Ramayana (1940s)

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Image gallery for Ramayana

The title card of Ramayana
Written by Kohan Kawauchi[1][2]
Production company Toho[1]
Distributor Film Distribution Corporation
Running time 17 minutes
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Ramayana (ラーマーヤナ,   Rāmāyana) is a Japanese marionette short film produced by Toho, based on the Hindu legend of the same name.[3] Extremely little is known of the short, due in part to its lack of opening or closing credits; however, it was written by Kohan Kawauchi,[1][2] whose later works would include Japan's first superhero television series Moonlight Mask (1958-1959). Special effects master Eiji Tsuburaya also had some degree of involvement, guiding Kawauchi's writing.[1][4] Sometimes regarded as Japan's first ever marionette film,[2] Ramayana is said to have been produced in 1942,[1] though the timeline of known information suggests it was not released until 1943-1945.[note 1] The film surfaced online after being broadcast on the Japanese specialty channel NECO on July 21, 2003.[5]


The demigod Jatayu flies down from the sky toward the ground, making the branches of a tree grow upwards, flowers bloom, and a leaf fall into a lake before disappearing into the clouds. The goddess Sita awakens in a forest, where Rama, Vishnu's avatar, greets her by playing a flute, causing her to dance with a camel, a zebra, and an ostrich. Suddenly, a black cloud shaped like a human figure moves across the sky. Sita halts her dance and kneels on a giant flower's pistil. From the clouds above, Ravana emerges and covers the valley below in his shadow before descending upon it, terrifying Sita and the animals. Rama watches as Ravana uproots a tree and kidnaps Sita, raising her into the air with his right arm and shaking her before disappearing into the sky.

Sugriva grabs a fragment of Sita's dress as it floats toward the valley and flies away with Rama to the kingdom of Kishkindha. Rama meets the kingdom's ruler, Sugriva's older brother Vali, and they discuss how to rescue Sita from Ravana. Sugriva travels to the fortress city of Lanka. Upon his arrival, he knocks over a guard, then enters Ravana's palace where he sees an extremely long set of stars. After a failed attempt to walk up the stairs, he flies up the stars and enters a room in the palace. Surgriva tells Sita, who is chained to a chair, that Vanaras are coming to rescue her while Ravana is served food and watches a woman dance.

An army of Vanara combatants march down the valley toward Ravana's palace. They reach the ocean and, after a flash of lightning, stride toward Lankapura on a rainbow. Ravana wakes up from a nap to find Sita has escaped; he finds her outside and grabs her. The Vanara soldiers arrive at the gates of Lankapura with ladders and catapults. After killing three of Ravana's guards with a catapult, they storm the palace. Sugriva lands on Ravana's head and infuriates him, causing him to unleash a fiery breath. Sugriva is unscathed as he flies off, but Ravana kills several of the Vanara. Jatayu emerges from the sky and takes away their bodies. After battling several Vanara troopers inside his palace, Ravana goes outside, where Rama fires arrows at him, scaring him back inside the palace. As the exterior of Lankapura burns, Ravana is ambushed inside the palace by Vanara soldiers and shot in the eye by an arrow, which kills him.

Rama and Sita reunite as the surviving Vanara soldiers dance in celebration of Ravana's defeat.


Note: The film does not include opening or end credits.

Staff role on the left, staff member's name on the right.



Weapons, vehicles, and races


Ramayana is believed to have been produced by Toho staff members in 1942.[1] The official website of screenwriter Kohan Kawauchi suggests that he wrote the film the previous year.[2] In a 2013 interview, Kawauchi also recalled that he wrote the screenplay under the guidance of Eiji Tsuburaya, whose special effects department he'd been assigned to.[1][4] The marionettes used in the film are accredited to Mofu Asano.[1] According to the 1978 book The History of Japanese Animation by Katsunori Yamaguchi and Yasushi Watanabe, both Asano and his younger brother Tatsumaro played an integral role in the film's completion.[1][6]


Main article: Ramayana/Gallery.


The full short, recorded from a
2003 Channel NECO broadcast


  1. The available copy of Ramayana opens with a card for "Toho Co., Ltd." (トウホウ カブシキカイシャ,   Tōhō Kabushiki Kaisha), a name which the company did not bear until December 10, 1943. Prior to then, it was known as Toho Eiga Co., Ltd. Furthermore, the film's end card credits the "Japanese Film Distribution Company" (ニホンエイガハイキュウシャ,   Nihon Eiga Haikyū-sha) as a sponsor. This is ostensibly referring to the Film Distribution Corporation, a company that distributed numerous Toho films and which only existed from February 6, 1942 to August 15, 1945.


This is a list of references for Ramayana. These citations are used to identify the reliable sources on which this article is based. These references appear inside articles in the form of superscript numbers, which look like this: [1]

  1. 1.00 1.01 1.02 1.03 1.04 1.05 1.06 1.07 1.08 1.09 1.10 1.11 1.12 1.13 Asano, Eiko (18 February 2020). "関西広域)太平洋戦争中の特撮人形劇映画、制作現場の写真見つかる 人形は浅野孟府作". Voice of Nara.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 "Chronology". kawauchi-office.jp. Retrieved 18 August 2022.
  3. "Ramayana - Japanese giant monster movie before Godzilla?". Classic Horror Film Board. Retrieved 4 June 2023.
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 Ishibashi, Harumi (22 October 2013). '60s Showa Special Effects Heroes Revived. ‎Cosmic Publishing. ISBN 978-4774758534.
  5. "July 2003". j-kinema.com. Retrieved 4 June 2023.
  6. 6.0 6.1 Yamaguchi, Katsunori; Watanabe, Yasushi (1978). The History of Japanese Animation. Yubunsha.


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