drawing and erasing the lines drawn between camera takes. The technique was swiftly replaced by the less labour-intensive method of using paper cutouts that were 2D animated stop motion. The films were not silent, but they could have been was accompanied by live music and, indeed, with “benshi,” storytellers who stood in front of the screen and read out the movie to the viewers.

While the movies look different, the story will be familiar to everyone who tastes anime. They told hilarious stories about Samurai and introduced Japanese folktales to life and advertised their Japanese post system. You can see it every year over the last decade.

Existing film firms created these films. After 1921, Kitayama quit Nikkatsu, the company he was employed by, to make the first studio for anime, Kitayama Eiga Seisakujo. Kouchi was a follower and established the studio of his own Sumikazu, which was established in 1923. Both studios failed to survive the decade, however. It’s not easy to make money in the world of anime as well. Indeed, the Great Kanto Earthquake wiping out the Kitayama studio so quickly after establishing the studio did not help.

Despite issues with destroyed studios and the lack of funding and cutting out, which was laborious, anime continued. Through the years of 1930s, a different prominent figure emerged: Kenzo Masaoka. The first anime he created using pre-recorded and synced vocals (a “talkie”) were in 1933, after one year of making. The title was Chikara in Onna no Yo no Naka (Within the world of power and women). It was a very sexy story about a man who has the time of his life with his secretary following getting bored of his domineering wife. (Feminism did not seem to be a huge issue in animation at the time.) In 1934 was the Masaoka’s Chagama Ondo (The Dance of the Chagamas). The first animated film was created entirely using cels.

Animation using cels – animated characters and other elements painted on translucent celluloid sheets, layered on top of one another and over as a background significant improvement over paper cutouts and chalk; however, it came at a much higher expense. Studios had to be more imaginative in locating sources of financing. Promo videos that were produced and funded by the government soared. When the military started getting ready for war, the animators began turning their talents into making propaganda. For civilians, the films were educational for children and ads were produced for commercial firms. The various uses of animation are still in use today.

Propaganda became extremely lucrative throughout World War II, and the film studios expanded thanks to the increased funds. The first film of full-length release was Momotaro: Umi no Shinpei (Momotaro, Sacred Sailors), released in 1945. A propaganda film commissioned from the Japanese navy that featured human-like animals, its core message of peace and hope could move a manga artist called Osamu Tezuka into tears. Keep that name in mind; it will be quite significant in just only a few lines.


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