Published on behalf the BFI, this is a proper referenced and well researched book on the history of the animation industry and the technologies in use in Japan during the last 100 years. The focus of the book is in collating the information from Japanese sources, and unlike other anime books that I have read, concentrates on facts, disputes things that appear to be sophistry or 'nescience' and is generally a genuine attempt at research and history rather than media rehash, so massive plus from me on that point.

That said, it is a fairly dry text, and Clements, extensively quotes others through memoirs nd biographies but steers away from drawing conclusions himself - It feels a bit like a PhD dissertation rather than a history book at times.

The titles discussed are there to illustrate the changing industry and technologies, and rarely about the actual material itself (although it would be hard not to combine the two during the propaganda phase during WWII) - many of the clips (and indeed some of the complete features) are on YouTube, so I have found it quite instructive to briefly put the book down at times and go and actually watch the content - highly recommended in fact as it gives meat to the bones of the narrative.

I haven't included all discussed features here (too many!) only the ones that peaked my interest (and I have deliberately avoided particularly popular titles!)

Not much survives before 1945, earliest Katsudo Shashin - though Katsudo's recollection of how and when it was made may not line up with reality!

Princess Iron Fan - this was made as an anti-Japanese propaganda film by the occupied Chinese, however the Japanese obviously saw the film differently when the discovered it and presented it as pro-Japanese - since it was made in what Japanese believed was part of Japan (that is occupied china). Watching it, it is possible to see both sides, like one of those optical illusions that could be a young or old woman's face. The Japanese are tenacious and overcome adversity through hard work and perseverance - the flip side is that they achieve this by compelling the Chinese to do as they are told, if not through persuasion then through trickery and violence. I would say tends towards not being positive about the Japanese and it is a testament to how the Japanese believed they were in the right that they could not see the view from this end.

Momotaro divine sea warriors
A pro Japanese military film, though was not finished until the war was practically lost. it is a recruiting film. the young furry Japanese animals sign up and ship out (some making the sacrifice of leaving their young family) where they move to a tropical island where the locals are happy to cut down their forest under Japanese direction to build an airbase and a school where they can learn Japanese (not sure why Katakana is used here instead of hiragana, who knows). Obviously life is much better now Japanese are here - the locals work hard to provide the food and laundry services for the occupiers while the Japanese spend their time lazing around and polishing their machine guns. Finally the Japanese ship out in their aeroplanes - you can see in the faces of the occupied how much they will miss them... Of course, without any losses at all, the Japanese rout the evil westerners (I believe English in this case) - you can tell they are evil - very shifty and have big noses. And thus the film ends.

Hakujaden (Panda and the magic serpent). Made when Japanese animators thought they had to compete with Disney, and after all the militaristic jingoism had dies down. It is a beautiful romance between a boy and a white serpent who transforms herself into a woman for her love. Interestingly, because animators believed they need to internationalise the film, it was made with the Chinese market (and Hong Kong in particular) in mind - such that all the names in the film are Chinese, not Japanese - but they all speak Japanese (certainly in the version I watched). Lip sync was not high on the agenda at the time! Dreadful Americanised trailer for the film can be found here

Saiyuki (1960) Another Money/Journey in to the West/Princess Iron fan film, this time made as a Disneyesque film rather than propaganda. Interestingly if you compare to Princess Iron Fan you can see why the Japanese would find the story in Iron Fan to show them in a positive light! This is possibly also the first 'anime retread' where the same story is used for a different version for the same thing - something that seems to happen a lot these days :). PS the 80s version of Monkey was the best bay far...

Horus: Prince of the Sun a.k.a. The Little Norse prince (1968). Another saccharin flavoured story of good versus evil. This is the first of the films that I can honestly say felt like what I understand to be 'anime' rather that animation. Maybe because it isn't rotoscoped? certainly doesn't look it, and there is the (pre)ghibli style about it. nice film. Little norse prince trailer

Tales from a certain street corner# . A more modernist take on animation (and with vivid colour) this was in effect a 'test reel' for the newly formed Mushi productions. It is not much of a story, but demonstrates a number of techniques for reducing the costs of animation - something that was essential in the next project for mushi - AstroBoy

I have not been able to find the Japanese version, but here is the first American AstroBoy (1963) episode - (complete with annoying loud over performing ‘children’s TV actors’ doing the voices). Astroboy bought to together a broad selection of cost-cutting practices and selling practices which ultimately were unsustainable, but did enable to 'anime' as we know it today to emerge. In particular I noted the 'cutesy' appearance of the titular character for example. The series was sold to the Americans, and managed this because it was not identifiably Japanese when overlaid with an American sound track - a fact that the American sellers did not hide, but didn't advertise either.

Panda go Panda. Probably survived purely because it is the first Miyazaki / Takahata collaboration. very cutesy anime about a child who has to live alone and a panda and his son who are invited (by her) to live with her as papa and son. There were two episode of this made, which were jammed together to make one 'feature length' presentation - this is how it is sold on DVD. as a single feature. Trailer

Mahou Tsukai Sally (Sally the Witch 1966) - first of the 'magical girl' type shows - more bewitched than Madoka - bewitched having started 2 years previous to this, probably explains the provenance of the whole genre. The Transformational style of magical girls coming in after the mecha revolution - which of course existed to sell merchandise.

Daicon III opening video was seminal because it was the first significant 'fan-made' anime - a parody of the existing Gundam franchise, made by the fans for their own entertainment at the Daicon sci-fi conference . It is not very well made, but has a charm of its own. Daicon IV was also awesome due to the use of digital effects - showing the industry that the consumers are capable of keeping up with them!

Wicked City (1987). This is the 'adult themed' example in the book. From the visuals you get the impressing it might be kind of Sin City, but turns out to be a bit more visceral and a lot more nudey. it is not hentai, but tries to capitalise on the Akira visual style and just adds more boobies. To be fair, most 'straight to video' type live action films in the 80s were doing the same thing (Lifeforce anyone?) - so very much of its time. And actually I quite enjoyed it.

Royal Space Force (Wings of Honneamise) (1987). This was when it was thought home video was the new tulip - cost a lot of money to make (and was made by the graduated Daicon crew) and backers were just throwing money at it. Unsurprisingly it did not do as well as expected - though didn't do too badly. The film itself is about a crazy bunch of people who decide to be 'the first into space' - initially all but the chief really think it is all a bit of a dodge, lying around and generally training for something that will never happen. Then, unexpectedly, the hero of the story decides to volunteer to be the first astronaut, and things start to get serious. It is quite a nice story, but long, and there is not much 'action'. Another dreadful American trailer

The legend of o-ren ishii. . I remember this short as part of the first volume of Kill Bill - actually the best sequence in the film I thought. Very nicely done, apparently digital, and was pleased to learn, actually Japanese made.

Vexille. Remember seeing this film when it came out - actually much better than 'Final Fantasy' which had been the big news a few years before. This one had a really good story as well as the whole '3D animated' thing going on.

While I really liked Vexille, I confess I prefer my animation ‘2D’. The digital boom has exploded the quantity and production quality, and its history as explored in this book has resulted in its distinctive style. The market forces and motivations for producing ‘anime’, which at some (arguable) point in the last century Japanese animation became, continues to shift and evolve and the medium I guess will do to.

A really informative book on the subject made more enjoyable by the ability in the digital age to watch, easily and conveniently the content being discussed.