In one line : A hommage to the old horror genre.
Initial expectation :
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.