A video blogger attempts to fake cryptid sightings to boost his views, but gets more than he bargained for when his crew is slaughtered by a real monster. Elsewhere, students find themselves preyed upon by a sandworm-like beast, initiating a desperate struggle for survival on their own school grounds.
With more of these attacks from mysterious creatures occurring, researcher Sousuke Banba tasks himself with delving into the mystery. With nothing but the keyword "Kagewani" to lead him, he scours the sites of recent attacks in hopes of finding a lead to eradicating the creatures for good. However, Sousuke finds that these threats to humanity are even closer to home when the pharmaceutical company, Sarugaku, starts to encroach on his investigation.
Occult mystery stories have always been a staple for campfire gatherings and time-slotted entries for the SyFy channel. It's not the most "enthralling" thing out there, but for the sake of offering cheap thrills, some goosebump moments, and something to whet the appetite, I think it serves its purpose well in pop culture. Kagewani is a title that pretty much follows this rubric down to the letter. It isn't going to "waw" you with any pioneering ideas, nor will it find itself in your coveted "top 10 favorites" list. Instead, what this "animated" short offer is a fairly decent time-passer, serving as an intermission break
before you take on the next show that you truly want to watch.
Told in a quasi-memoir like structure, the story of Kagewani was comprised of a series of anthology-like fables, where we find ourselves following Sousuke Banba, a scientist (or better yet, a supernatural detective), as he investigates the trail of carnage left behind by mysterious monsters that populate Japan. Sharing a personal life-altering encounter with these monsters, a majority of the story was dedicated to not only putting an end to the monsters' destruction but also exploring the backstory of Banba as well.
The first thing that would immediately grab your attention is the uncommon art-style that Kagewani incorporates. Similar to another occult mystery anime, Yami Shibai, the art-style is akin to that of cardboard cutout paper-mache collages. Images that move across the screen like a puppeteer pulling strings. In most cases, this type of art-style may feel out of place, but for an anthology series that basically uses folklore to tell tales of strange happenings across Japan, the choice is perfectly at home. It gives everything an ominous vibe, a type of uncanny valley effect to the way everything moves and looks, which helps compensate for the lack of atmosphere not allotted to it otherwise. Of course, you'll have those individuals that immediately say that the show "is shit" for not following convention, but for those who like anime that diversify its style and art direction, it can serve as a unique entry. It isn't bad, just different.
Another noteworthy thing is the monster design themselves; borrowing elements European fairy tales and merging it with Japanese kaiju designs to create interesting hybrids. As in the case of the art-style, these ugly monstrosities help out where the audiovisual output was lacking.
Surprisingly enough, the music selection was virtually nonexistent. Outside of a few sparse sound effects here and there, and the ending theme song itself, there was very little here of note. Usually, shorts like these utilize music to help build its atmosphere, so seeing how little Kagewani took advantage of this chance to really up the creep factor was a bit disappointing.
But this wasn't a series I really had much investment in, to begin with, so not like it mattered all that much.
While it had its issues and doesn't go beyond being a novelty act, Kagewani did well enough under the time restraint and limited material it had to work with. It's not a title that you will probably remember in the long run, but I say it's still worth a try. It's short, to the point, and gets the job done, and at the end of the day, that's all that really matters.
I always had bad experiences so far with 7 minutes long Animes. Those encountered were always rushed, senseless or ridiculous and build around fanservice, so I had the tendency to avoid them. When I came across Kagewani, I wanted to test it out not only for its unique art style, but because it was tagged as horror.
What struck me with the very first episode is the mastering of the pacing. Writing a scheme properly within mere 7 minutes isn't as simple as it may sound. On the contrary, to settle down
every key points properly, without rushing it, to have a slow build up that brings you to the tension point, isn't at all something I would have ever thought doable in so little time. And yet they succeed at 13 times in a row. Just for that I give them a giant cookie.
But then, I can understand why this type of pacing would be frustrating for others. Slow pacing and 7 minutes might appear contradictory.
The stories, separately aren't exceptional, but they use the ancient codes and tropes of horror properly. (I say "ancient", because, no, modern horror doesn't work the same way and modern vs ancient expectations are easy to tend to clash together) Together, however, yes, they do bear a sort of "brilliance" by reusing and reactualizing various types of fears (among one single spectrum : monsters/creatures of legends/folklore), each episode focusing on one specifically.
Another thing worthy to note is the execution of the iconisation and gigantism of the various monsters. In a time where proper iconisation seems to be rare, Kagewani, is once again, able to do it 13 times.
My only real regrets with this show is how, with the last episode, it shifts from horror to supernatural, but I remain curious to see the rest.
Do you know the word "grotesque" ? No, not in the "ridiculous" meaning - though the art plays against the show in the first episodes with ridiculous animations which discredit the tension of the show ; thankfully, it improves through the episodes - the style, more specifically when coming to monsters. I won't give you a definition, looking at the show is the quickest way for you to know.
Combined with this style you can find two other styles : drawn-over photographies and more classical drawings.
The animation is an in-between anime and manga (there isn't any illusion of movements like you would usually find in an anime, but it isn't static as in a manga). Be it the presence of three distinctive styles or the animation, it can be rather repelling or create a certain dissonance. Ironically enough, it only participates as a reinforcement of horror. Well, ancient horror.
In that aspect....having a 7 minutes long show is rather smart. It doesn't try developing its characters, and it isn't the slightest necessary for what it is attempting to be nor should it as it would be an incredible loss of time for something so short.
A single chara is attempted to be more fleshed out, the recurrent Banba Sousuke (that name is ridiculous XD). There's nothing much to say about it. It occurs later in the show and there's very little offered in the end. Only the next season, if it comes out, can give a more valid view but even then, too much shouldn't be expected, not in a negative way, but by simply remembering in front of what you are.
The people who did this had guts. Daring producing an old-fashioned horror fiction with such a different art style is a bet in itself, reuniting with "horror" and "grotesque" in their primal forms. Sadly, if we consider its rather low reception, they partly lost it. Which, in my opinion is a shame, but at the same time, not surprising. I can only wish for them to have just enough success to make a sequel or to be more precise, that the sequel won't be cancelled.
I am aware this review has a rather formal approach of the show, but I felt it was necessary to bring it some justice ; and it was the form that entertained me the most.
Welcome, to the start of horror anime month. Where most of the series I review will undoubtedly have the horror tag, not because they're scary in any way, but because they have monsters. Kagewani is a thirteen episode series that was written by Kumamoto Hiromu and brought to us by Tomovies. You may not recognise the studio name and wonder what else they've done. Well, there's this and its currently airing sequel. That's it. The studio is really new. How does their initial venture into anime production hold up? Let's take a look.
Kagewani follows Professor Judas Traveller*, a crypto-zoologist. You probably think of cryptozoology as
that field where a bunch of people with no credibility waste time trying to find fictional creatures which it is, in reality. But this is a work of fiction and, in the world of Kagewani, those fictional creatures actually exist. Virtually every episode covers a different encounter someone has with a cryptid while Judas observes or listens to the story without actually contributing anything, except for a few isolated cases where he actually does something.
The biggest issue with Kagewani is that it attempts to be suspenseful horror but it fails miserably on both accounts. Each episode is under eight minutes long and they cover different cases, which doesn't allow for any suspense to be built up. We also see the monsters right away in most episodes, which is also detrimental to the suspense. The horror aspects also fail. Most of it is just based around goofy looking monsters chasing people we know nothing about and don't have any investment in seeing come out okay. We also have an underlying story about the titular kagewani and it fails about as badly as the one-shot stories. The series also suffers from characters gaining knowledge they shouldn't have. The big example being the wampa*1 episode and the person its chasing escaping because she somehow knows how its vision works. I guess she looked at the script.
About the best thing I can say about the series is that it's actually kind of funny. It's like Corpse Party or Galerians in that it's so egregiously incompetent that a lot of the “horror” moments just come across as laughable. If the series was a deliberate parody of B horror films, it would actually be pretty decent.
*Yes, I know that isn't his actual name but it amuses me to call him that.
*1 I know it's really supposed to be a yeti, but either one is fictional so it doesn't really matter.
The characters are a big part of why the series fails. In order for suspense horror to work, we as the audience need to have some level of investment in the characters and their well being. In this series we get thirty seconds with a character, if that long, before they're being chased by some monster or other. None of them come across as complex, interesting or fleshed out. We don't care what happens to them because they're like the generic background characters with no real personality that show up once from an action-oriented shounen series that runs for hundreds of episodes. Judas Traveller isn't any better. He's just a generic obsessed dude who's mostly relegated to the background where he can watch events unfold without actually contributing to them. The Precure they added in Max Heart was more developed as a character and she was the very model of a modern mundane magical girl.
The art is a big reason for the series' unintentional comedy. It's at Spider-man and his Amazing Friends levels of the studio just not caring. The animation is janky. The characters look like badly made paper dolls. The posing is frequently really unnatural. Did the studio literally give every episode the animation budget of a convenience store boxed lunch?
The performances in this are quite flat. I can't really blame the actors. They cast some good ones. I think the problem really does stem from the characters being duller than the original characters in a bad fanfic. The music isn't very good. It's not badly done, but it's just kind of weak.
There isn't any. Having ho-yay would necessitate that the characters have strong enough interactions and personalities for chemistry. Which they don't.
Kagewani is an incompetent series. Like Galerians and Corpse Party, it fails miserably at what it's actually trying to do. But, like those series, I kind of recommend it for the unintentional humour. Still, I have to give it a 2/10. Next week we'll continue this year's horror anime month with Danganronpa 3: The End of Kibougamine Gakuen Mirai-hen & the sequel special Kibou-hen. Look forward to that and maintain your fabulousity.
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them: The Anime.
Kagewani probably wouldn't leave much of an impression with its first episode.The animation is very janky with everyone and everything moving awkwardly, and there's nothing in its narrative set-up that suggests it would be something more than overly repetitive vignette of 'random silly people getting offed by monster of the week'. However, it does feel like it ups its execution for every episode afterward, ultimately becoming a net positive experience for fans of this particular sub-genre.
The animation (which could be aptly described as something like motion comic) eventually gets easier on the eyes, along with
the choreography. There's enough variety of setting, beasts, and the way the characters react and try to outsmart them in each vignette to maintain my interest and keep me on the edge of my seat. I'm also satisfied by the level of storyboarding overall, with most episodes making effective use of its 7-minute runtime. The atmosphere is spot on, the many voice actors sound appropriately tense/frightened/determined, and suspense tends to be nicely built up leading to the climactic money shots—the definitive moments of the series where the camera reveals the featured beast in its full glory and monstrosity.
I may have fallen from my seat a few times while watching. Maybe it’s just the creaky chair, though.
The show's format does make the attempt at overarching plot suffer a bit. Main character Sousuke Banba and his mysterious vibrating scar don't really have anything interesting to do until around the last three episodes or so, and there are times when the end of an episode doesn't transition well to the next one plot-wise. The ending itself is pretty nice, although it also left a few questions hanging in the air and tantalizing tease for a second season (which I'm not sure is coming, but I'm hopeful).
Kagewani's a definite recommendation for anyone with slightest interest in kaijuu/cryptids/mythical monsters, and it's also worth a few episodes' try for others who wouldn't be scared away by its general format and animation style.
The spring season is coming and you don't want to be left behind before it's even become. Now is the best time to get all caught up on the anime that have sequels airing next season so you can join in on the hype.