Kyoto International Manga Museum to Screen Oldest Surviving Anime

posted on by Eric Stimson
Also: Exhibit on process of drawing manga with around 300 rough drafts

The origins of anime are shrouded in mystery and obscurity since it dates back to the early days of film itself, when the technology was perishable, records are sometimes patchy, and the medium itself was considered a trifle. But anime history buffs should be intrigued by an upcoming exhibition at the Kyoto International Manga Museum, Nippon Animation Kotohajime ~"Ugoku Manga" no Pioneer-tachi~ ("The Beginnings of Japanese Animation ~The Pioneers of Moving Comics~"). It commemorates the centennial of anime, since both of the works it screens were created in 1917.

From left to right: Hekoten Shimokawa, Seitarou Kitayama, Junichi Kouchi, and Senpan Maekawa

The exhibit will include a screening of the oldest surviving anime, the four-minute-long Hanawa Hekonai Meitō no Maki ("Story of the Famous Sword of Hekonai Hanawa") by manga artist Junichi Kouchi; it is commonly called Namakura Gatana for short. The currently recognized first anime, Hekoten Shimokawa's Dekobō Shingachō Imosuke no Inoshishigari ("Bumpy Boy's New Album: Imosuke's Boar Hunt"), no longer exists, but the museum will screen a reproduction of it. Visitors can also view Shimokawa's manga, Imokawa Mukuzō, which is thought to be the basis of the anime.

Left: Imokawa Mukuzō; Right: The early anime Shō-chan no Dōbutsu Jigoku ("Shō-chan's Animal Hell")

The exhibit also sheds light on Japan's animation pioneers: the aforementioned Kouchi and Shimokawa as well as Seitarou Kitayama and Senpan Maekawa. Visitors can learn how they were influenced by manga and Disney animation, look at a picture story thought to be the basis for an early anime film by Kitayama, and see rare early anime from the collection of the Toy Film Museum (also in Kyoto).

The Manga Museum is also currently hosting the exhibition Drawing Manga! — Lines, Panels, Kyara, which guides viewers through the process of drawing a manga through about 300 rough drafts from professional manga artists. The exhibit also discusses how Japan's unique comic-loving culture nurtured these artists from readers into artists. The exhibit originated at the Ōita Prefectural Art Museum in August 2015. Visitors can also look forward to a conversation between manga artists Keiichi Tanaka and Sensha Yoshida on gag manga on May 3.

The animation exhibit will last from April 6 to July 2, while the manga exhibit will last until May 14. Materials from the former exhibit will be switched in June, while materials in the latter exhibit will be switched on April 14.

Fans can view many of these ancient anime on a new website that celebrates anime's centennial. Shimokawa's Imokawa Mukuzo Genkanban no Maki, also from 1917, was usually considered the oldest anime, but its claim has now been deprecated. Predating all of these is Katsudō Shashin from 1907, but it is only a few seconds long.

Sources: Comic Natalie and Kyoto International Manga Museum (2)

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