A type of story often containing talking creatures and magical enchantments.
As early cartoons were regarded solely as a children's medium, fairy tales have formed a natural part of their repertoire-often with a discernable tension between local stories that have domestic sales potential and "international" ones that offer better profit, but also higher risks. All information about animation development before the 1923 Great Kanto Earthquake is necessarily vague, but the best contender for the "first" folktale anime is Seitaro Kitayama's early version of Monkey and the Crab (1917). The following year saw anime's first use of ancient folklore for commercial ends, with the Tortoise and the Hare (one of Aesop's Fables) adapted into a one-reel children's entertainment by Ikuo Oishi, and sponsored by Morinaga Chocolate.
Anime has often fought its childish reputation with choices of worthy adaptations, such as the ChineseJourney to the West, first appearing as Noburo Ofuji's Songoku Monogatari (1926), and the Arabian Nights, from which the tale of Ali Baba and the 40 Thieves (Yonjunin no Tozoku, 1928) became a 17-minute epic in the hands of Takeo Ueno. The film's producer, one Toshio Suzuki, is no relation to the man of the same name who produced so many Ghibli films half a century later.
During the rise of Japanese nationalism in the pre-war years, there was an increased concentration on Japanese Folk Tales, along with tales of piracy and anthropomorphic animals. In the midst of post-war deprivation, a notable early fantasy is Masao Kumagawa's Magic Pen (Maho no Pen, 1946), in which Su-chan, an impoverished boy in the ruins of Tokyo, dreams that the blue-eyed doll he finds (it is a black-and-white film, but the synopsis is keen to stress that the doll has blue eyes) comes to life and draws him an apple with a magic pen. The pen's magic causes the apple to become real, prompting the pair to take the pen and draw a new building amid the post-war desolation, in a touching allegory of hope and reconstruction.
As Japan rebuilt, anime suffered an infestation of cute animals, including Kenzo Masaoka's Tora the Stray Cat (Suteneko Tora-chan, 1947) and its sequel Tora's Bride (Tora-chan to Hanayome, 1948), the Kindai Company's Fox Circus (Kitsune no Circus, 1948) and Hideo Furusawa's Sports Tanuki (Sports Kotanuki, 1949). Anime's first major post-war works drew on Asian inspirations, with Princess of Baghdad (Baghdad-hime, 1948), followed by Panda and the Magic Serpent (1958). With a return to relative prosperity, the anime movie world continued to avoid non-Asian fairy tales, presumably preferring to supply local demand rather than compete with more lavish Disney imports. This period saw another Journey to the West (1960), alongside The Littlest Warrior (1961), Woof Woof 47 Ronin (1963), and Little Prince and the Eight-Headed Dragon (1963).
It was only with the coming of TV, and the realization that foreign subjects could lead to foreign sales, that anime turned once more to European sources, including movies of the Tales of Hans Christian Andersen (1968) and Puss in Boots (1969). The sheer amount of material generated for television ensured that fairy tale anime enjoyed much greater variety. "Mundane" fiction was given a more fantastic look with anthropomorphic animals, as in Treasure Island (1965), while Japanese fairy tales, now dismissed as old hat, were given a new lease on life through their use as inspirations in shows such as Little Goblin (1968) and Spooky Kitaro (1968). But fantasy remained a difficult genre to spot in the 1970s, as anime fought against the eternal onslaught of sci-fi toy tie-ins. Only the "magical girl shows," such as Little Witch Sally (1966) and Marvelous Melmo (1971), might reasonably be regarded as "fantasy," although fantastic elements formed part of almost all anime by this point.
Despite being often regarded as a fairy tale franchise, surprisingly few of the stories in the World Masterpiece Theater (1975) actually are. Genuine fairy tales of Japanese origin made it to the screen in Heart of the Red Bird (1979). But in a period in which Disney animation was widely regarded to be in a creative slump, anime began to make bold forays back into Western material, with Grimm's Fairy Tales (1987).
By the time Disney had reclaimed the fairy tale high ground with Beauty and the Beast (1991), Japanese animators were confident enough to compete with full-length serials of Snow White (1994) and Cinderella (1996). Meanwhile, new fantasy anime developed a narrative style inspired not by myths or novels, but by the setups of role-playing games, as seen in Record of Lodoss War (1990) and Slayers (1995).
Hayao Miyazaki'sMy Neighbor Totoro (1988) and Kiki's Delivery Service (1989) reestablished a modernized fairy tale style in cinema theaters, while elsewhere the subtexts of fantasy were exploited for different ends in Urotsukidoji (1987) and its imitators. In the last 15 years movie theaters have continued to offer genuine family entertainment, with the most noteworthy works of recent times being Studio Ghibli's Princess Mononoke (1997) and Spirited Away (2001), both revisiting and refashioning old stories with a personal touch that is pure Miyazaki. Fantasy on television often includes liminal dramas that transport youthful protagonists to new worlds, such as Escaflowne (1996) or Haibane Renmei (2002). Shows such as Petite Princess Yucie (2002) combine the "magical girl" setups of recent times with the sumptuousness of old-school fairy tales, while Loveless (2005) cleverly uses anthropomorphic characteristics, or rather their disappearance, as an allegory of the loss of childhood innocence. Meanwhile, fantasy on video comprises rereleases of both the TV and movie media discussed above, but also a predictable concentration on private titillation. The sexual subtexts of fairy tales, with their allegories of taboos and fears, are often presented as physical plot elements in straight-to-video anime-it is only a short step from dungeons-and-dragons to tits-and-tentacles.