In summer 2005, part-time academic Natsuki Matsumoto found a three-second scrap of hand-drawn animation in Kyoto. The tiny two-colour piece of film was less of a movie than a comic drawn onto celluloid, fifty frames in which a boy in a bright red cap dashed off the words “Moving Pictures” onto a black board, then took a bow. It was rudimentary and if screened, would jump all over the place.
Matsumoto (a respected figure in the anime history world, and a leading authority in pre-war anime) announced that the item could be “up to ten years older” than the oldest known cartoon in Japan. It probably isn’t. The oldest cartoon known in Japan is currently Oten Shimokawa’s Mukuzo Imokawa, and there’s plenty of scope for something to turn up that might be older. But ten years older?