The Roots of Japanese Anime

Here's a bit of promotional news, but I wanted to announce that my wife's company, Zakka Films, has just released its first DVD, The Roots of Japanese Anime. It's a nice collection of rare prewar and wartime films (Momotaro's Sea Eagle is particularly important, but Chameko's Day is one of my favorites) and involved the participation of a number of my grad students (doing subtitles) and colleagues like Jasper Sharp. I wrote the individual film commentaries and my brother Matt did the graphic design (he runs a design company called Grapheon in Portland and makes movies too).

Here's the official announcement:


We are very pleased to announce the launch of our company, Zakka Films, and the release of our first DVD, The Roots of Japanese Anime, which presents 8 classic films, many of which are appearing for the first time on DVD with English subtitles.

Zakka Films is new venture dedicated to introducing rare and important Japanese films, particularly anime and documentary, to North American audiences.  Many of the powerful and wonderful films we love aren't available outside Japan, so our mission is to change that.

Starting with The Roots of Japanese Anime, we'll present some of the great works of Japanese cinema on information-rich, high-quality DVDs ideal for individual, scholarly, and classroom use. Every DVD will come stocked with extra bonus features and commentaries by noted scholars sure to enlighten students, researchers, and even the casual observer of Japan.

The Roots of Japanese Anime is our first release and contains 8 ground-breaking films from the developmental years of Japanese anime. The centerpiece is Momotaro's Sea Eagle (director: Mitsuyo Seo), Japan's first feature animated film from 1942 notorious for showing "Peach Boy" and his cute animal forces attacking Pearl Harbor. As an example of both Japanese wartime propaganda and the great leaps made in the evolution of Japanese anime, Momotaro's Sea Eagle has been the subject of great interest amongst scholars and fans, but is coming out in North America here for the first time.

The other 7 films introduce the delightful variety of Japanese pre-WWII anime and the popular everyday culture it represented. There are masterworks by anime pioneers such as Noburo Ofuji, Kenzo Masaoka, and Yasuji Murata; cartoons presenting folk tales and legendary samurai heroes; sing-a-long films; and even a wonderful work introducing the day in the life of a young girl from the 1930s.

The DVD includes a 12-page booklet describing the history of early anime and the background of each film written by prominent scholars.

For more information on the DVD and to view the trailer, please visit us at The Roots of Japanese Anime will also be showing on Saturday, March 28, 9:00 AM at the 2009 AAS Annual Meeting in Chicago.

Thank you very much!

Seiko Ono
Zakka Films


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