On September 10th, 1937, an event took place that would change the world of cinema forever. Several of the Photo Chemical Laboratories as well as the P.C.L. Film Studio of Tokyo, Jenkins Osawa Studio (J.O.), and a distribution company called Toho Eiga merged into Toho Co. Ltd [1].

But wait! What happened before September 10th, 1937? Were the histories of Toho’s predecessors doomed to vanish into relative obscurity? Fortunately, a tidy sum of films from the before time are still readily available to those willing to do a little digging. Several examples of Mikio Naruse’s work from his early P.C.L. days have actually proven somewhat of a breeze to locate, and even Sadao Yamanaka’s P.C.L. masterwork Humanity and Paper Balloons is within arms’ reach of Tohophiles, but here’s the problem…


Ongaku Kigeki Horoyoi Jinsei,
Toho’s very first film…
or was it!?
Dun dun dun…

… Naruse began working for P.C.L. in ’35, and his name tends to overshadow those of his contemporaries. This makes for something of a 1935 barrier; that is to say (as of the publication of this article), it’s notoriously difficult to find anything from P.C.L. or J.O. prior to that year. To date, I’ve personally only been able to track down about 20 minutes of combined footage from these early years in the form of two animated shorts, although I do realise that I’m still very blessed to have been able to view said shorts.

So which years are affected? All indications are that none of Toho’s predecessors produced anything, at least film-wise, prior to or during 1932; so that only leaves two unaccounted for: 1933 and 1934.

These are Toho’s forgotten years, and they’ve proven quite the fascination to me as of recent. The Toho Studios Story by Stuart Galbraith IV [2] proved an excellent first step for researching this mysterious era. With the help of Galbraith’s book, JMDB, the Japanese Cinema DatabaseKinenoteJapanese Wikipedia, and some additional assistance from Toho’s websiteNikkatsu’s websiteKon Ichikawa by Yuki Mori [3], the Historical Dictionary of Japanese Cinema by Jasper Sharp [4], and Sessue Hayakawa by Daisuke Miyao [5], I’m very pleased to present a (hopefully) comprehensive list of classical works from Toho’s forgotten years.

Please Note: All release dates are from JMDB unless otherwise noted. Films highlighted in yellow are emphasised due to the relative ease of tracking them down.

1933

Mr. Monkey’s Photographer
 猿くんのカメラマン
 Transliteration: Saru-kun no Kameraman  Also Rendered As: 猿君のカメラマン
 Directed by: N/A*  Release Date: N/A**
 Type: Animation  Production: J.O. Studio
 Length: 1 reel  Toho Connection Likelihood: High

* Animated by Takao Nakano, Yoshitsugu Tanaka, and Shunichi Funaki, production ran from January to April of 1933 [6] and was ostensibly completed prior to the release of any other J.O. Studio film.
** According to a 2009 research paper on J.O. Studio anime by Yukari Hagiwara, Saru-kun no Kameraman was never publicly released as it was simply a prototypic effort [6].

The Scholar’s Child
 博士の子
 Transliteration: Hakase no Ko  Also Known As: N/A
 Directed by: Tomiyasu Ikeda  Release Date: May 18th, 1933
 Type: Live Action  Production: J.O. Studio
 Length: 8 reels  Toho Connection Likelihood: Medium
Kyoto Accent: The Loose Sash
 京訛り だらりの帯
 Transliteration: Kyo Namari: Darari no Obi  Also Known As: N/A
 Directed by: Bansho Kanamori  Release Date: May 18th, 1933*
 Type: Live Action  Production: J.O. Studio
 Length: 4 reels  Toho Connection Likelihood: Medium

* JMDB and the Japanese Cinema Database [7] both list the exact date as unknown; however, there’s an identical article for this film under the 太秦発声 (Uzumasa Hassei Eiga) company listing in the latter website that indicates a May 18th release date [8]Hakase no Kois similarly found in two separate articles, one for each company [9][10], and its release date under Uzumasa corresponds with JMDB’s. The J.O. Studio page for Kyo Namari: Darari no Obi lists the release date as November 30th, 1932 [7]; however, this appears to be a coding error. The search index displays 1933-00-00 in an apparent attempt to imply that an exact date is unknown [11]; however, the movie bio is likely parsing that data hyperliterally and subtracting one month and one day from January 1st, 1933.

Kusunoki’s Father and Son*
 楠公父子
 Transliteration: Nanko Fushi  Also Known As: 楠正成 (Kusunoki Masashige)
 Directed by: Tomiyasu Ikeda  Release Date: June 1st, 1933
 Type: Live Action  Production: J.O. Studio
 Length: 8 reels  Toho Connection Likelihood: Medium

*Alternately translated as Father and son of Honourable Kusunoki by Daisuke Miyao, its connection to J.O. appears to have been firmly established on Nikkatsu’s website [12].

Musical Comedy: The Tipsy Life*
 音楽喜劇 ほろよひ人生
 Transliteration: Ongaku Kigeki Horoyoi Jinsei  Also Known As: N/A
 Directed by: Sotoji Kimura  Release Date: August 10th, 1933
 Type: Live Action  Production: P.C.L.
 Length: 77 min  Toho Connection Likelihood: High

* Alternately translated Musical Comedy – Intoxicated Life by Stuart Galbraith IV, he declared this the very first Toho production [2].

The Decisive Battle at Takada Downs
 決戦高田の馬場
 Transliteration: Kessen Takada no Baba  Also Known As: N/A
 Directed by: Tomiyasu Ikeda  Release Date: September 14th, 1933
 Type: Live Action  Production: J.O. Studio
 Length: 10 reels  Toho Connection Likelihood: Medium
Toy Box Series Episode 1: Express Fleet*
 特急艦隊
 Transliteration: Tokkyu Kantai  Also Known As: N/A
 Directed by: N/A**  Release Date: September 19th, 1933
 Type: Animation  Production: J.O. Studio
 Length: 6 min  Toho Connection Likelihood: High

* According to a 2009 research paper on J.O. Studio anime by Yukari Hagiwara, Tokkyu Kantai was the very first of the Toy Box Seriesepisodes [6]. Although Tokkyu Kantai appears to translate simply to Express Fleet, “Toy Box Series Episode 1” has been added to our translation as a means of reducing ambiguity.
** Animated by Takao Nakano, Yoshitsugu Tanaka, Shunichi Funaki, and Hakuro Nagahisa, it would seem that this title was J.O.’s first commercially released anime.

A Girlfriend’s Sex Appeal
 彼女のイット
 Transliteration: Kanojo no Itto  Also Known As: N/A
 Directed by: Gentaro Tawara  Release Date: September 22nd, 1933
 Type: Live Action  Production: Uzumasa Hassei
 Length: 6 reels  Toho Connection Likelihood: Low
The Romantic Ichimaru
 恋の市丸
 Transliteration: Koi no Ichimaru  Also Known As: N/A
 Directed by: Masao Mizushima  Release Date: November 9th, 1933
 Type: Live Action  Production: J.O. Studio
 Length: 8 reels  Toho Connection Likelihood: Medium
City of Purity
 純情の都
 Transliteration: Junjo no Miyako  Also Rendered As: 纯情之都
 Directed by: Sotoji Kimura  Release Date: November 23rd, 1933
 Type: Live Action  Production: P.C.L.
 Length: 61 min  Toho Connection Likelihood: High
Toy Box Series Episode 2: Black Cat Banzai*
 黒猫萬歳
 Transliteration: Kuroneko Banzai  Also Known As: N/A
 Directed by: N/A**  Release Date: December 22nd, 1933
 Type: Animation  Production: J.O. Studio
 Length: 8 min  Toho Connection Likelihood: High

* Although Kuroneko Banzai appears to translate simply to Black Cat Banzai, “Toy Box Series Episode 2” has been added to our translation as a means of reducing ambiguity.
** Animated by Takao Nakano, Yoshitsugu Tanaka, Shunichi Funaki, and Hakuro Nagahisa, Kuroneko Banzai is the second entry in the Toy Box Series.

The Kitsune vs. the Tanukis*
 動絵狐狸達引
 Transliteration: Ugokie Kori no Tatehiki  Also Rendered As: 動絵狐狸の達引
 Directed by: Ikuo Oishi  Release Date: December 31st, 1933
 Type: Animation  Production: P.C.L.
 Length: 12 min  Toho Connection Likelihood: High

* Often informally translated as The Fox Versus the Raccoon or some similar variant, the short film Ugokie Kori no Tatehiki is actuallyvery easy to locate, just so long as you aren’t too concerned about subtitles.

1934

Bonji Tadano: A Life Study*
 只野凡児 人生勉強
 Transliteration: Tadano Bonji – Jinsei Benkyo  Also Known As: N/A
 Directed by: Sotoji Kimura  Release Date: January 5th, 1934
 Type: Live Action  Production: P.C.L.
 Length: 80 min  Toho Connection Likelihood: High

* Alternately translated Life Study by Stuart Galbraith IV [2].

The Dancer’s Diary
 踊り子日記
 Transliteration: Odoriko Nikki  Also Known As: N/A
 Directed by: Shigeo Yagura  Release Date: February 12th, 1934*
 Type: Live Action  Production: P.C.L.
 Length: 64 min  Toho Connection Likelihood: High

* There is an apparent discrepancy as far as the release date is concerned. Although JMDB claims March 15th [13], Toho’s own website lists the release date as February 12th [14].

The King’s Roaring Laughter Banzai
 爆笑王キング万歳
 Transliteration: Bakusho O Kingu Banzai  Also Known As: N/A
 Directed by: Masao Mizushima  Release Date: February 15th, 1934
 Type: Live Action  Production: Uzumasa Hassei
 Length: 6 reels  Toho Connection Likelihood: Low
Cherry Blossom Dance: Mother’s Tears*
 さくら音頭 涙の母
 Transliteration: Sakura Ondo – Namida no Haha  Also Known As: さくら音頭 (Sakura Ondo)
 Directed by: Sotoji Kimura  Release Date: March 8th, 1934
 Type: Live Action  Production: P.C.L.
 Length: 75 min  Toho Connection Likelihood: High

* Alternately translated The Crying Mother by Stuart Galbraith IV [2].

Toy Box Series Episode 3: Picture Book 1936
 オモチャ箱シリーズ第3話 絵本1936年
 Transliteration: Omocha Bako Shirizu Dai San Wa: Ehon Senkyuhyakusanjuroku Nen  Also Rendered As: オモチャ箱シリーズ第3話 絵本一九三六年
 Directed by: N/A*  Release Date: April 13th, 1934
 Type: Animation  Production: J.O. Studio
 Length: 8 min  Toho Connection Likelihood: High

* Animated by Takao Nakano, Yoshitsugu Tanaka, Shunichi Funaki, Hakuro Nagahisa, and Kuma Nishiguchi, Omocha-Bako Series, Dai-3-Wa: Ehon 1936-nen (sans subtitles) is actually somewhat easy to locate in its entirety.

Enoken’s Story of a Young, Drunk Tiger*
 エノケンの青春酔虎伝
 Transliteration: Enoken no Seishun Suikoden  Also Known As: N/A
 Directed by: Kajiro Yamamoto  Release Date: May 3rd, 1934
 Type: Live Action  Production: P.C.L.
 Length: 84 min  Toho Connection Likelihood: High

* Alternately translated Enoken’s Story of a Young, Drunken Tiger by Stuart Galbraith IV [2], this film features the famous Japanese comedian Kenichi Enomoto (stage name: Enoken).

Bombardment Squadron*
 爆撃飛行隊
 Transliteration: Bakugeki Hikotai  Also Known As: N/A
 Directed by: Genjiro Saegusa and Shin Nezu  Release Date: May 3rd, 1934
 Type: Live Action  Production: J.O. Studio
 Length: 10 reels  Toho Connection Likelihood: Medium

* Alternately translated as Bomber Pilots by Jasper Sharp [4].

Namiko’s Life
 浪子の一生
 Transliteration: Namiko no Issho  Also Known As: N/A
 Directed by: Shigeo Yagura  Release Date: June 28th, 1934
 Type: Live Action  Production: P.C.L.
 Length: 64 min  Toho Connection Likelihood: High
Araki Mataemon: Iga Pass
 荒木又右衛門 天下の伊賀越
 Transliteration: Araki Mataemon – Tenka no Igagoe  Also Known As: N/A
 Directed by: Yotaro Katsumi  Release Date: June 28th, 1934
 Type: Live Action  Production: Uzumasa Hassei
 Length: 21 reels  Toho Connection Likelihood: Low
Bonji Tadano Part II*
 続・只野凡児
 Transliteration: Zoku ・ Tadano Bonji  Also Known As: N/A
 Directed by: Sotoji Kimura  Release Date: July 12th, 1934
 Type: Live Action  Production: P.C.L.
 Length: 78 min  Toho Connection Likelihood: High

* Alternately translated as Sequel ・ Tadano Bonji by Stuart Galbraith IV [2].

Ponsuke’s Spring
 ポン助の春
 Transliteration: Ponsuke no Haru  Also Known As: N/A
 Directed by: N/A*  Release Date: August 1st, 1934
 Type: Animation  Production: P.C.L.
 Length: 11 min (estimation)**  Toho Connection Likelihood: High

* Animated by Ikuo Oishi.
** Run time estimation extrapolated from a 206-metre film length.

Crackle Crackle Mountain
 かちかち山
 Transliteration: Kachi Kachi Yama  Also Known As: N/A
 Directed by: N/A*  Release Date: August 8th, 1934
 Type: Animation  Production: P.C.L.
 Length: 14 min  Toho Connection Likelihood: High

* Animated by Ikuo Oishi and Shoji Ichino.

Become Japanese!
 日本人なればこそ
 Transliteration: Nihon-jin Nareba Koso  Also Known As: N/A
 Directed by: Genjiro Saegusa  Release Date: August 22nd, 1934
 Type: Live Action  Production: Uzumasa Hassei
 Length: 6 reels  Toho Connection Likelihood: Low
Love Street
 恋の舗道
 Transliteration: Koi no Hodo  Also Known As: N/A
 Directed by: Seichi Ina  Release Date: September 13th, 1934
 Type: Live Action  Production: J.O. Studio
 Length: 8 reels  Toho Connection Likelihood: Medium
Enoken’s Magician
 エノケンの魔術師
 Transliteration: Enoken no Majutsushi  Also Known As: N/A
 Directed by: Sotoji Kimura  Release Date: October 25th, 1934
 Type: Live Action  Production: P.C.L.
 Length: 73 min  Toho Connection Likelihood: High
The Worthless Wife
 旅烏お妻やくざ
 Transliteration: Tabigarasu Otsuma Yakuza  Also Known As: N/A
 Directed by: Takuji Furumi  Release Date: November 1st, 1934
 Type: Live Action  Production: Uzumasa Hassei
 Length: 8 reels  Toho Connection Likelihood: Low
Boss of the Alps
 あるぷす大将
 Transliteration: Arupusu Taisho  Also Known As: N/A
 Directed by: Kajiro Yamamoto  Release Date: November 15th, 1934
 Type: Live Action  Production: P.C.L.
 Length: 90 min  Toho Connection Likelihood: High
Pom Poko Saga
 ポンポコ武勇伝
 Transliteration: Pom Poko Buyu Den  Also Known As: N/A
 Directed by: N/A*  Release Date: December 27th, 1934
 Type: Animation  Production: J.O. Studio
 Length: 15 min (estimation)**  Toho Connection Likelihood: High

* Animated by Takao Nakano, Yoshitsugu Tanaka, Kuma Nishiguchi, Akira Todo, and Giju Yamashita with music by Akio Hirayama, this film possesses a similar title to a far more famous 1994 anime.
** Run time estimation extrapolated from a 282-metre film length.


Key
 キャプション
High: The connection to Toho is well-established as the production company in question is either P.C.L. or J.O.
Medium: Most likely a J.O. / Uzumasa Hassei coproduction. Per Yuki Mori’s Kon Ichikawa, Uzumasa Hassei (now defunct) produced a plethora of films using J.O. Studio.
Low: The lack of evidence for a J.O. tie-in would suggest that Uzumasa’s parent company Nikkatsu probably has a far greater connection to the film in question than Toho.

 


Sources:


[1] J.O.スタヂオ (Japanese Wikipedia)
[2] The Toho Studios Story: A History and Complete Filmography by Stuart Galbraith IV
[3] Kon Ichikawa by Yuki Mori
[4] Historical Dictionary of Japanese Cinema by Jasper Sharp
[5] Sessue Hayakawa: Silent Cinema and Transnational Stardom by Daisuke Miyao
[6] 京都におけるアニメーション制作 ―J・O・スタジオ・トーキー漫画部の活動より― (PDF)
[7] 京訛り だらりの帯 (J.O.スタヂオ) (Japanese Cinema Database)
[8] 京訛り だらりの帯 (太秦発声) (Japanese Cinema Database)
[9] 博士の子 (J.O.スタヂオ) (Japanese Cinema Database)
[10] 博士の子 (太秦発声) (Japanese Cinema Database)
[11] J.O.スタヂオ
 (Japanese Cinema Database)
[12] 楠公父子
 (Nikkatsu)
[13] 踊り子日記
 (JMDB)
[14] 踊り子日記
 (Toho)

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