Sunday, October 25, 2015
KakuRenBo: Hide & Seek (2004)
There is a rumor among Tokyo kids of a game called Otokoyo, a version of hide and seek that is played in a abandoned square in the dead of night. Only seven kids all wearing the required fox masks are allowed to enter. However, the rumor says that any who play are taken away by the demons who supposedly stalk the city streets. A young boy named Hikora chooses to play for the sake of finding his sister, Sorincha, when she never came home from playing Otokoyo. Will Hikora be able to find his sister or will he suffer the same fate as all of the children who dare to play this dangerous game?
KakuRenBo or Hide & Seek, is a 25 minute cel shaded Japanese animated short film. The film was written and directed by Shuhei Morita with Daisuke Sajiki as lead designer. After it's initial release in September of 2004, the film was shown in multiple film festivals around the world. Most notably winning the award for the Most Notable Entry at the Tokyo International Anime Fair in 2005 and various Best Short films awards overseas.
KakuRenBo: Hide & Seek, is one of those films.
Though this short film is over a decade old now, I'm still impressed with what Morita and his dedicated team were able to put together with just a 25 minutes of animation. Both the atmosphere and mystery are the films major strong points, with amazing shots of this abandoned city district and how lights from the street lamps make the shadows much more ominous. The character designs for the kids and the demons were unique while keeping in line with certain anime tropes and Japanese folklore respectively.
Now I know here in the US that kids playing alone in a city at night is never a good idea regardless of lighting, but it is interesting to see a modern take on this childhood cautionary tale. First time foreign viewers may still be left a little confused by the abrupt ending, and horror fans may not get as many jump scares but KakuRenBo WILL make you feel very uncomfortable. The kind of scare that isn't all that obvious at first but sets in the more you think about it. Which, in my mind, is far creepier than any jump scare.
Horror film aficionados may walk away disappointed, but if you are an animation buff looking for a short film in the spirit of the season then look no further. KakuRenBo will leave you shivering as you contemplate the true horror behind this short film's ending.
KakuRenBo: Hide and Seek is available on DVD on Amazon and Netflix.