2004 saw the release of Shuuhei Morita’s cel-shaded anime short, Kakurenbo: Hide & Seek. The film is based around “Otokoyo”, a game of hide and seek played by children, wearing fox masks, near the ruins of an abandoned old city. The children who play this disappear, believed to be spirited away by demons. Kakurenbo follows Hikora, a boy who joins the game with hopes of finding his missing sister, Sorincha.

A cleverly written, suitably dark little tale of only 30 minutes in length, which seeks to highlight the idea that the industrialization of Tokyo is coming at a cost in terms of its natural aesthetic, for example, the lighting of Tokyo is taking away a once innocent childhood game. Given the short run time, Shuuhei produces an excellent script and wastes nothing as he masterfully tells the story he wants to be told, weaving in a very unexpected twist in the tale of what is a decidedly scary little story.

On the animation front, the cel-shaded computer graphics are superb (apart from the missing fingernails on the characters, a detail that really is off-putting). Characters, demons and locations are beautifully rendered, capturing the necessary tone and shading to perfection. Likewise, the music is haunting and melodic, filling the gaps in the narration beautifully, and deftly picking up the tempo when the need arises. Also, the voice actors all do their work admirably, resulting in a polished production that both looks and sounds very good.

Overall, Kakurenbo: Hide & Seek is a very well made and well told story, that engages you as a viewer and sucks you in, making you completely oblivious of the 30 minutes that just seem to rush by in the blink of an eye. This story about disappearing children is certainly not everyone’s cup of tea and you can’t come to this one expecting a laugh or two, but it is most definitely a brilliant example of just how one can properly capture a darker tone using the relatively underused cel-shaded animation techniques combined with a clever short story.

Related Link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kakurenbo