The Choju-jinbutsu-giga, literally “Animal-person caricatures”, is an outstanding collection of four scrolls from 12th and 13th-century Japan, and a fine example of art from the Fujiwara period. Currently stored in the Kyoto Kōzan-ji temple, the scrolls depict frogs, rabbits, and monkeys dancing, swimming, and talking as if they were human. Thanks to its linear monochrome drawing style attributed to Toba Sōjō, the work is credited by some as the oldest example of manga and Japanese animated movies.
The rolls, which contain no writing, were meant to criticize Japanese priests by comparing them to toads, monkeys, and rabbits. The animals, with their eloquent facial expressions, engage in human-like activities, and the story unfolds from right to left, according to Japanese tradition.
The first scroll is the most famous and also the largest, measuring 11 meters long and 30 centimeters wide. It begins with rabbits and monkeys bathing in a lake, while frogs make bows and arrows. More frogs and rabbits bring bowls to a celebration where two frogs are dancing. The scroll ends with a group of animals attending a funeral.