gangu shuriya/hakubun

rating
4.5*/5.0*
directed by
hakubun
produced in
2002
trailer

Why is it, in times of internet and mass communication, that so many awesome things still slip through the cracks? Gangu Shuriya (Toy Re-animator) is such an example. A short Japanese fantasy tale about a toy repairman who can repair everything you bring him, as long as you tell him exactly in what state you want it returned. Based on a popular novel, director Hakubun tries his best to capture the mystical story without letting it slip into a true children's tale.

screen cap from Toy Re-animator

The concept of the film is pretty simple, with a mysterious (and somewhat distracted) toy repairman fixing everything he's brought. Sometimes parts get mixed and when live objects start finding their way to the toy repairman's doorstep things become interesting. The story develops itself in a pretty predictable way, but since the base idea is original enough this never becomes a real issue. The idea is neat enough to carry the film and little by little new bits of information are revealed to the viewer.

Visually, Toy Re-animator is a splendid film. The first half is pretty sweet, with many overexposed shots giving the film a very dreamy feel. Locations are pretty and detailed and reminded me of the earlier works of Jeunet, or even Kounen's Chaperon Rouge. There's also a lot of experimenting with fades and even some children's drawings to add some visual flair to the film.

Most notably though is the toy repairman itself, who is revealed halfway through the film. It's a bit hard to explain, but his appearance is almost impossible to grasp, as he keeps shifting and morphing. Whenever you feel like you get a grip on his figure, he starts to fade and blur again. A very special effect that really enhances the atmosphere of the film.

screen cap from Toy Re-animator

The soundtrack is decent, maybe little underwhelming but nice and soft. There are a few sparse moments where audio and visuals are blended to increase the effect of scenes, mostly pretty effective, but I guess they could've done a little more with that.

The film is nicely constructed, but it's the presentation that will convince you of the qualities of this film. It's a cute and interesting fantasy tale with a darker edge, never outstaying its welcome and leaving a fresh impression. The thing that sticks out the most is the incredible visualization of the toy repairman himself, one of the prettiest things I've seen in film this year. Warmly recommended, if you can find this film that is.

definitely worth buying