Anime has long been regarded as one of the many elements defining Japanese culture, and famous Japanese works have crossed land and sea to reach countless fans living thousands of miles away. But perhaps it is less known that Japanese animation has been around for quite a long time, and 2017 marks the 100th anniversary of Japanese animated films. In celebration for this milestone in Japanese anime culture, The National Museum of Modern Art in Tokyo has launched a free archive of the many films created throughout the century where audiences worldwide can see short animated films made with surprising adept technique.

The oldest film in the archive was made in 1917 by Junichi Kōuchi, a famous filmmaker now referred to as one of the fathers of Japanese anime. Titled The Dull Sword, it is a silent 4-minute short that follows the story of a samurai who unknowingly buys an expensive but dull sword and heads out to “try it out” on random people he sees walking around the village. But not only is the blade of the sword unsharpened, the samurai himself is “dull” and his seemingly bold escapades end in utter humiliation.

His first target is a blind masseuse, who the samurai possibly thinks is an easy target. It doesn’t take long for the elderly man to realize the presence behind him, however, and he kicks the samurai without even having to turn around.

The second target is a messenger. Apparently learning nothing from his previously failed attempt to kill an innocent man, he tries again. It’s not hard to predict the outcome, as the samurai is once again beat down. Ironically, he screams “murderer!” at the messenger as he faces his embarrassing defeat.

The Dull Sword can be viewed in its entirety in the archive here, and can be enjoyed in HD with English subtitles. The archive is packed with many more animated works created throughout history, giving audiences worldwide a look into what has become the foundation for modern Japanese animated works. The archive can be enjoyed for free, and an English site is set to be launched sometime within the next month.

By - grape Japan editorial staff.