CftC: Kakurenbo

Today, we’re going to get a little more obscure with…

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Today, some kids put on creepy masks and go play hide-and-seek in a haunted town.

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Okay, it’s a bit more complicated than that…but not much…

Kakurenbo: Hide and Seek is a 2004 cel-shaded Japanese animated short film by Shuhei Morita, who later went on to give us Possessions and Tokyo Ghoul. The story primarily focuses on a boy named Hikora, as he searches for his missing sister in what looks like Tokyo Silent Hill.

You see, a bunch of kids played “Otokoyo” (Man Hunt) in an abandoned, industrial town and then never came back, so a bunch of other kids, creepily intrigued by the rumor, don fox masks and go into the town themselves…I guess to solve the mystery?

Because obviously that’s going to turn out so well.

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So blah blah blah loss and perversion of childhood innocence blah blah blah industrialization and overconsumption is bad blah blah blah I am the Lorax and I speak for the trees.

There is a lot to like and a lot to find average in this short.

First, the good:

  • The designs of the demons are awesome.

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  • The setting and designs make for some good, creepy visuals.

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  • The music and sound effects are off-putting. One song in particular sounds like it should be performed over some dark, ancient, druidic ritual.

And now, the bad:

  • The “twist ending” is fairly predictable, just as the symbolism is obvious. I feel like the director took his cues from The Matrix and every Japanese horror trope ever.
  • The English dub is awful. It’s not necessarily the fault of the voice actors, but the heavily-expositive dialogue and forced creepiness (cryptic girl giggling, for example) was a lot more passable in the Japanese version. Plus, at least one of the actors sounds too old for his character.
  • There are pretty much no characters to speak of, and you probably won’t remember most of their names either. Sadly, that is the pitfall of making a short vs. a full movie, so I can’t hold it too much against Morita. In my head, I personally remember the kids as (in order of the title picture all the way at the top, from the left) Mute Twin Red Herrings, Dan Green, Whiney, Samara, Lackey, Tubby, and IJGK (Inexplicable Japanese Ginger Kid, aka Kyle Broflovski).

All in all, it’s not a waste of 25 minutes. It’s a bit creative and different, especially to those who are new to Japanese horror. Other than the English dub, I don’t hate anything about it, but it’s definitely a bit too by-the-numbers as far as “creative horror stories” go.

I’ll happily watch it over any given Hollywood remake.

6/10

*All pictures, video clips, and other media belong to their respective owners, mostly Shuhei Morita and YamatoWorks. None of the images belong to me.

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