There’s no doubt that Japanese animation is now everywhere, from popular media we consume on Netflix to splashing across the big screen. But where did animated film begin? What kind of works were created?
One great resource for exploring the history of animated film media is the Japanese Animated Film Classics website. Operated by the National Film Archive of Japan, it features films from 1917 to the 1940s that otherwise might be difficult or impossible to find. The site can be navigated in both Japanese and English, which is particularly helpful for students or casual viewers with limited language ability.
It is possible to search the content by different categories, including Genre, Types of Motion (such as sleeping, sword fighting, rotating, dancing and singing), Techniques (cut-outs, silhouettes, cel, stop motion), and Characters. One can also browse the general list of works or list of authors, or jump to an “Experts’ Choice” tab where a specialists helpfully offer expert analysis of the history and content of individual film selections to guide your viewing of the material.Each clip is accompanied by a full range of metadata, a plot summary, and keywords to search for related materials. Some films also include English subtitles. The FAQ section presents some important questions that one will want to know about the collection (is there anything unique to Japan? What about women animators?).
Additional content is featured in connection with the Noburo Ofuji Memorial Museum, such as documents and photographs related to production and filmography, which help to contextualize the creation and reception of these important works.
Whether you’re searching the site for research or for fun, there’s plenty to discover! Be sure to check it out.