Kakurenbo: Hide and Seek Review

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Plot: There’s a rumor going around that late at night, in a certain part of the city, you can follow mysteriously lit signs that read o-to-ko-yo. One sign for each symbol, leading children through the streets to play a game of hide and seek. Six children gather at the designated area wearing fox masks and start the game. Some say demons appear to take the children away, and some kids have indeed disappeared. In this game of hide and seek, who is ‘It’?

Breakdown: I’ll admit, this is an Animating Halloween leftover. I started watching it for the series and just never got around to watching the rest until now.

Shame, because this is a pretty damn interesting little horror anime. It’s not the scariest thing in the world, but it’s fairly creepy and has numerous creative aspects to it.

The movie itself is merely a 26 minute long short, including credits, so there’s not a lot of time to flesh out characters. However, you do get to know a decent amount of their personalities at least. It isn’t quite enough for me to feel too emotional when we get to the ending and several of them meet their fates, especially not the two twins who I could swear were demons themselves with their glowing red eyes. Really the only ones you have to worry about are Hikora and Yaimao. Hikora wanted to play the game because his sister, Sorincha, supposedly played the game a while back and has been missing ever since. Yaimao is his best friend, determined to help him find her.

While the big twist is indeed very creative and interesting, I can’t help but note that the rough idea of the end game was predictable. It’s obvious there’s something up with that girl. They even noted that there was seven people when there are only meant to be six. I won’t say anything beyond that, but it is a bit too easy to see where they’re going.

The absolute ending was more sad to me than scary, plus these kids are really friggin’ stupid to keep pursuing this mysterious game when kids are legitimately going missing. I know some are looking for their loved ones, like Hikora, but most are just curious.

The designs, and particularly sounds, of the demons were very creative and well-made. None were particularly horrifying, but they served their purposes well enough.

The art and animation are done in cel-shaded CGI, which takes a little bit to grow on you, but I believe it works pretty well given the environment they’re in. I think it kinda helps that all of the characters are wearing masks for the entirety of the movie, so we don’t have to see the usual odd CGI facial designs. I did enjoy the various versions of the fox mask as well.

Music is very well done, adding plenty of ambiance to the story.

Voice acting, Japanese, is very well done. Everyone emoted really well and seemed very fitting for their roles. I especially enjoyed ‘Sorincha’s voice work.

Bottomline: It’s an enjoyable little horror story that could easily be told around a campfire. It’s a tad on the predictable side, but it has a creative and unsettling enough ending to make up for it.

Rating: 8/10

Additional Information and Notes: Kakurenbo: Hide and Seek was written and directed by Shuhei Morita, who also directed Coicent and Tokyo Ghoul. It was produced by Comix Wave Films, and is available in English dub by Central Park Media.

Year: 2005

Runtime: 26 minutes

Recommended Audience: Children do die, but in very non-graphic ways. That’s about it. 10+

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