A YouTuber described Kokurenbo: Hide & Seek as a “really scary anime film where children are being killed”. That about sums this one up, or you could choose “surprisingly chilling 25-minute short”. I chose to watch the subbed version after lasting ten seconds of over-affected English dub. I can read.
I’m still slowly making tracks in my anime travels, so I’ll say that the elseworld/bizarre-society-style plot echoes some firm favourites like Shingkei no Kyojin. It’s set in a small city that’s known for playing the world’s weirdest version of Hide & Seek. Only the children can play. In fact, they have to play, and they’re required to wear fox masks for the entire duration. And they’re being hunted and killed by some pretty terrifying-looking ancient demons.
Main character Hikora, with the help of friend Yaimao, and a sets out to play the game in order to find his sister Sorincha, who disappeared playing one of the previous games. As the game needs seven, five other characters with their own reasons, also play, and what follows is a taut cat-and-mouse chase as gigantic, fanged monsters “seek” a group of frightened young kids in expressionless fox masks amid the ruins of a literal ghost town.
The animation is gorgeous, and character movements beautifully fluid. The demon design is suitably blood-curdling, but much of the tension is undercut by the drawn-out chases and silent, expressionless faces of the children. Voice acting is great, but as a non-native speaker, I can’t comment on the quality of the subtitles. Ending was a wee bit anti-climactic, bordering on telegraphed, but this was made back in 2005, which seems like worlds away. From what I caught of the English dub, there are some minor tweaks in dialogue, but the sub is more subdued (and, as a result, much creepier).
I watched on AnimePlus, but there’s a copy of the dub on YouTube (see below). Worth a look if you never again want to look at Hide & Seek the same way. Even though you’re a grown adult.
Anyone for a game of Hopscotch instead?