ABSTRACT

The purpose of this chapter is to analyze some of the main cultural fields that are to be considered the forerunners of Japanese animation. Starting from the oldest handscrolls, through the vaudeville arts of shadow plays, magic lanterns, paper theater plays and bunraku performances, Japanese pre-cinema history is particularly rich and various. It also gave birth to a rich imaginary, which would soon lead to the birth of modern comics (manga). When the first European animations were shown in Japan in the 1910s, the local industry took the necessary actions to produce native works. Three pioneer animators paved the way to what would soon become one of the most loved cinematography in the world. Soon after their debuts, in a few years, not only the number of animators highly increased but also the genres multiplied very quickly, often displaying heroes and mythological figures derived from the Japanese tradition.