Director focus:

Kenzo Masaoka


Masaoka (1898-1988) is celebrated in anime history for having helped introduce sound and cel animation in the industry. He debuted as a director at Nikkatsu in 1930, and founded the Masaoka Film Studio in 1932. His personal wealth and the support of a major studio, Shochiku, enabled him to introduce expensive sound technology to Japanese anime with The World of Power and Women (Chikara to onna no yononaka, 1932). Sufficient funds also allowed him to utilize cel animation, whose introduction into Japan had been delayed not just because of expense, but also because the process of drawing, tracing and coloring demanded a greater division of labor than the craft-based Japanese animation companies could provide. Masaoka modernized animation by introducing a more industrial mode of production. He succeeded in part because his films were, unlike many other animated works, released in major theaters. The result of his efforts was animation that rivaled that of America, using cel animation to provide a fluidity and expressivity of body cutout animation could not. Masaoka suffered ups and downs in his career, but his Spider and Tulip (Kumo to churippu, 1943) stands as one of the masterpieces of Japanese film.


Available from Zakka Films:

The Roots of Japanese Anime—Until the End of WW II

Roots of Japanese Anime Until the End of WWII DVD cover Total running time: Approx. 92 minutes. / monochrome

8 classic masterworks of early Japanese anime, featuring legendary heroes battling mountain demons and raccoon samurai, a notorious bombing of Pearl Harbor by cute animals, and many more gems by the true pioneers of anime.