Review of “The Unlucky Butterfly” (1931)

Moving picture, 8 minutes

Seen in 2016.

A villainous cartoon mouse in riding boots steals the wings of a butterfly and extorts her. Other bugs help her, but he breaks his promises until a bigger mammal comes along and beats him up.

An early talkie anime that actually uses dialogue as opposed to music. The antagonist looks just a bit like Mickey Mouse. The protagonist is much more interesting: An insect version of future domestic shōjo heroines: innocent, earnest, shy and humble, a ribbon on her head, an apron and loyal little friends, including friendly plant life. Her eyes are nothing like the deep shōjo manga eyes that would come, just grey ovoids with black pupils that normally extend to thin slits, like the eyes of a praying mantis. No lid, no lash, no white, no iris and no reflex. Even the mouse has whites and reflexes. Perhaps the story is a faint echo of “The Princess Who Loved Insects” (ca. 1250) cast as an insect. The animation has an interesting defect: The paint on the cels, if they are cels, has dried to an uneven finish, obviously not suited to filming.

moving picture animation Japanese production fiction