Long before Naruto, American audiences met a ninja named Sasuke with MGM's 1961 release of anime movie Magic Boy aka Shōnen Sarutobi Sasuke. The feature was directed by Akira Daikuhara, who also served as an animator of the first color anime movie and first to be released in America, Hakujaden -The Tale of the White Serpent. Recently, the animator who saw the shaping of modern anime passed away.
Daikuhara, who passed away June 19th at the age of 94, has been called by Anime Encyclopedia author Jonathan Clements in a new obituary "the animator who was as old as anime itself."
Leading up to World War II, Akira Daikuhara worked with the Navy to make information films and propaganda. He later had hand in the production of the first post war anime, Sakura (1946) and signed on for what became Toei Animation. In the era when movies were the focus of the industry, he worked on the classics Shōnen Sarutobi Sasuke, Hakujaden -The Tale of the White and Osamu Tezuka's Alakazam the Great.
When Tezuka left Toei to revolutionize anime with Astro Boy and shift to anime production for television, Daikuhara followed the changing in the industry, working on Toei's Astro Boy rival show Wolf Boy Ken.
Clements says of Daikuhara's technique:
He pioneered what he called mangateki kocho or “cartoonish exaggeration,” which manifested decades later in the animated business as “super-deformation.” Conversely, he also strove elsewhere for more realism, such as on Toei’s Adventures of Sinbad(1962) for which he used live-action footage of the young martial artist Shinichi ‘Sonny’ Chiba as a base for the hero’s fighting sequences.