Ōten Shimokawa

Film director

1892 – 1973


Who was Ōten Shimokawa?

Ōten Shimokawa was a Japanese artist, considered to be one of the founding artists and pioneers of anime. Little is known of his early personal life, other than that his family moved to the Tokyo area when he was nine years old. Here he began working for Tokyo Puck Magazine as a political cartoonist and manga series artist.

At the age of 26, Shimokawa was hired by Tenkatsu Production Company to create a short animated film. Shimokawa used several animation techniques that were, at the time, unique: using chalk or white wax on a dark board background to draw characters, rubbing out portions to be animated, and drawing with ink directly onto film, whiting out animated portions. At the time, celluloid cels was costly and scarce in Japan, having to be imported. These techniques cut production costs, material costs and completion time.

The resulting film was Imokawa Mukuzo Genkanban no Maki, released in 1917. Though not the earliest animation created in Japan, it is considered to be the first "true" Anime film, as it was the first to be publicly shown in a theater. The film ran only five minutes. As with many animation works created in Japan before the mid-1920s, no trace of the film, or any of Shimokawa's five other short films, has survived.

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May 2, 1892
Also known as
  • Hekoten Shimokawa
  • Ôten Shimokawa
  • Japan
Lived in
  • Okinawa Prefecture
May 26, 1973

on July 23, 2013


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