Toei Doga’s 1959 theatrical film SHONEN SARUTOBI SASUKE 少年猿飛佐助 (SASUKE, THE YOUNG SARUTOBI)(MAGIC BOY), was the company’s second animated feature, and the first to be released in the United States. This also marked Toei Doga’s first cinemascope anime venture as well.
A young boy Sasuke and his sister, Oyuu, live in the beautiful mountains of Shinano. The two are friends with all of the mountain animals, which included deers, bears, squirrels, and Japanese macaque monkeys. One day a giant eagle appears and takes a away a deer fawn. Sasuke and the fawn’s mother pursue the feathered beast to a mysterious dark lake. The fawn is dropped into the murky body of water where a monstrous salamander-like creature is lurking. During the attempted rescue the fawn is brought to safety but it’s mother is devoured. The salamander soon reveals itself to actually be an evil demon princess, Yasha Hime (Devil Woman). Easily beaten in a small skirmish against the witch, Sasuke needed to rethink the situation. Soon the story turns a little “Karate Kid” when Sasuke meets an old ninjutsu master, Tozawa Hakuunsai who teaches him martial art skills and most of all ninja magic. Meanwhile bandits join Yasha Hime, who go on to burn villages and even kidnap Sasuke’s sister. A young prince whose city was burned down, saves Oyuu so Sasuke can focus on defeating the evil witch. Sasuke and Yasha Hime finally engage in a pretty cool battle, evil witchcraft vs. ninja magic. It doesn’t get better than that.
The animation in this one is very smooth and flowing. This is apparent during scenes where characters are using magic. Fire and energy blasts pour from the characters like water. Again, like most of Toei Doga’s early efforts, pay close attention to the hand painted backgrounds. They highlight Japan’s beautiful countryside and mountainous regions. The visuals are treated like an art house live action film.