Anime, or Japanese Animation, had its start in the beginning of the 20th century. Anime is Japan’s competitor against the high-budget Hollywood in America; Anime allowed Japan to create films under tight budgets and without location restrictions.
First Era of Anime
Recently discovered in 2005, the earliest known Anime was created around 1917; it consisted of 50 frames sketched onto a strip of celluloid. The clip is about 3 seconds in length and depicts a young boy donning a sailor suit writing the kanji for moving pictures (katsudou shashin) on a board. He then turns toward the viewer, removes his hat and salutes. It is unknown who created the clip.
This is one of the few complete clips that have survived from this period of animation. One of the reasons for the demise of most clips was due to these reels being sold to smaller cinemas – after they had their run – and being disassembled to be sold as strips or frames.
One of the pioneers of early animation was Kitayama Seitaro; he used a chalkboard method technique and eventually moved onto paper animation, sometimes using pre-printed backgrounds. Kitayama Seitaro went on to start his own animation studio called Kitayama Eiga Seisakujo which eventually closed down due to lack of financial success.
Second Era of Anime
Kitayama Seitaro had several influential students while his film studio was still in operation. Ofuji Noboro, Yamamoto Sanae, Kimura Hakuzan and Murato Yosuji were his most influential students during the late 1910’s and early 1920’s. The Great Kantou earthquake in 1923 destroyed most of Seitaro’s studio. With Seitaro’s studio destroyed and knowing how lucrative animation production can be, the students spread throughout Japan and founded their own studios.
During this era, the Monbusho (Ministry of Education) began supporting and encouraging films that contained educational value. This created a high demand for animation films and created a lasting place in academic, political and business use.
The War Era of Anime
When the Japanese government began enforcing its policy of strict nationalism in the 1930’s, strict control and censorship of all published media began to shape the Anime landscape. Animators were pushed to create films which promulgated the Japanese spirit and national affiliation. The films were shown in News-Cinemas and as News-Cinemas boomed, so did these Anime films.
Disney played an important role in molding the Anime of the era. Due to the lack of financial backing of animation studios, Japanese animators fell short of producing the same quality as Disney and were often pale in comparison.
Also at this time many of the smaller studios closed or were merged with larger studios – by the end of this period only 3 large studios remained. The merging of production companies allowed for bigger projects, which gave Anime a leg of its own to stand on.
Momotaro’s Divine Sea Warriors is the first notable animation of length made in Japan. After the war, the rapid economic success of Japan allowed Japan to emerge as a world leader in animation. Today Anime is one of the biggest industries for Japan.