Although often regarded as a wholly fictional medium, anime has a documentary tradition dating back to Seitaro Kitayama's one-reeler What to Do with Your Postal Savings (Chokin no Susume, 1917). A pioneer in this field, Kitayama also made animation segments for the film Dental Hygiene (Koku Eisei, 1922), produced by the detergent manufacturer Lion. Animation was useful for illustrating abstract concepts and the inner workings of machines-although children's fairy tales still form the bulk of Early Anime, several are factual in basis. Notable examples include Kitayama's Atmospheric Pressure and the Hydraulic Pump (Kiatsu to Mizuage Pump, 1921), Plant Physiology and Plant Ecology (Shokubutsu Seiri Seitai no Maki, 1922), and The Earth (Chikyu no Maki, 1922).
This "instructional" role transferred easily to propaganda purposes, used to depict scenes both accurate and otherwise in Wartime Anime such as Nippon Banzai (1943), and a prolonged sequence in Momotaro's Divine Sea Warriors (1945), detailing the alleged abuses Asia had suffered at the hands of Western imperialists-the authors have yet to confirm, but we suspect the latter sequence may be a recycling of the former.
Inspired by similar trends in the live-action TV world, anime began to favor docudramas, particularly when, in the case of Road to Munich (1972), live-action footage was unobtainable. The biographical vignettes of Great People (1977) were the most obvious, but the use of anime was also a deliberate stylistic decision in We're Manga Artists: Tokiwa Villa (1981), which told the life stories of several of the medium's most famous creators. The period also saw the first flowerings of biographical and semi-biographical accounts of World War II. The Diary of Anne Frank (1979) made it possible for Japanese producers to consider productions of Barefoot Gen (1983), Grave of the Fireflies (1988), and their many imitators. Away from such war stories, instructional works became increasingly earnest, with such dreary subjects as The Story of Superconductors (1988). Meanwhile, animated inserts continued to appear in live-action programs, including The Man Who Created the Future (2003) and an obscure showing for Studio Ghibli'sIsao Takahata, who directed a brief sequence detailing watercourse operations for The Story of Yanagawa Canal (1987). Even the Japanese government has gotten involved, with the 18-minute streaming online anime Learning About Our Metropolitan Assembly (2002, Motto Shiritai Watashitachi no Togikai). Inevitably, the confessional nature of docudrama was also used to add a realistic thrill to erotica, such as G-Taste (1999) and Blue Confessions (2005).