Kanini And Kanino

****

Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

Kanini And Kanino
"One of the best pieces of animation you'll see this year."

If there's one big challenge in representative art, it's water. It has taxed painters for centuries and, on film, the difficulty of scaling it has seen many an otherwise impressive piece of work come to a soggy end. Animation hasn't fared much better - until now. Whilst it's in computer games that the real breakthroughs were made, Kanini And Kanino represents the first use of the new technology on film. From the very first scene, it's breathtakingly beautiful.

This being a Japanese work - originally released as part of the anthology Ponokku Tanpen Gekijô: Chiisa Na Eiyû - the perfectly scaled photorealistic effect doesn't extend to the characters, who are cartoonish in the old sense. They're crab people - perhaps spirits or guardians of crabs, similarly sized and wearing armour made from pieces of crab shell. Our heroes are two children of this kind who, after their father is swept away, go in search of him, encountering many hazards en route. They may have been raised by a warrior but they're still very small compared to many of the denizens of the forest waterways. They will need all their courage to survive and fulfil their quest.

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The story, aimed at children between the ages of about five and nine, is simple but the film stands out for its visual imagination. It's not just the quality of the work involved but also the attention to detail that makes it remarkable. The shifting colours of the underwater landscape, the tiny particles drifting by and the dappled light tumbling down from the surface are diligently rendered scene by scene. The movement of the various fish is acutely observed. Hiromasa Yonebayashi has created a world that feels real but gives him absolute narrative control.

One of the best pieces of animation you'll see this year, Kanini And Kanino will doubtless be followed by many more films made using the same techniques, but it thoroughly deserves its moment in the spotlight and even in future years the craft involved in making it means it's likely to stand out.

Reviewed on: 29 Nov 2018
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Two crab children go searching for their missing father.

Director: Hiromasa Yonebayashi

Writer: Hiromasa Yonebayashi

Starring: Fumino Kimura, Rio Suzuki

Year: 2018

Runtime: 16 minutes

Country: Japan

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