Kakurenbo: Hide & Seek - Mania.com

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  • Audio Rating: A-
  • Video Rating: A+
  • Packaging Rating: N/A
  • Menus Rating: B+
  • Extras Rating: A
  • Age Rating: 13 & Up
  • Region: 1 - North America
  • Released By: Central Park Media
  • MSRP: 19.98
  • Running time: 25
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Kakurenbo: Hide & Seek

Kakurenbo: Hide & Seek

By Brett Barkley     September 07, 2005
Release Date: October 11, 2005

Kakurenbo: Hide & Seek
© Central Park Media

What They Say
Ready or not…here they come

There is a street where no one lives, where ghostly lights flicker in the shadows. It is whispered that children who play hide-and-seek there after dark are kidnapped by demons…and disappear forever. Tonight, a boy named Hikora joins the game in search of his missing sister. Eight children gather. The street lamps flare though no one is there to light them. The game…and the terror…are about to begin!

The Review!
Haunting. Beautiful. Tragic. Brilliant. Recommended.

The Audio presentation for KakuRenBo is available in two options: English with Sign Subtitles and Japanese with English subtitles. Both are presented in Dolby 5.1. Between the two audio options, it is difficult to decide a clear winner as there is little distinction in quality. In this case, it simply comes down to viewer preference. Whether you prefer listening to KakuRenBo in the original or the dubbed audio tracks, both are nicely done and neither will detract from the viewing experience. Though I would have liked a bit more distinct play in the back speakers, KakuRenBo makes good use of them. In all, I found the sound to be very satisfying, with no problems.

Presented in its original 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen, KakuRenBo was made for the widescreen. I personally never had the opportunity to see this on the silver screen, but I imagine it had to be breathtaking. Because of the format, and to best reconstruct the original theatrical format the creators intended, I strongly suggest this film be viewed on a widescreen television, the bigger the better. The Film's transfer is among some of the best. I've not yet found anything that detracts in any way. I honestly don't believe you will be disappointed in this film's video.

No packaging view can be done due to this being a check disc.

Featuring a brief animated montage of clips from the film preceded by the suggestion (warning?), IT IS BEST TO PLAY KAKURENBO IN THE DARK, the menu centers on a eerily lit CG alley from the film. In the distance, just down the alley, two children run past at regular intervals. There is no music, the only sounds a strange, irregular sort of breathing and a constant electric buzzing. Occasionally, as we catch glimpses of them, we also hear the children's footsteps. In atmosphere alone, the KakuRenBo menu does a great job of conveying the mood of the piece. The title, "KakuRenBo" and translation, "Hide and Seek" are found in the upper right corner. The menu options of Play, Set-Up, Chapters, Extras, and Previews are arrayed in much smaller type at the bottom left. Though simply designed, I found the mood and functionality of the menu to serve as great opening and teaser for the film.

KakuRenBo features a large assortment of extras. From a Backgrounds Gallery which features stills of some of the beautifully designed and rendered backgrounds found throughout the film, interesting Interviews with Director Shuhei Morita (which is strangely listed as "Syuhei Morita" in the Extras menu) and Designer Daisuke Sajiki, a Character Gallery, the US trailer, Original Japanese teaser, and Original Japanese Trailer to the standard CPM DVD and Graphic Novel previews, KakuRenBo has a great deal to offer the viewer, these Extras definitely add value to the viewing experience. Of these, the Making of KakuRenBo with Commentary is by far the largest and I found it to be perhaps the most interesting. Featuring the movie in three separate screens (final release version, storyboards, and 3D-CG structures, or CG Preview), the commentary offers insights from both Mr. Morita and Mr. Sajiki in a format more similar to a free-flowing interview session. This particular aspect gave a great deal of insight in to the creative process behind the film in specific and Studio Yamatoworks in general.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain
When I initially began the review for KakuRenBo, I was a little disappointed to learn it was only twenty-five minutes in length. My initial concern was there could be no way to build character, story and conflict enough to really accomplish all the movie strives to do. Please pay close attention when I say: DO NOT LET THE LENGTH CONCERN YOU. KakuRenBo is rare in anime in that it so easily accomplishes what the best short literary fiction provides. It builds a very unique and enveloping world, creates breathing characters and lifelike interactions, and a very real and palpable tension. The film does all of this, while employing absolutely gorgeous CG animation, moody coloring, and brilliant character designs to expand the power of the story itself.

Kunio Yanagida is considered by many to be the father of the study of Japanese folklore. It is no small surprise, considering how KakuRenBo makes deft use of the rich folklore of Japan, that the film opens with the following quote from Mr. Yanagida's Yama no Jinsei (Life in the Mountains): "I never play hide-and-seek at night, even in the bustling streets of Tokyo. If you do, you will be taken away by demons."

KakuRenBo opens on a group of boys as they set out to play a secret game called O-to-ko-yo in a strange, deserted town. Basically a game of hide and seek, O-to-ko-yo is played at night and with only two rules: Seven children must find their way, following the neon markers, to O-to-ko-yo square; and all must wear a fox mask to play. The creepy alleys and streets that grow strangely brighter as the streetlights flare inexplicably, the fact the town appears to be deserted but somehow well-maintained, and the rumors that children who play the game are never heard from again, serve only to draw the boys to the secret game. However, Hikora, KakuRenBo's protagonist has come for a different reason. He has come in search of his sister, Sorincha, who has recently gone missing after she played O-to-ko-yo in the foreboding streets and alleyways of the town.

Once the seven masked kids, all strangers except for Hikora and his best friend Yaimao, find their way to O-to-ko-yo square, they are joined by a final, eight member; a small girl, also wearing a fox mask. The game begins as the doors to a hidden section of the city swing open. A neon sign marks this as, "Demon City." Immediately, the kids separate in to groups, going their own way, not exactly certain of what to expect. Convinced the girl that joined their party earlier could be Sorincha, Hikora and Yaimao try to catch her, but as she continually remains just out of their reach, and as the strange statues throughout the Demon City seem to come to life, the game takes on a truly terrifying aspect.

With the recent surge of popularity of Asian horror in the West, KakuRenBo is certain to find its fans of the genre in North America. And with good reason. One of the aspects of Asian horror that differentiates it from Western horror is the inescapable consequence of the encounter with evil. The characters won't often be able to discern a genuine reason for the evil,for the harm that befalls them. Sometimes terrible things happen without a reason. Furthermore, the Asian horror genre doesn't necessarily subscribe to the Western notions of a happy ending. In these regards, KakuRenBo fulfills the criteria of the genre and, I believe, could actually stand to gain larger recognition in the U.S.

The sounds and music of KakuRenBo truly add to the experience and do not, in any way, disappoint. The music itself is somewhat evocative of a traditional Japanese sound, seemingly drawing from Buddhist chants. The effect is very noticeable, as the soundtrack gives the impression that there is something far bigger, an undercurrent much more powerful than what is initially most evident on-screen. The sound effects are equally well done. From the constant buzzing of the lights overhead, to the sounds of sneakers on the dirty concrete underneath, the world of KakuRenBo pulses with a vitality fully realized in the sound work.

KakuRenBo employs some of the most beautiful CG animation around. The art is simply breathtaking. From the gorgeous and unique architecture, the moody atmospherics, the incredible lighting (There are some truly beautiful lightning effects, very realistic neon lights, and haunting incandescent bulbs throughout the environment), to the brilliant character models and movements, this is a film that manages to retain the look of traditional hand-drawn manga cell animation, but pushes it toward a realm of realism that I found to be truly impressive. I would strongly urge the viewer to pay close attention to the characters as they tremble, to note their hair and the cloth as the individuals move.

In the eight children featured in KakuRenBo, Mr. Saijiki has created very interesting and instantly recognizable designs. In a short piece such as this, the sooner the viewer can recognize the characters, the sooner he or she will care about them. Through a strong sense of design that brilliantly conveys personality and actually encourages the viewer to care, to seek to learn more about them, these characters quickly become real. Mr. Saijiki uses the fox masks themselves donned by the children to further express the inner personality. It is in the twins, Inmu and Yanku this is most evident. Their masks, one side dark, the other light, their eyes darker, more mysterious than the other kids', betray something dark within. And while we never hear them speak, their design gives grounding to their actions and it makes sense for their characters. To have accomplished so much in character development, without relying on simple clichés, is truly a credit to the ability of Studio Yamatoworks.

In Summary:
If KakuRenBo is any indication of what Yamatoworks is capable of, I'm very much looking forward to any future releases. I found KakuRenBo to brilliantly handle the Japanese folk story, with a new and interesting twist for the 21st century. The script and dialogue was sharp, quick and concise, the art was simply beautiful. Despite any initial concerns with the length of the film, I believe this is one that will stay with you. I very highly recommend KakuRenBo.

Japanese Language,English Language,English Subtitles, Making of Kakurenbo with Commentary, Interviews with Creators Morita and Sajiki, Character Gallery, Backgrounds Gallery

Review Equipment
34" Sony FD Trinitron Wega HDTV KD-34XBR910 and Sony Dav-FR9 progressive scan Home Theatre System with 114 watts per channel to each speaker and 115 watts to each of the subwoofer's two woofers.


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