Resource: Japanese Animated Film Classics

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.


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Book Announcement: Samurai: A Very Short Introduction

Samurai: A Very Short Introduction

Michael Wert

The idea of the sword-wielding samurai, beholden to a strict ethical code and trained in deadly martial arts, dominates popular conceptions of the samurai. As early as the late seventeenth century, they were heavily featured in literature, art, theater, and even comedy, from the Tale of the Heike to the kabuki retellings of the 47 Ronin. This legacy remains with us today in the legendary Akira Kurosawa films, the shoguns of HBO’s Westworld, and countless renditions of samurai history in anime, manga, and video games. Acknowledging these common depictions, this book gives readers access to the real samurai as they lived, fought, and served.

Much as they capture the modern imagination, the samurai commanded influence over the politics, arts, philosophy and religion of their own time, and ultimately controlled Japan from the fourteenth century until their demise in the mid-nineteenth century. On and off the battlefield, whether charging an enemy on horseback or currying favor at the imperial court, their story is one of adventures and intrigues, heroics and misdeeds, unlikely victories and devastating defeats. This book traces the samurai throughout this history, exploring their roles in watershed events such as Japan’s invasions of Korea at the close of the sixteenth century and the Satsuma Rebellion of 1877. Coming alive in these accounts are the samurai, both famed and ordinary, who shaped Japanese history.

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Book Announcement: Kanbunmyaku: The Literary Sinitic Context and the Birth of Modern Japanese Language and Literature

Kanbunmyaku: The Literary Sinitic Context and the Birth of Modern Japanese Language and Literature

Series: Language, Writing and Literary Culture in the Sinographic Cosmopolis, Volume: 2
Author: Mareshi Saito
Editors / Translators: Ross King and Christina Laffin

In Kanbunmyaku: The Literary Sinitic Context and the Birth of Modern Japanese Language and Literature, Saito Mareshi demonstrates the centrality of Literary Sinitic poetry and prose in the creation of modern literary Japanese. Saito’s new understanding of the role of “ kanbunmyaku” in the formation of Japanese literary modernity challenges dominant narratives tied to translations from modern Western literatures and problematizes the antagonism between Literary Sinitic and Japanese in the modern academy. Saito shows how kundoku (vernacular reading) and its rhythms were central to the rise of new inscriptional styles, charts the changing relationship of modern poets and novelists to kanbunmyaku, and concludes that the chronotope of modern Japan was based in a language world supported by the Literary Sinitic Context.

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Book Announcement: Yamamba: In Search of the Japanese Mountain Witch

Yamamba: In Search of the Japanese Mountain Witch

Linda C. Ehrlich
Rebecca Copeland

Alluring, nurturing, dangerous, and vulnerable the yamamba, or Japanese mountain witch, has intrigued audiences for centuries. What is it about the fusion of mountains with the solitary old woman that produces such an enigmatic figure? And why does she still call to us in this modern, scientific era?

Co-editors Rebecca Copeland and Linda C. Ehrlich first met the yamamba in the powerful short story “The Smile of the Mountain Witch” by acclaimed woman writer Ōba Minako. The story revealed the compelling way creative women can take charge of misogynistic tropes, invert them, and use them to tell new stories of female empowerment.

This unique collection represents the creative and surprising ways artists and scholars from North America and Japan have encountered the yamamba.

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Book Announcement: Eight Dogs, or “Hakkenden” Part One—An Ill-Considered Jest

Eight Dogs, or “Hakkenden”
Part One—An Ill-Considered Jest

by Kyokutei Bakin
Translated by Glynne Walley

Kyokutei Bakin’s Nansō Satomi hakkenden is one of the monuments of Japanese literature. This multigenerational samurai saga was one of the most popular and influential books of the nineteenth century and has been adapted many times into film, television, fiction, and comics.

An Ill-Considered Jest, the first part of Hakkenden, tells the story of the Satomi clan patriarch Yoshizane and his daughter Princess Fuse. An ill-advised comment forces Yoshizane to betroth his daughter to the family dog, creating a supernatural union that ultimately produces the Eight Dog Warriors. Princess Fuse’s heroic and tragic sacrifice, and her strength, intelligence, and self-determination throughout, render her an immortal character within Japanese fiction.

Eight Dogs is the culmination of centuries of premodern Japanese tale-telling, combining aspects of historical romance, fantasy, Tokugawa-era popular fiction, and Chinese vernacular stories. Glynne Walley’s lively translation conveys the witty and colorful prose of the original, producing a faithful and entertaining edition of this important literary classic.

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Book Announcement: An Ise monogatari Reader: Contexts and Receptions

An Ise monogatari Reader: Contexts and Receptions
Brill’s Japanese Studies Library, Volume: 69
Editors: Joshua S. Mostow, Tokurō Yamamoto, and Kurtis Hanlon

An “Ise monogatari” Reader is the first collection of essays in English on The Ise Stories, a canonical literary text ranked beside The Tale of Genji. Eleven scholars from Japan, North America, and Europe explore the historical and political context in which this literary court romance was created, or relate it to earlier works such as the Man’yōshū and later works such as the Genji and noh theater. Its medieval commentary tradition is also examined, as well as early modern illustrated editions and parodies. The collection brings cutting-edge scholarship of the very highest level to English readers, scholars, and students.

Contributors are:

Aoki Shizuko, Fujihara Mika, Fujishima Aya, Gotō Shōko, Imanishi Yūichirō, Susan Blakeley Klein, Laura Moretti, Joshua S. Mostow, Ōtani Setsuko, Takahashi Tōru, and Yamamoto Tokurō

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Book Announcement: Harvesting State Support: Institutional Change and Local Agency in Japanese Agriculture

Harvesting State Support: Institutional Change and Local Agency in Japanese Agriculture
Hanno Jentzsch

Agriculture has been among the toughest political battlegrounds in postwar Japan and represents an ideal case study in institutional stability and change. Inefficient land use and a rapidly aging workforce have long been undermining the economic viability of the agricultural sector. Yet vested interests in the small-scale, part-time agricultural production structure have obstructed major reforms. Change has instead occurred in more subtle ways. Since the mid-1990s, a gradual reform process has dismantled some of the core pillars of the postwar agricultural support and protection regime. Harvesting State Support analyzes this process by shifting the analytical focus to the local level.

Drawing on extensive qualitative field research, Hanno Jentzsch investigates how local actors, including farmers, local governments, and local agricultural cooperatives, have translated abstract policies into local practice. Showing how local variants are constructed through recombining national reforms with the local informal institutional environment, Harvesting State Support reveals new links between agricultural reform and other shifts in Japan’s political economy.

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Book Announcement: The Values in Numbers: Reading Japanese Literature in a Global Information Age

The Values in Numbers
Reading Japanese Literature in a Global Information Age

Hoyt Long

Ideas about how to study and understand cultural history—particularly literature—are rapidly changing as new digital archives and tools for searching them become available. This is not the first information age, however, to challenge ideas about how and why we value literature and the role numbers might play in this process. The Values in Numbers tells the longer history of this evolving global conversation from the perspective of Japan and maps its potential futures for the study of Japanese literature and world literature more broadly.

Hoyt Long offers both a reinterpretation of modern Japanese literature through computational methods and an introduction to the history, theory, and practice of looking at literature through numbers. He weaves explanations of these methods and their application to literature together with critical reflection on the kinds of reasoning such methodologies facilitate. Chapters guide readers through increasingly complex techniques while making novel arguments about topics of fundamental concern, including the role of quantitative thinking in Japanese literary criticism; the canonization of modern literature in print and digital media; the rise of psychological fiction as a genre; the transnational circulation of modernist forms; and discourses of race under empire. Long models how computational methods can be applied outside English-language contexts and to languages written in non-Latin scripts. Drawing from fields as diverse as the history of science, book history, world literature, and critical race theory, this book demonstrates the value of numbers in literary study and the values literary critics can bring to the reading of difference in numbers.

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Book Announcement: Oishii: The History of Sushi

Oishii: The History of Sushi
Eric C. Rath

Sushi and sashimi are by now a global sensation and have become perhaps the best known of Japanese foods—but they are also the most widely misunderstood. Oishii: The History of Sushi reveals that sushi began as a fermented food with a sour taste, used as a means to preserve fish. This book, the first history of sushi in English, traces sushi’s development from China to Japan and then internationally, and from street food to high-class cuisine. Included are two dozen historical and original recipes that show the diversity of sushi and how to prepare it. Written by an expert on Japanese food history, Oishii is a must read for understanding sushi’s past, its variety and sustainability, and how it became one of the world’s greatest anonymous cuisines.

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Book Announcement: Yasukuni Fundamentalism: Japanese Religions and the Politics of Restoration

Yasukuni Fundamentalism: Japanese Religions and the Politics of Restoration
Mark R. Mullins

Although religious fundamentalism is often thought to be confined to monotheistic “religions of the book,” this study examines the emergence of a fundamentalism rooted in the Shinto tradition and considers its role in shaping postwar Japanese nationalism and politics. Over the past half-century, the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) and the National Association of Shrines (NAS) have been engaged in collaborative efforts to “recover” or “restore” what was destroyed by the process of imperialist secularization during the Allied Occupation of Japan.

Since the disaster years of 1995 and 2011, LDP Diet members and prime ministers have increased their support for a political agenda that aims to revive patriotic education, renationalize Yasukuni Shrine, and revise the constitution. The contested nature of this agenda is evident in the critical responses of religious leaders and public intellectuals, and in their efforts to preserve the postwar gains in democratic institutions and prevent the erosion of individual rights. This timely treatment critically engages the contemporary debates surrounding secularization in light of postwar developments in Japanese religions and sheds new light on the role religion continues to play in the public sphere.

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