23 August 2016

1963: Best Japanese Animated Shorts

Year in Review

1963 was an historic year for Japanese animation because it marked the Fuji TV debuts of Mushi Pro’s Tetsuwan Atomu  (鉄腕アトム, Osamu Tezuka, 1963-66) and Tele-Cartoon Japan’s Testujin 28-go (鉄人28号, Yonehiko Watanabe, 1963-66).  Both series would find success on American television as Astro Boy and Gigantor, not to mention their success internationally.  Other TV anime of note in 1963 were Tōei Dōga’s Ken the Wolf Boy (狼少年ケン/Ōkami Shōnen Ken, 1963-5) on NET Terebi (now TV Asahi) and Eight Man (エイトマン, Haruyuki Kawajima, 1963-66) on TBS.  Two lesser known series were Prince Shisukon (シスコン王子/Shisukon Ōji, Motoo Abiko, 1963-4) and Hermit Village (仙人部落/Sennin Buraku, Shigeharu Kaneko, 1963-4).

The major feature film of the year was Toei Dōga’s spectacular The Little Prince and the Eight-Headed Dragon (わんぱく王子の大蛇退治, 1963) which hit theatres in Japan on March 24th with the tagline: “Picture Size Three Times as Large; Interest One Hundred Times as Great”. Read my full review of the film here.  Shot in stunning widescreen Toeiscope, the film became the first feature length film to win the Noburō Ōfuji Award for innovation in animation.   
The Little Prince and the Eight-Headed Dragon
Doggie March
Shortly before the end of the year, Toei Dōga released its seventh feature length anime, Doggie March (わんわん忠臣蔵 / Wanwan Chūshingura directed by Akira Daikubara.  It is an adaptation of the famous tale 47 Ronin (Chūshingura) in a contemporary setting starring puppy dogs instead of samurai.

In the world of independent animation, the eccentric animation artist Yōji Kuri’ won a Special Jury Prize at the third Annecy animation festival for his 1962 work Clap Vocalism (人間動物園 / Ningen Dōbutsuen).   The film is also known in English the literal translation of the Japanese title Human Zoo and at Annecy it screened under the French title Jardin humain.  Learn more about the film here. 

Together with his fellow innovators Ryohei Yanagihara and Hiroshi Manabe, Kuri would host the the final Animation Group of Three (アニメーション三人の会/ Animation Sannin no Kai) event in April 1963 at Sōgetsu Cinematheque. From 1964 until 1971, they would expand the event to include other independent animators of the time including Kuri’s protégée Taku Furukawa, as well as Osamu Tezuka, Makoto Wada, Keiichi Tanaami, Sadao Tsukioka, Tatsuo Shimamura, Hal Fukushima, Fumio Ohi, Goro Sugimoto, Shin’ichi Suzuki, and others.

Puppet animation at Gakken was still going strong in 1963.  Female animation pioneer Matsue Jinbo adapted Kenji Miyazawa’s beloved tale Gauche the Cellist (セロ弾きのゴーシュ) into a lovely puppet animation.  This was the third film adaptation of the story after Yoshitsugu Tanaka’s 1949 silhouette animation (kage animation/影絵アニメーション) and Kenjirō Morinaga’s 1953 puppet animation.  Morinaga’s work was advertised as “the first feature-length, natural colour, puppet movie with music in Japan” (source).  The most renowned adaptation is of course that of Isao Takahata and Oh! Pro in 1983.  Learn more here.

Best Animated Shorts of 1963

1963年 / 4’
Yōji KURI (久里洋二, b. 1928)

A Man and a Woman and a Dog
1963年 / 3’
 Yōji KURI

1963年 / 4’

 Two Samurai
Futari Zamurai-homare Kawakiri
1963年 / 7’
Ryohei YANAGIHARA (柳原良平, 1931-2015)

1963年 / 7’
Hiroshi MANABE (真鍋博, 1932-2000)


Gauche the Cellist
Sero hiki no Gōshu
1963年 / 18’35”
Matsue JINBO (神保まつえ, b.1928)
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The White Elephant
Shiroi Zō
1963年 / 11’48”
Matsue JINBO
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2016 Cathy Munroe Hotes