What Was The First Anime?

Do you love watching anime? Are you a huge fan of animations like Attack On Titan, Demon Slayer, Cowboy Bebop, etc.? But do you ever wonder how it even started? What is the history of anime?

What led to the making of any anime, and most importantly, what was the first animation? I’ve seen many curious anime watchers ask this question. Well, now you get answers to this burning question in your mind.

Because of the world’s rapid pace, viewing older anime formats is even more difficult. But we will discover some of the first anime together in this blog.

As a huge Japanese animation fan, I’ve also had this question in my mind. I also wanted to find the answer, so I found my answers after thorough research. Now, I’ll share this answer with you. So, let’s dive into it.

What Is Anime History?

Anime, which is also known as animation, is created in Japan. Due to its huge success in Japan, the country became famous worldwide because of Anime. If I talk about animation right now, then many famous anime films and series like Dragon Ball Z, Jujutsu Kaisen, Attack on Titan, A Silent Voice, etc., might come to your mind.

However, the early days of anime differed greatly from how they are today. Basically, after the Second World War, the rise of anime bloomed in Japan. From then onwards, anime became immensely popular and deeply integrated into the culture of Japan.

The earliest anime wasn’t colored as it is right now. It was black and white, yet the essence was the same. You might even notice Japanese folks telling Japanese folktale stories. Thus creating this medium of information in educational films.

What Was the First Anime Ever Made?

There are many animes now, but the first ones will give you a deeper look into how animations are made. So here’s a list of the first seven animations in history. If you love watching anime, then you must know these.

1. The Dull Sword

Date: June 30, 1917

The Dull Sword, known as Namakura Gatana, is considered one of the first animations in history. It was produced by Junichi Kōuchi and was released on June 30, 1917.

Some older Japanese films that were animated were also found before, like “Dekobō shingachō – Meian no shippai” and “Bumpy New Picture Book – Failure of a Great Plan” in 1917. But they aren’t talked about much because they were lost.

In the past, there were not enough measures or ways to preserve media in its original form. This led to the destruction of many animes we might not know.

Even a copy of the anime The Dull Sword was found by an employee of an antique shop in Japan in March 2008.

It’s a short, 4-minute silent animated film. It’s about a rōnin, like a samurai without a boss, buying a super dull sword. He tries to use it on a random person, but it’s all funny fails.

2. Chikara to Onna no Yo no Naka/The World of Power and Women

Date: April 13, 1933

During pre-World War II, various animators tried to do something completely different. They wanted to create an animation which is as good as their rivals like Disney. This was indeed a huge challenge.

Thanks to this, anime evolved, and from simple scrapbook-like animations, we got the first anime feature short film. It was directed by Kenzo Masaoka, and the name of this film was Chikara to Onna no Yo no Naka/The World of Power and Women.

It’s a black-and-white film about a father and his affair. He is a father of four yet has an affair with a typist. So, his wife confronts him about it. The film was considered a huge success in 1933.

However, unfortunately, there are no print copies of this film, which means it’s a lost film. Plus, it helped make cool cartoons like “The Dance of the Chagamas” in 1934 and “Ari-Chan” in 1941 with fancy cameras and drawings.

3. Momotaro: Sacred Sailors

April 12, 1945

Many people consider the first Japanese feature-length animated movie a propaganda that poured fuel into the fire of World War II. This film is known as Momotaro: Sacred Sailors.

The Japanese Navel ministry of that time ordered it as a propaganda film. It was shown as a children’s film that featured talking animals such as:

  • Bear cub
  • Monkey
  • Puppy

And literally, all of them were enlisting for the Japanese army. However, according to Seo, the film was made to give children hope instead of fear.

This animation film was also a lost piece, but later on, its copy was found in 1983 at Shochiku Corporation’s warehouse. In 1984, it was re-released for everyone. Years later, this animation inspired another series, Kimba the White Lion.

The Japanese artists poured a lot of effort into making this animation. The animation studios had limited resources, yet they gave the best story.

4. The White Snake Enchantress

October 22, 1958

As the years passed, animation improved greatly, and this animation wasn’t black and white. It’s the first color anime feature film. It’s also the first theatrical feature film of Toei Animation’s Studios.

This film, The White Snake Enchantress, depicts the story of a snake princess. She falls in love with a human. It is an anime adaptation of a song from the Dynasty Chinese folktale Legend of the White Snake.

This was the first animation that attempted to follow the footsteps of Disney. It was also the second one in the United States after Magic Boy came out on June 22, 1961. It paved the way for many Japanese animes like Astro Boy.

5. Tetsujin 28-go/Gigantor

Date: October 20, 1963 – May 25, 1966

If you’re into Gundam and robots, check out Tetsujin 28-go: Gigantor anime. It’s like the granddaddy of mecha shows, with the first remote-controlled giant robot.

I’m a huge fan of this, as it featured the first humanoid giant robot. This animation was way ahead of its time.

The series tells us about 12-year-old Jimmy Sparks. He is the master controller behind the massive mech. He is using this to fight against the evil monsters of the world.

It’s been a big inspiration for movies like Akira and Pacific Rim. Shows like Gundam got their start from this amazing robot boy animation.

6. Astro Boy

Date: January 1, 1963-December 31, 1966

If you are ever asked what the first animation to get excessively popular even in America would be Astro Boy.

It was a manga that originated in 1952 and was created by Osamu Tezuka. The original film show only has four seasons. Its last episode aired in 1966 on New Year’s Day. But even after that, this animation has many sequels and spinoffs.

The animation is about Astro Boy, who looks like a doctor’s son. His dad didn’t like him, so he sold him to a circus boss. And this circus boss was extremely cruel.

After he got saved, Astro wanted to make everyone happy like him. This animation inspired many space and robot shows, like Cyborg 009. It was also one of the first animations to gain international success.

7. Princess Knight

Date: April 2, 1967- April 7, 1968

If Astro Boy is the answer to animation, which became popular overseas in the field of robotics. Then Princess Knight is the anime that made shojo anime mainstream. It started the trend of heroines who look androgynous. It’s also considered the first anime to portray a female superhero in the shojo genre.

The anime is about Sapphire, who is an androgynous princess. She also has a guardian angel whose name is Tink. She eliminates all the threats that come in the way of her throne by disguising herself as a male prince.

Popular series like Revolutionary Girl Utena, Sailor Moon, and The Rose of Versailles have been inspired by Princess Knight. They feature strong girl heroes and feminist ideas of breaking gender rules with gender-blending characters.

Conclusion

While researching the first anime, I discovered that Japanese culture had a very deep connection with anime after World War II. After the 20th century, there has been a huge boom in production.

However, if we compare the early animations with today, we will know how far the animation industry has come. It’s a journey of resilience, patience, improvement, and, most importantly, competing with the biggest animation giants, such as Disney.

But did they win against Disney the Western animations?

Due to a lack of resources, competing with these foreign products was hard.

Animators like Mitsuyo Seo played a great role in achieving this goal. The animations even influenced popular culture and attracted American audiences. Many animations and popular mangas have gotten film adaptations. Eventually, western audiences also converted into anime fans.

In my opinion, this created a completely different category, providing us with more entertainment opportunities. So everyone can enjoy their favorite movie animation according to their taste. The beginning of anime might not be as bright as it is now.

But through storytelling, it still gained immense popularity, and as a result, it has achieved new heights of success. This industry alone is adding billions to the economy of Japan.

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Reki

Reki

I'm Reki, and I'm here to share my undying love for anime with all the weebs. My passion for anime is infectious. I'm like a cupcake-toting cupid, spreading joy and enthusiasm wherever I go. Anime lovers, I'm here to guide you through this colorful world.