Shochiku Company Limited (松竹株式会社 Shōchiku Kabushiki gaisha?) (TYO: 9601, JASDAQ: 9601) is a Japanese movie studio and production company for kabuki. It also produces and distributes anime films. Its best remembered directors include Yasujirō Ozu, Kenji Mizoguchi, Mikio Naruse, Keisuke Kinoshita and Yōji Yamada. Shochiku has also produced films by highly regarded independent and "loner" directors such as Takashi Miike, Takeshi Kitano, Akira Kurosawa and Taiwanese New Wave director Hou Hsiao-Hsien.
The company was founded in 1895 by brothers Takejirō Otani and Matsujirō Shirai as a kabuki production company, and named in 1902 after the combined characters of take (bamboo) and matsu (pine) from their names, reflecting the traditional three symbols of happiness, bamboo, pine, and plum. The name was initially read as the kunyomi matsutake, but changed in 1937 to the onyomi shōchiku.
Shochiku grew quickly, expanding its business to many other Japanese live theatric styles, like Noh and Bunraku. The company began making films in 1920 and was the first film studio to abandon the use of female impersonators and sought to model itself and its films after Hollywood standards, bringing such things as the star system and the sound stage to Japan. By the early 1930s, Shochiku had begun to specialise in the shomin-geki genre in which Ozu and Naruse worked.
In 1936, Shochiku closed its studio in Kamata, Tokyo and relocated to nearby Ofuna; this studio remaining in operation for 64 years. At the beginning of the 1960s, the studio was involved in the Japanese New Wave (Nuberu bagu) and launched the career of Nagisa Oshima among others, though Oshima soon went independent; the films of Oshima and other film makers were not financially successful and the company changed its policies.
In 2000 the Ofuna site was sold off to Kamakura Women's College as a result of financial difficulties. These were caused by Shochiku's popular, long-running Otoko wa Tsurai yo series of films (1969–95) coming to an end after the death in 1996 of its star Kiyoshi Atsumi, as well as the 1998 closure of Kamakura Cinema World, the studio's short-lived theme park.
Shochiku has also served as a distributor of theatrical anime. Major titles have included the Cardcaptor Sakura films, Mobile Suit Gundam movies, Origin: Spirits of the Past, Piano no Mori, Ghost in the Shell, Fullmetal Alchemist the Movie: Conqueror of Shamballa, Fullmetal Alchemist: The Sacred Star of Milos, Sword of the Stranger, and Jungle Emperor Leo.
- Alexander Jacoby, A Critical Handbook of Japanese Film Directors, 2008, Berkeley: Stone Bridge Press, p.381.
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