When most people think of anime, they think of either traditional 2D animated or 3DCG animated series or films. However, the medium of animation (let alone Japanese animation) is virtually unlimited in the breadth of materials and techniques one can use to produce dazzling works of artistry and expression. Case in point: This ridiculously dope stop-motion short about a pissed-off wood carver-turn-samurai who goes full-on “Lone Wolf and Cub” on an small army of ninjas before busting out an arm-mounted chainsaw à la Ash from Evil Dead and carving them into pulp.
The 5-minute short film, titled “Hidari,” was published on YouTube on Wednesday. Written and directed by Masashi Kawamura, the creative director of the Japan-based advertising company Whatever Co., the short was created as a proof-of-concept film for Kawamura’s true goal: To produce a feature-length stop motion fantasy action movie inspired by the life of Jingoro Hidari, a renowned 17th century sculptor whose life is otherwise shrouded in mystery. Inspired by his sculptures, the short reimagines Hidari as a carpenter who, after having been betrayed by his colleagues and losing his right arm, becomes an absurdly skilled swordsman who embarks on a decades-long quest for retribution.
“We wanted to explore the potential of stop-motion using wooden puppets,” Kawamura says in a behind-the-scenes video published alongside Hidari. “We tried to push the boundaries of what’s possible by drawing inspiration from the thrilling action of [cel-animated Japanese animation].”
Though a music video and commercial director by trade, Kawamura has always dreamed of producing a feature-length stop-motion film from a young age, citing animators like Ray Harryhausen (1981’s Clash of the Titans), Kihachiro Kawamoto (1982’s Romance of the Three Kingdoms), and Phil Tippett (Star Wars, Mad God) as early inspiration on his career as an animator.
All of the puppets and the majority of props in Hidari are made of wood, carved by Japanese stop-motion studio Tecarat (Gon The Little Fox) and animated by dwarf studios, known for their work on such anime as Rilakkuma and Kaoru, Beastars, and Oni: Thunder God’s Tale. On top of that, the short film’s set designer Yoshihiro Nose revealed that the set itself was built out of wood from an actual Edo-period wood warehouse.
Kawamura and co. have launched a Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign alongside the short in order to generate funds to produce a feature-length version of Hidari, with a projected release date of 2028. Interest appears to be substantive, with over $4,000 of the campaign’s $14,510 goal already generated within hours of the pilot short’s release. In any case, at the very least we have this sick-ass stop-motion samurai short to gawk at.