The history of Japanese animated films, popularly known today as anime, goes back nearly 100 years—before Astro Boy and Speed Racer—when it was simply called manga eiga (manga films). Evolving from visual forms such as manga and kamishibai (picture card storytelling), Japan’s animated films freely mixed folktales and stories with modern Western elements. Drawing upon myriad influences, Japanese animated films of the 1920s-40s created a fantastical world where characters resembling icons such as Mickey Mouse and Betty Boop play chambara (sword fight) in samurai outfits.
Screened for the first time in the U.S. with English subtitles, these short animations will be presented each night in four differing themes, matched with a silent live-action film of the same genre and era.
Travel back in time to experience silent films as they were once presented in prewar Japan! Silent films presented with live narration with Japan’s premiere benshi, Midori Sawato.
Wednesday, February 13
Part 1: Chambara Action & Adventure
Thursday, February 14
Part 2: Horror & Comedy
Friday, February 15
Part 3: Propaganda
Saturday, February 16
Part 4: Music & Dance
Special Screening: Orochi
Visit About Japan: A Teacher’s Resource for more information about the history of benshi narration.
The New York Times: The Week Ahead: Feb. 10-16
The Brooklyn Rail: Dawn of Japanese Animation
New York Magazine: The Approval Matrix : Feb. 18
The Village Voice: Before Anime…There Was Animation
Feb. 13 Launch Screening and reception: $15/$12 Japan Society members, students & seniors.
All other screenings: $10/$7 Japan Society members & seniors/$4.50 students. The Special Student Discount is made possible by The Globus Family.
About Midori Sawato
Native to Tokyo, Midori Sawato graduated from the Department of Philosophy, Hosei University, and studied under the late Shunsui Matsuda (Japan’s prominent benshi narration advocate, performing and extensively promoting the benshi tradition after the end of the silent film era). Debuting in 1973, Sawato has received numerous awards for her vast contributions toward promoting katsuben (live narration performance for silent films) as a modern form of entertainment both in Japan, and overseas. Her vast repertoire of over 500 silent films includes a wide variety of genres. She is the author of Katsudo Benshi: Sekai o Kakeru (Film Benshi Across the World).
Transportation assistance provided by
Special thanks to Matsuda Film Production and Digital Meme for their assistance in selecting films and subtitling films in English.
The Special Student Discount is made possible by The Globus Family.
- February 13, 2008 – February 16, 2008