KakuRenBo: Hide & Seek (2004)

You know what can actually be really scary experience? Playing children's games. Really, think about back when you were a kid. Think about how the games often operate. Tag? A game where everyone is stalked and taken out one by one. Duck Duck Goose? A game about being taken from the safety of a group and pursued as you desperately try to escape your fate. But the scariest game of all? Hide and seek. It's literally a game where the fear can go both ways too, as it creates an environment of isolation. Whether you're the hider or the seeker there is one thing you all have in common: you're alone. And being alone can be a very scary thing.

Especially when you're not quiet as alone as you may seem to be.

I know that the idea of being alone is something that I have personally always found unnerving. There is strength in numbers, people who are there to watch out for you, who have your back. But when you're alone? It's just you...until it isn't. That's why I think the game of hide and seek is, at its core, probably the scariest childhood game that no one really thinks about as being scary. I guarantee you can think back to a kid who ended up getting scared during a game of it, crying loudly and forcing the game to end prematurely as the more caring kids came to check on them. I remember having to talk kids down after they got spooked in their hiding places. I also remember the feeling of being alone in a dark place, wondering if I was really alone.

There's a reason people fear the dark as children, as there can actually be things lurking there.
It's a very primal fear that affects children because they're not yet attuned to let go of those primal fears. But should we forget those fears? I'm not sure we should, honestly. Fear is healthy and it can be an important factor in staying alive. Fearlessness can easily lead to a very grisly end. I once heard someone say that true courage is doing something regardless of your fear, and I agree with that sentiment. I think being afraid is important as natural defense mechanism. why did I bring all of this about fear and children's games up? Because today's selection is all about those things.

Not to mention it has more fox masks than a furry sleepover.
Our story is about the gathering of eight children to play a game called Otokoyo, which translates to "man hunt". The idea is that the children must venture into a derelict city and follow these signs that light up, leading the way to the square where the game begins. The other thing to note though is that in this game of hide and seek, children disappear. It's an important plot point to, as it is the motivation behind two of the kids playing, Yaimao and Hikora. Yaimao is there to look for the missing children who never returned, while his friend Hikora is simply there to find just one child: his younger sister. Besides our two obvious leads, we have the twins, Inmu and Yanku, who never speak. Then there's the young thugs, Noshiga, Suku, and Tachiji. And fianlly, there's a girl who never speaks her name that Hikora notices resembles his sister.

Well, as much as someone can resemble someone while where a mask that obscures their face.
As the group gathers, the game begins, despite the fact that they are actually supposed to have only seven players. They all descend into the city and, rather than sticking together, split into small groups. Noshiga and his boys, the twins, and the two friends. Noshiga tries to act with bravado, like nothing could scare him, making it clear that his motivation here is simply to prove himself tough by taking part in the scary game of hide and seek. In this vein of thinking, he ends up tossing his weapon at a statue before his group leaves further down the tunnel-like street. Then the statue's eyes flicker to life, making it clear why kids disappear in this game. You see, this place has demons on the loose. That statue? Yeah, it's actually a demon called Kimotori, the Liver-Taker.

Judging by his name, we can assume he's not known for loving bacon.
For his general ass-hattery, Noshiga's group gets to be first on the list of kids too, as the Liver-Taker goes after them and ends up taking Tachiji while the other two flee. Soon after Suku also gets grabbed up and Noshiga hides like the scared child he really is until another demon finds him. This time it's Chitori, the Blood-Taker, and it can clearly smell him. Whether it's smelling his blood or the piss in his pants is up for debate, but the chubby coward takes flight only to discover the Liver-Taker is in the other direction. As a result of this, the Blood-Taker seemingly destroys the Liver-Taker when the two collide, but this doesn't save Noshiga as he ends up getting caught all the same.

Let's be honest here, we all knew these guys were living on borrowed time as soon as this started.
The twins end up running afoul of a pair demon twins called Aburatori, the Oil-Taker, and we basically get to see them being the more capable of the eight children as they run and fight off these twin demons who relentlessly pursue them. But, no matter how cool these twins are, they don't have main character powers and so we know their final stand against the demons will most likely end very badly. Especially since we see the Liver-Taker puts himself back together, making it clear that these demons are not capable of actually dying. Oh well, bye bye, twins.

You and your creepy glowing red eyes will be missed.
Back with the obvious main characters, we see them following the young nameless girl. Along the way they see a poster which shows the four varieties of demons but it also features a fifth in the center. They also join her as she watched one of the demons from the safety of the overhead area they currently occupy. But everything comes to a head when they ultimately reach the center of the city where they see all the various missing children hooked to strange machines. This includes the kids they came with, who are all hooked up in their own spots. It's also here where the final demon, Kotori, the Child-Taker leaps down to menace them and Yaimao tries to sacrifice himself. But it proves to be a useless act when the girl is seen to clearly be working with the demons and Hikora gets himself knocked out.

Don't let her cuteness deceive you, she's got a jackhammer in that left sleeve.
It's here that the truth becomes revealed when he awakes. The entire game exists to power the lights in the city, as the children are used as batteries. The only problem is that the lights don't stay on long enough as the children don't seem to provide enough of a charge, so they always need more. And the little girl is actually the lead demon, Oshira-sama, the Great White Lord. Basically, a nine-tailed fox demon who possesses the body of one child to lure the others into the city. Which means Hikora was right about her resembling his sister, as it's pretty clear that she probably was before being possessed. How does the demon decide who to possess though? That's easy. Whoever wins the game. Guess who just won? That's right, big brother gets to take over. What happens to Sorincha, his sister, now that he's taken over? Well, perhaps she's dead. Maybe she's stuck into the battery supply. It's not really said, unless it shows her strapped in up there and I simply didn't notice. The film closes on the now possessed Hikora counting while a new group of children run to hide, showing the game begins once more in what is most likely an endless cycle.

Dead kids as far as the eye can see.
This movie was short, as it is actually a short film. But I wanted to talk about it because I actually do think it is a very creepy little film too. It takes something we always thought of as an innocent childhood experience and it really dissects it, showing you how scary it really can be. Sure, we don't have demons chasing us when we played as kids, but there was still the possibility of something lurking there in our periphery. Some sinister presence that might take advantage of the innocence of youth and bend it to its own will. In a way, this entire film feels like an allegory for the true horror of child abductions hidden within an animated film. It's the sort of thing I think we adults fear more than children do, because kids often think themselves invincible. But that feeling is always fleeting and all it takes is for something bad to happen and that invincibility crumbles. Noshiga may be the best example of this, as he caves in to the fear when faced with the first demon. He's no longer the tough kid, he's just another frightened child who wants to escape a nightmarish situation.

The only thing escaping is whatever is in his bowels though, because there's no way he didn't shit himself.
I enjoyed this and I think it has a lot more to it than you might realize at first. Sure, it's a creepy little short film that is fun to watch as part of the Halloween festivities, but it's also the story of children being stalked and drained of their life. This is a story about demons killing a group of children who believed they could handle a game of hide and seek. It doesn't take place in a cabin in the woods, but rather in the heart of a city. I think you should give this a watch if you're looking for something a little different. And don't worry, what's in the dark won't get you...until it does. Later days, bleeders.

Also, be careful who you travel with. Just saying, they might turn out to be a horrible fox demon.