Occult mystery stories have always been a staple for campfire gatherings and time slot 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 a purpose 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" spot. Rather, what this "animated" short offered was a fairly decent time-passer as an intermission break before you take on your next show.
Told in a quasi-memoir like structure, the story is a series of anthology-like tales, 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 the country. Sharing a personal life-altering encounter with these monsters, a majority of the story is dedicated to not only putting an end to the monsters' destruction but to also unravel Banba's past as well.
One thing that will 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 cutouts, which are masqueraded onscreen like a puppeteer collage. For most series, this type of art-style might be seen as a detriment to the show, but for a short that tackles horror mystery stories, it's a very appropriate choice. It gives everything an ominous vibe with its decrepit look, which helps to build a new layer of suspense and dread to its atmosphere and setting. Of course, you'll have those individuals that immediately say "it's shit" for not following convention, but for those who like anime that diversify its style and art direction, it can serve as a breath of fresh air. It isn't bad, just different.
Another noteworthy thing is the monster design themselves; borrowing elements from traditional Japanese folklore, as well as aspects of European fairy tales. It helps give each monster a distinct look that's uniquely its own, as well as keeping the design lineup fresh for the viewers.
What was a bit underwhelming, however, was the music selection, which was virtually nonexistent. Outside of sound effects and the ending theme song, there was nothing there to pull from. It's a missed opportunity to really heighten the material, given that well-timed music is often instrumental in crafting a far more compelling atmosphere. While the art held up on its own, the music could have helped elevate it further, but that sadly wasn't the case.
Kagewani wasn't a series that I was rushing out to see every week, but at the same time, it wasn't one that ever bothered me either. It was short enough to keep me entertained without becoming tedious. The interesting art choice and visual aesthetic helped to keep me engaged and it served well as a break between watching other shows.
While it had its issues and doesn't go beyond being a novelty act, It did well enough given 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, given the quick run-time. It's short, to the point, and gets the job done, and at the end of the day, that's all that really matters.