List of anime by release date (pre-1939)
This is a list of anime by release date which covers Japanese animated productions that were made between 1917–1938. Anime in Japan can be traced back to three key figures whom in the early 20th century started experimenting with paper animation. It is unknown when the first animated film was made, but historians have tied the year 1917 as being the key date. Very few of the first animations that were made survive to this day due to a powerful earthquake that devastated Japan in 1923. At one point it was even thought that all animated works made before the earthquake were lost until the discovery of two films in 2008. Production of animated works resumed again after the earthquake, and by the early/mid 1930s sound, and cel animation were starting to appear. Later in the decade, Japan went to war with China, resulting in paper needed for the war to be used sparingly. As a result, new manga stories disappeared from the public while the Japanese government stepped in to regulate what was being released through the cinemas to take its place. The mid to late 1930s saw more animated works that were propaganda-themed to rally the public's support.
1917 was the year of definitive firsts in the history of Japanese animation. The three key figures at the time were Ōten Shimokawa, Seitarou Kitayama, and Junichi Kouchi each contributing to making the first short films that would be known as anime. There is much debate over which gets the honor of the first animated film, and even the exact date of that film's premiere. According to contemporary sources of the time, an unknown titled film of Tennenshoku Katsudō Shashin premiered in January. Evidence of this comes from Kinema Record, with the July edition making specific claim to the first release occurring in January, but does not specify the title of the work. Shimokawa's film Imokawa Mukozo the Doorman is conventionally and largely claimed to be the first work, but contemporary sources portray it as the "third" film. Speculation about the error is debated, but the two now lost films and their contents have been reported by various sources allowing for a clearer picture of the early history.
The first confirmed film release occurred in the first ten days of February, with Shimokawa's Dekobō shingachō – Meian no shippai (凸坊新画帳・名案の失敗 Bumpy new picture book – Failure of a great plan?). The film was produced with chalk on a blackboard, with redrawing for each frame. Shimokawa would switch to paper for later, but the exact date and work to depict the switch is unknown. Kouchi's first film Hanawa Hekonai Meitō no Maki (塙凹内名刀之巻 Hanawa Hekonai – The famous sword?) also known as Namakura Gatana (なまくら刀 Dull Katana?) and Tameshigiri (試し斬 The sword test?) premiered on June 30. This film is currently the earliest surviving work, and was only rediscovered in March 2008. Katsudō Shashin was widely reported as possibly dating to 1907, but is of unconfirmed origin and is not known to have premiered or been produced for commercial interest.
Of the animated films produced in 1918, only two are known today. These films include Momotarō, which was the first animated film to be shown outside Japan, and Tarou Urashima which is based on the Japanese legend Urashima Tarō. Despite the findings of animated shorts dated between 1917, and 1918 there are no known animated films that were made from 1919 to 1923 in existence. In 1923 a powerful, and deadly earthquake struck Japan which might have been the cause for the lack of animated films that have surfaced.
|English Name||Japanese Name||Romaji||Format||Original Release Date||Status|
|Battle of a Monkey and a Crab||猿蟹合戦||Sarukani gassen||Short Film||1917||Lost film|
|Bumpy new picture book – Failure of a great plan||凸坊新画帳・名案の失敗||Dekobō shingachō – Meian no shippai||Short Film||1917||Lost film|
Fairy-tale: Bunbuku kettle
|Short Film||1917||Lost film|
|Cat and Mice||猫と鼠||Neko to nezumi||Short Film||1917||Unknown|
|Chamebō ‒ Air gun
Chame’s air gun
|Chamebō Kūkijū no maki
Chame no kūkijū
|Chamebō's new picture book – The Revenge of Mr. and Mrs. Flea||茶目坊新画帳・蚤夫婦仕返しの巻||Chamebō shingachō – Nomi fūfu shikaeshi no maki||Short Film||1917||Unknown|
|Great Oaks from Little Acorns Grow||塵も積もれば山となる||Chiri mo tsumoreba yama to naru||Short Film||1917||Unknown|
|Hanawa Hekonai – The Famous Sword
The Sword Test
|Hanawa Hekonai Meitō no Maki
|Hanawa Hekonai – The Kappa Festival||塙凹内かっぱまつり||Hanawa Hekonai Kappa matsuri||Short Film||1917||Unknown|
|Imokawa Mukuzō goes fishing
Chamebōzu goes fishing
|Imokawa Mukuzō Tsuri no maki
Chamebōzu Uozuri no maki
|Imokawa Mukuzō – Somersault||芋川椋三宙返りの巻||Imokawa Mukuzō - Chūgaeri no maki||Short Film||1917||Unknown|
|Imokawa Mukozo the Doorman||芋川椋三玄関番の巻||Imokawa Mukuzo Genkanban no Maki||Short Film||1917||Lost film|
|Kachikachi Mountain||カチカチ山||Kachikachiyama||Short Film||1917||Lost film|
|Naughty Mailbox||いたずらポスト||Itazura posuto||Short Film||1917||Unknown|
|Sparrow with no Tongue||舌切雀||Shitakire suzume||Short Film||1917||Lost film|
|The Dream Car||夢の自動車||Yume no jidōsha||Short Film||1917||Unknown|
|The Ministry of Culture's Art Exhibition||文展の巻||Bunten no maki||Short Film||1917||Unconfirmed to exist|
|The Old Man Who Made Flowers Bloom||花咲爺||Hanasaka-jiji||Short Film||1917||Lost film|
|The Pot and the Black Cat||お鍋と黒猫の巻||Onabe to kuroneko no maki||Short Film||1917||Unconfirmed to exist|
|What to do with your Postal Savings||貯金の勧||Chokin no susume||Short Film||1917||Lost film|
|Momotaro (anime)||桃太郎||Momotarou||Short Film||1918||Extant|
|Tarou Urashima||浦島太郎||Urashima Tarou||Short Film||1918||Extant|
The 1923 Great Kantō earthquake which occurred on September 1 dealt incredible damage in Japan, the greatest prior to World War II which resulted in 105,385 confirmed deaths. Prior to the rediscovery of several Japanese animated films it was presumed that all prints produced up to its date had been destroyed. The account and record of these films themselves has been expanded, with Patten's Watching Anime, Reading Manga: 25 Years of Essays and Reviews 2004 book claiming that three films were produced in 1917 when over a dozen works are now known. Despite the findings, the earthquake along with World War II have resulted in only 4% of all Japanese films made before 1945 being known to exist today.
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After the earthquake production of new films took place within a year. For the early films, benshi, storytellers were hired who sat next to the screen and narrated the silent movies. They were descendants of kabuki jōruri, kōdan storytellers, theater barkers and other forms of oral storytelling. The first animated "talkie" or sound film titled Chikara to Onna no Yo no Naka ("World of Power and Women") was made in 1933, now a lost film it was a breakthrough for Japanese animation. However, at the time more than 80 percent of movies made in the country were still silents. By the mid 1930s the animation style was changing as well, chiyogami or paper animation was being phased out in favor of cel animation. Previously this latter form had been dismissed as too costly to use. In 1934, the first entirely cel animated short entitled The Dance of the Chagamas was made. Cel animated shorts of the mid 1930s borrowed aspects that were being used at the time by Disney. Towards the end of the decade, political events taking place at home as well as abroad were changing animation styles in Japan towards propaganda, and national pride.
|English Name||Japanese Name||Romaji||Format||Original Release Date||Status|
|The Hare and The Tortoise||兎と亀||Usagi to Kame||Short Film||1924||Extant|
|Dreamy Urashima||ノンキナトウサン竜宮参り||Nonkinatousan Ryugu Mairi||Short Film||1925||Lost film|
|Shiobara Tasuke||塩原多助||Shiobara Tasuke||Short Film||1925||Extant|
|Journey to the West: Songoku's Story||西遊記孫悟空物語||Saiyuuki: Son Gokuu Monogatari||Short Film||1926||Extant|
|A Ship of Oranges||みかん船||Mikan-bune||Short Film||1927||Extant|
|The Octopus Skeleton||タコなしホーン||Tako no Hone||Short Film||1927||Unknown|
|The Whale||くじら||Kujira||Short Film||1927||Unknownα|
|Animal Olympic Games||動物オリムピック大会||Doubutsu Olympic Taikai||Short Film||1928||Extant|
|Mighty Taro's Reckless Training||大力太郎の無茶修行||Tairiki Tarou no Mucha Shugyou||Short Film||1928||Extant|
|Momotaro the Undefeated||日本一桃太郎||Nihonichi Momotaro||Short Film||1928||Extant|
|The Bunbuku Teapot||文福茶釜||Bunbuku Chagama||Short Film||1928||Extant|
|Taro's Toy Train||太郎さんの汽車||Taro-san no Kisha||Short Film||1929||Extant|
|The Black Cat||黒ニャゴ||Kuro Nyago||Short Film||1929||Extant|
|The Stolen Lump||瘤取り||Kobutori||Short Film||1929||Extant|
|The Tiny One Makes it Big||一寸法師ノ出世||Issunboushi no Shusse||Short Film||1929||Extant|
|Chimney Sweep Pero||煙突屋ペロー||Entotsuya Peroo||Short Film||1930||Extant|
|Chopped Snake||ちょん切れ蛇||Chongire Hebi||Short Film||1930||Extant|
|The Bat||かうもり||Komori||Short Film||1930||Extant|
|The Monkey Masamune||猿正宗||Saru Masamune||Short Film||1930||Extant|
|The Village Festival||村祭り||Mura Matsuri||Short Film||1930||Extant|
|Animal Sumo||動物相撲大会||Doubutsu Sumo Taikai||Short Film||1931||Extant|
|Chameko's Day||茶目子の一日||Chameko no Ichinichi||Short Film||1931||Extant|
|Home Alone Mice||鼠の留守番||Nezumi no Rusuban||Short Film||1931||Extant|
|Momotaro's Sky Adventure||空の桃太郎||Sora no Momotarou||Short Film||1931||Extant|
|Our Baseball Match||おい等の野球||Oira no Yakyuu||Short Film||1931||Extant|
|Shipwreck Story - First Chapter - Monkey Island||難船ス物語 第一篇 猿ケ島||Nansensu Monogatari - Daiichi-hen - Sarugashima||Short Film||1931||Extant|
|Shipwreck Story - Second Chapter - The Pirate Ship||難船ス物語 第二篇 海賊船||Nansensu Monogatari - Daini-hen - Kaizokusen||Short Film||1931||Extant|
|Song of Spring||春の唄||Haru no Uta||Short Film||1931||Extant|
|Taro Urashima||浦島太郎||Urashima Taro||Short Film||1931||Extant|
|The Duckling Saves the Day||アヒルのお手柄||Ahiru no Otegara||Short Film||1931||Extant|
|The National Anthem Kimigayo||国歌 君か代||Kokka Kimigayo||Short Film||1931||Extant|
|The Unlucky Butterfly||蝶のさいなん||Cho no Sainan||Short Film||1931||Extant|
|Ugoki-e Kori no Tatehiki||動絵狐狸達引||Ugoki-e Kori no Tatehiki||Short Film||1931||Extant|
|Momotarou of the Sea / Momotaro's Underwater Adventure||海の桃太郎||Umi no Momotaro||Short Film||1932||Extant|
|Olympic Games on Dankichi Island||ダン吉島のオリムピック大会||Dankichi-jima no Olympic Taikai||Short Film||1932||Extant|
|Sports Day at Animal Village||動物村のスポーツデー||Doubutsu-mura no Sports Day||Short Film||1932||Extant|
|The Plane Cabby's Lucky Day||大当り空の円タク||Ooatari Sora No Entaku||Short Film||1932||Extant|
|Larks' Moving Day||雲雀の宿替||Hibari no Yadogae||Short Film||1933||Extant|
|Private 2nd Class Norakuro: The Training||のらくろ二等兵 演習の巻||Norakuro Nitouhei: Enshuu no Maki||Short Film||1933||Extant|
|Private 2nd Class Norakuro: The Drill||のらくろ二等兵 教練の巻||Norakuro Nitouhei: Kyouren no Maki||Short Film||1933||Extant|
|Sanko and the Octopus: A Fight Over a Fortune||三公と蛸～百万両珍騒動||Sanko to Tako: Hyakuman-ryo Chinsodo||Short Film||1933||Extant|
|World of Power and Women||力と女の世の中||Chikara to Onna no Yo no Naka||Short Film||1933||Lost film|
|Corporal Norakuro||のらくろ伍長||Norakuro Gochou||Short Film||1934||Extant|
|Hyoei and Heibei's Tengu Hunt||天狗退治||Tengu Taiji||Short Film||1934||Extant|
|Princess of the Moon Palace||月の宮の王女様||Tsuki no Miya no Oujo-sama||Short Film||1934||Extant|
|Sankichi the Monkey: Shock Troops||お猿の三吉 突撃隊||Osaru no Sankichi: Totsugeki Tai no Kan||Short Film||1934||Extant|
|The Dance of the Chagamas/The Teakettle Marching Song||茶釜音頭||Chagama Ondo||Short Film||1934||Extant|
|Danemon Ban - The Monster Exterminator||漫画 證城寺の狸囃子 塙団右衛門||Ban Danemon - Shojoji no tanuki-bayashi||Short Film||1935||Extant|
|Ninja Fireball in Edo||忍術火の玉小僧～江戸の巻||Ninjutsu Hinotama Kozou: Edo no Maki||Short Film||1935||Extant|
|Private 1st Class NoraKuro||のらくろ一等兵||Norakuro Ittohei||Short Film||1935||Extant|
|Private 2nd Class NoraKuro||のらくろ二等兵||Norakuro Nitouhei||Short Film||1935||Extant|
|Ta-chan's Underwater Adventure||ターチャンの海底旅行||Taa-chan no Kaitei Ryokou||Short Film||1935||Extant|
|Taro's Monster Hunt||古寺のおばけ騒動||Furudera no Obake-soudou||Short Film||1935||Extant|
|Tiny Chibisuke's Big Adventure||一寸法師〜ちび助物語||Issunboushi: Chibisuke Monogatari||Short Film||1935||Extant|
|Why is the Sea Water Salty?||海の水はなぜからい||Umi no Mizu Hanaze Karai||Short Film||1935||Extant|
|Chinkoroheibei and the Treasure Box||ちんころ平平玉手箱||Chinkoroheibei to tamatebako||Short Film||1936||Extant|
|Mabo's Big Race||マー坊の大競争||Maabou no Daikyousou||Short Film||1936||Extant|
|A Night at the Bar||居酒屋の一夜||Izakaya no Ichiya||Short Film||1936||Extant|
|Taro's Early Training Days||日の丸太郎～武者修行の巻||Hinomaru Tarou: Musha Shugyou no Maki||Short Film||1936||Extant|
|The Monkey Fleet||お猿の艦隊||Osaru no Kantai||Short Film||1936||Extant|
|The Sparrows' Lodge||雀のお宿||Suzume no Oyado||Short Film||1936||Extant|
|The Sun and the Frogs||お日様と蛙||Ohi-sama to Kaeru||Short Film||1936||Extant|
|Maabou no Shounen Koukuu Tsuwamono||マー坊の少年航空兵||Maabou no Shounen Koukuu Tsuwamono||Short Film||1937||Extant|
|Mabo as Tokichiro Kinoshita||マー坊の木下藤吉郎||Maabou no Kinoshita Toukichiro||Short Film||1938||Extant|
|NoraKuro's Tiger Hunt||のらくろ虎退治||Norakuro tora taiji||Short Film||1938||Extant|
|Taro Overseas||-||Kaikoku Taro Shin Nihon-jima Banzai||Short Film||1938||Extant|
- ^α "The Whale" was recreated by Noburō Ōfuji in 1952 using cutouts of transparent coloured cellophane. It is unclear what happened to the original black and white production.
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