Hakujaden (1958) IMDb


Review refers to an untranslated copy, for which my amateur Japanese did not entirely suffice.


This, “The Legend of the White Serpent”, is the first coloured cel-animated cinematic feature of Japan, hence the first anime in minor ways. Also the first of a series of similar films from Toei, strongly influenced by Disney.


In uchronian China, where costume influences stretch across about a thousand years of real history, a boy is forced to discard his pet snake because the adults disapprove. However, the snake returns in the guise of a beautiful “snake fairy” when they are both grown. A priest (?) believes the magical woman is demonic, causing much trouble.


The Disneyesque musical numbers are few and relatively simple, but the anthropomorphized cute-aesthetic animals are not. The fish turned servant is reminiscent of later imouto types. The amorality is distinctly non-Disney; the lord of hell is kind, and the villain is also the man who weds the happy couple. Incidentally, the Freudian potential is through the roof: Adults disapprove when a boy discovers and plays with his pale “snake”, and it continues to be a social problem as he ages and resumes the habit instead of initiating a biologically productive relationship.

References here: The Adventures of Hols, Prince of the Sun (1968).

animation fiction Japanese production moving picture