Japanese Folklore Meets Samurai Action in the Stop-Motion Hidari

The five-minute short, featuring hand-carved puppets and anime-inspired combat, is a pilot for a potential feature-length movie.

According to Japanese folklore, Hidari Jingorō was a woodcarver so skilled, his creations could come to life. Jealous of his amazing skills, Hidari’s rival artists cut off his right arm. Fortunately, Hidari was left-handed and could continue working. Some of Japan’s most famous statues and carvings have since been attributed to this 17th-century artist whose historicity remains a subject of debate.

Lack of historical evidence, however, didn’t stop Masashi Kawamura from drawing inspiration from the stories of Hidari and re-imagining him as a steampunk-esque samurai warrior. Since its release earlier this month, Kawamura’s highly stylized five-minute short has received considerable acclaim, and there’s potentially more to come. A Kickstarter campaign to fund a feature-length Hidari film has already raised more than twice its original goal.

Animation Obsessive interviewed Kawamura concerning the project’s genesis and inspiration and what it took to make the original Hidari short:

One-and-a-half years of production time. Over 60 staff members. Two Jingorō puppets, one Inumaru puppet, five henchmen puppets, one Inumaru robot, one sleeping cat puppet (with five motion-blur models) and one armchair dog puppet. Five filming stages. Fourteen scenarios (which ended up being cut down to mostly action scenes, to focus on the visual qualities more than the narrative for this pilot film). Lots of love, sweat, tears and sawdust.

Kawamura also discusses how he and his crew achieved the short’s distinctive “Japanimation”-inspired style thanks to a combination of camera trickery, multiple lenses, and lots of patience.

The Hidari team also released a behind-the-scenes video that delves deeper into the short’s production, from the intricate work that went into its hand-carved wooden puppets to its detailed set, which was built using wood actually taken from a 17th-century warehouse.

The Hidari Kickstarter campaign runs until April 25. Depending on their selected tier, backers can get their name in the film’s credits, receive signed artwork, or even get a piece of Hidari Jingorō himself.

Enjoy reading Opus? Want to support my writing? Become a subscriber for just $5/month or $50/year.
Subscribe Today
Return to the Opus homepage