Chika Gentō Gekiga: Shōjo Tsubaki (Partially Lost Anime Film; 1992)
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|Cover for the movie.|
In 1987, Hiroshi Harada, a Japanese storyboarder who worked for various animation studios under trade, began work on a self-funded anime adaptation of Suehiro Maruo's 1984 manga Shōjo Tsubaki. Harada had attempted to gain sponsors for his film, but nobody was willing to support it due to its graphic imagery. Because of this, Harada was forced to animate and fund the entire film by himself, with the exception of voice acting done by an unknown cast. The task was so painstaking, with reportedly over 5,000 sheets of animation of work that had to be done, that Harada did not finish producing the film until 1992.
The film, titled Chika Gentō Gekiga: Shōjo Tsubaki (地下幻燈劇画 少女椿 roughly meaning Underground Projected Drama: Camellia Girl), also known as just Midori, premiered on May 2nd, 1992 "inside a giant red tent inside the grounds of the Mitake Jinja Shinto shrine in Tokyo." The premiere version is widely reported to have been between 52 and 54 minutes in running time. Following the premiere of the film, Eirin, the Japanese film censor board, required 26 cuts to be made before the film could be more widely screened, due to the fact that the film contained scenes of sexual and physical abuse on a prepubescent girl by traveling carnies of a much older age. Some of these scenes even remained in the film after the cuts were made. Extreme levels of gore were also prevalent in the film, including a scene of animal abuse where a dog was stomped to death by one of the said carnies. While these scenes do exist in the currently surviving version, there were reportedly more graphic scenes that were shown at the original 1992 premiere. The post-censorship version of the film was reportedly later screened at more secretive venues, that required people to "read cryptic signs pointing to where the performance was being held, and patrons had to enter through dark labyrinths before getting to the actual venue." However, in the late-1990s, the screening print would be sent overseas and be screened for the final time. When the film returned to Japan at Narita Airport, Japanese Customs agents intercepted it and destroyed it. Fortunately, at least one backup copy of the edited version of the film survived the late-90s.
When Harada was informed about this, he grew outraged and refused to allow further screenings of his film, even the cut version. In later years, Harada grew more lenient, eventually culminating in the French company Ciné Malta releasing a region 2 PAL DVD of the 48-minute edited version. The DVD includes six different languages of subtitles, including French, Spanish, German and English. However, bootleg VHS copies of what is believed to be the exact same source, if not the exact same transfer of said source that the 2006 DVD has, have circulated since the 1990s, and a rip of one of these bootlegs even exists on YouTube without any subtitles. However, a rip of the superior DVD of the film also exists on YouTube as of 2015. Unfortunately, however, approximately six minutes worth of cut footage has not seen the light of day since approximately 1999.