…Do you know what are Kamishibai, Manga and Anime?

Do you like to study Japanese art forms, especially Theatre and Movie Art?

Well, these three strange names are three forms of the modern Japanese visual art; that can be translated to English as (Street) Paper Theater, Comic Books and Animation (Cartoon) Movies respectively.

It all started long time ago, at the beginning of the 17th century in the Edo period, when many different visual and performing arts were flourishing in Japan. The first sketches of what is considered modern comic books originated even earlier, in the late Middle Ages.

But first Kamishibai, or Paper Theaters started to be popular in the period of the Great Depression, in 1930´s, especially in big towns like Tokyo, from where it officially originated. These performances were taken place outside, mostly on the streets and in the parks of Tokyo, where (mostly) men carried with themselves collection of big cardboard plates with drawn or painted scenes from individual Japanese and/or American historical or fantastic stories, intended primarily for children’s entertainment.

kamishibai
Kamishibai street performance…

The performers, Kamishibaiya’s, were then arranging these plates and perform a street children´s theater, that looked like a storytelling from many later comic book stories.

The Golden Age of Kamishibai lasted all to the end of the World War II, when it started to fade away with the American control of the Japanese territory, and the invention, or better said modification of the Manga, that is today known as the special type of Japanese comic books, that were influenced from the comic books that American soldiers brought with them.

One of the most famous Kamishibai stories, later known in world of Manga was Ogon Batto (Golden Bat), officially the first real comic book superhero in the world (yes, it came from Japan and not from USA or Europa), made in 1931., few years before Prince of Gamma (another famous Japanese comic book), Superman (1938.) and Batman (1939.)

gamma
Prince of Gamma, Kamishibai version…

When the world of Manga replaced Kamishibai, producers of modern comic books arrived with stories like the famous Astro Boy, that was made in 1952. Later, these comic books were put on screens, when the new genre was born, Anime, or Animation Movies.

astro boy
Astro Boy Strikes Back! 😉

The most famous of them is Graveyard of the Fireflies (1988.), Super Robot, Three Tales… all to the modern digital versions like Pokemon, Digimon, or one of the last marvels Spirited Away.

grave fireflies

girl dies
Little girl dies of starvation…

Many other modern European and American animation cartoons were made using Japanese techniques of drawing characters with big heads on small bodies, along with the most typical characteristics of all Manga and Anime drawings, the extra big eyes.

Grave of the Fireflies (full movie)

Astro Boy (full episodes)

Golden Bat (one episode)

(Cover Image: Ogon Batto or Golden Bat)