In 2007 was discovered what might be Japan’s first animated film, ever. Known as Namakura Gatana: Hanawa Hekonai Meitou no Maki, the anime was produced in 1917, which is over a century ago. The short animation film that was directed by Junichi Kouuchi ran for nearly 4 minutes, and it was greatly popular in its time. To make things a little clearer, Japan has had a flourishing film industry, even during the pre-war period, but most of the films have been lost, because no one thought them worth preserving. However, Namakura Gatana: Hanawa Hekonai Meitou no Maki, when bought by film historian Natsuko Matsumoto, was in surprisingly good condition, thanks to the paper it was preserved in. This method of storage allowed proper ventilation, and owing to that, we can now see it!
If you’re wondering what the plot back then could be, know this: Namakura Gatana translates to ‘the dull sword’, and it is a comedy revolving around a Samurai who is especially proud of his purchase. But, thanks to the ‘dullness’ of the sword, he loses against even the weakest of his opponents, and then decides to try it out on passers-by. But as we can figure, he fails terribly, and his potential victims try to get revenge!
In 2008, the National Film Center at the Japanese capital of Tokyo had digitally restored the first animated film, and screened this short movie in celebration of cinema history. A strong contender for the oldest animation film in Japan is Oten Shimokawa’s Imokawa Mukuzo Genkanban no Maki, which was discovered at the same antique fair. Both the films are said to have been produced the same year, but which was produced first is still a gray area. Even though private film-making has been practiced in Japan for a long time, these two were the first to be out for public release.
Did you like watching the film?
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