Deep in the mountains a youth sets out on a hunting trip at the end of which he will be regarded as a man among his tribe. Contemplating the many lessons his father had taught him over the years he has to overcome various obstacles, from blizzards to avalanches before he can finally face a monstrous animal.
Kiyotaka Oshiyama has worked with many animation studios such as Studio Ghibli and Madhouse and has recently started his own production company. As the text on the homepage of Fantasia Filmfest says “Shishigari” is supposed to be a kind of calling card for the director and his newfound company. Apart from its talent in the directing chair it also features a score by Kenji Kawai, who also made the music for such iconic feature like “Ghost in the Shell”.
In general, if “Shishigari” is indeed meant as a calling card, it truly is an impressive show of skills. Apart from the beautiful animation, the overall design of the feature supports the themes of transition and isolation which are at the core of the short film. The relationship of man and nature is ambiguous as the snowy landscape can be both idyllic and tranquil while also posing unforeseen dangers at every corner. Even though the protagonist knows how to hunt this is the true test of his skills, his final examination which he is determined to pass.
At the same time, the repeated image of the father accompanying his son is quite powerful. Although you never know whether he is really there or not, just an illusion as the result of exhaustion and sleeplessness, Oshiyama highlights this emotional bond, thus making the hunt also a way to get closer to the unreachable father figure, to impress him. However, as the boy realizes the text is also a means to finally become independent.
“Shishigari” is a wonderfully animated, excellently scored short animated feature. In a little over 15 minutes it provides a story of initiation, of becoming independent and a the great drama of a young man surviving in the face of many perils.