August 2, 2007
This excerpt is from the 1931 short Oira no Yakyu (Our Baseball Match), directed by Yasuji Murata. Oira no Yakyu and many of Murata's other works are featured in the four-DVD set Japanese Anime Classic Collection, which was released earlier this year by Digital Meme. Oira no Yakyu features a baseball game between rabbits and tanuki (raccoon-like canines indigenous to Japan). Tanuki are known for being shape-shifting tricksters, and while the shape-shifting isn't present here, they certainly are tricky.
The silent era of Japanese cinema featured one major distinction from that one the West: the addition of the benshi, a narrator and actor who added a significant live-performance component to the movies beyond just the music. As a result, the silent era lasted longer in Japan than in the West—so even though Oira no Yakyu came out two years into the sound era, it still has the look and feel of a silent movie, and features benshi narration.
Japanese Anime Classic Collection review
Image credit: © 2007 Digital Meme.