Anime Historian Yasushi Watanabe Passes Away

Anime historian Yasushi Watanabe passed away on March 27. He was 86.

Watanabe was born in Osaka in 1934. He worked at the Mainichi Shimbun newspaper while researching Japanese and overseas animation.

Watanabe co-authored the Nihon Animation Eigashi (The History of Japanese Animated Film) book with Katsunori Yamaguchi in 1977, and the Gekijо̄ Anime 70 Nenshi (70 Years of Animated Feature Film) book in 1989. With Natsuki Matsumoto and Frederick S. Litten, he also co-authored the Nippon Anime Sо̄seiki (The Genesis of Japanese Anime) book, which Shueisha published on March 5.

He received the Japan Animation Association Award in 2014, the Achievement Award at the 18th Japan Media Arts Festival in 2015, and the Anime Achievement Award at the Tokyo Anime Award Festival in 2018. In 2018, there was an exhibition about his animation research in Kyoto.

Watanabe had a deep knowledge of Disney animation and had a collection dedicated to his fascination with animation. While reading David Bossert's book Oswald the Lucky Rabbit: The Search for the Lost Disney Cartoons that discusses the lost physical footage of Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, Watanabe remembered a film in his own collection — one he purchased 70 years prior in Osaka for 500 yen (about US$4.60). The film was labeled "Mickey Manga Spide" when he purchased it, but the cartoon did not star Mickey Mouse. It was actually the Oswald the Lucky Rabbit film "Neck 'n' Neck."

The Asahi Shimbun newspaper confirmed with Walt Disney Archive that Watanabe's discovery was the real deal. The original short had a five-minute runtime but was then cut to two minutes for home video sale on 16-mm reels. Watanabe's reel was one of the two-minute versions sold to the public. The film is now housed at the Kobe Planet Film Archive. Watanabe's "Neck 'n' Neck" reel is the second version of the Oswald short found in Japan, in part due to Bossert's book.

Thanks to Rekishika for the news tip.

Source: Animation Business Journal (Tadashi Sudo)