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MOSAKA -- Footage of an animation film dating back to the Taisho Period (1912-1926) has been discovered here, and has been confirmed as the oldest existing example of Japanese animation ever produced.

The 2-minute animation, directed by Junichi Kou'uchi and titled "Namakura Gatana," was the second animation film ever made in Japan and was first shown at domestic theaters in 1917.

It was purchased at an antique fair in Osaka in July last year by film historian Natsuki Matsumoto. The film was found in nearly perfect condition.

The historic footage was unveiled during a press conference in Tokyo on Wednesday, following restoration work by the National Film Center in Tokyo's Chuo-ku.

The film is a comedy about a samurai warrior, who tries out a new sword only to suffer revenge at the hands of his would-be target.

"We knew the film was highly acclaimed at the time, but there was no information on the content of the film. I am surprised that it was actually found. It's a major discovery that will shed light on the origin of Japanese animation," Yasushi Watanabe, an animation historian, said.

The film was initially screened in 1917 at theaters following the release of the nation's first animation film, "Imokawa Mukuzo Genkanban no Maki" (1917), which remains lost to this day.

Almost a century after its initial release, the film "Namakura Gatana" will be shown again at the National Film Center in the Kyobashi district, starting on April 24.

Browse photography at Denver.Gallery.