1001 Nights and anime: The adaptation of transnational folklore in Tezuka Osamu’s Senya ichiya monogatari / A Thousand and One Nights (1969)
Van de Peer, Stefanie
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Van de Peer, S. (2021) 1001 Nights and anime: The adaptation of transnational folklore in Tezuka Osamu’s Senya ichiya monogatari / A Thousand and One Nights (1969). Open Screens (In Press).
Anthologising folktales from across the Middle East to North Africa, the inherently transnational 1001 Nights has become one of the most adapted works in the history of folklore (Zipes et al 2015). The tales have been adapted globally into works ranging from literature to theatre, from radio to film and animation. Historically, the 1001 Nights have served as inspiration for some of the very first animated experiments, from Lotte Reiniger’s The Adventures of Prince Achmed (1926) to the Fleischer Studios’ 1936 Popeye the Saylor meets Sinbad the Sailor. One of the influences of the 1001 Nights can be found in Japanese culture (Nishio and Yamanaka, 2006). First translated into Japanese in 1875, the 1001 Nights quickly went on to take a hold of Japanese literature, and more recently it has become the basis for numerous manga and anime adaptations. This article investigates how one Japanese adaptation, Osamu Tezuka’s Senya Ichiya Monogatari (dir. Eiichi Yamamoto, 1969), expands the transnational potential of the original. In exploring how the 1001 Nights have become and remain integral to a transnational repertoire of animated storytelling, we highlight the elasticity and transnationality of 1001 Nights and the impact of its cultural localisation. We argue that the original’s structural and thematic emphasis on journeys, quests and flows provides the Japanese filmmakers with content that allows them to reach out to international distributors, making this early ‘anime’ film transnational in its own right. Through such means, the reciprocal flows of transnationalism within the 1001 Nights and its adaptations offer a mechanism for rethinking the relationship among Middle Eastern, North African and Japanese storytelling as a sometimes shared folklore.