A few days ago, Anime News Network reported that a surviving copy of the oldest piece of made-for-TV anime was discovered in an NTV warehouse. The film, an eight-minute short titled Mogura no Aventure (Mole’s Adventure), originally aired on NTV on October 15, 1958. Since its airing, the film’s general status was unknown. Researchers knew of the film, but were unable to specify whether copies still existed in any medium today.
The film’s sole known copy was found in an NTV warehouse in the network’s Ikuta Studio in Kawasaki City. Its condition was deemed to be “good” despite its age, and BS Animax plans to air it on July 21 at 7:00PM.
Before we continue, I’d like to stress how important this is. This is a relic that many thought was lost to the very sands of time. Its existence in any form was seen as unlikely, to the point that many gave up on trying to find it. And, suddenly, in February, a surviving tape in good condition is found neglected in a warehouse in Kanagawa.
To give this any form of comparison, the sheer unlikeliness of this happening isn’t far removed from a person finding a copy of Action Comics #1 in his wall, or a Honus Wagner baseball card in his attic. Really, it’s impossible to say just how incredibly small the odds of even finding this title, let alone a good-condition copy were. And yet, here we are.
The fact that the film exists, and that it’s in good condition, opens numerous possibilities, especially in the realms of research and historical. However, as a commercial product, this will prove to be more of a passing curiosity. It’ll be shown, people will watch, and reactions will likely range from mild entertainment to outright disinterest. Afterwards, it’ll likely become a “museum” piece – paid attention to scholars and researchers, and occasionally trotted out on some anniversary or another. Similarly, outside of a specific context, whether it’s a collection of rarities, a film festival, or the like, the film’s chances of a legal American release are slim.
Still, I’d like to hope that my predictions are wrong in this case. As one who’s spent over a decade writing about anime and the industry, I can’t help but feel that these long-lost building blocks of the medium are treasures. They’re the keys to understanding just how anime developed and grow as a product, and as a means of expression. As more are found, the portrait of the past can only grow brighter.