Kakushigoto Theatrical Edition is exactly what is says on the tin: A re-edit of the TV anime of the same name that has been condensed to function as a feature film. As such, it has exactly the same premise of the original television series, which is all spelled out in the title. If you’re not familiar with the original show that this movie is stitched together from, you might have read that summary up there and thought that such a setup must make for a very broad slapstick sitcom, and you’d be right! Mostly, at least.
What might shock the uninitiated who sit down to experience the theatrical version of this story is how beautifully it is animated and directed, especially with the scenes that feature a now-grown Hime going to confront her father’s secret once and for all, which act as a kind of frame story for all of the flashbacks to her childhood with Kakushi that make up the bulk of the story. Hime’s narration, courtesy of actress Rie Takahashi, is wistful and more than a little melancholy, which gives you the impression that you might have accidentally gotten the goofy comedy mixed-up with a touching coming-of-age drama. Even without whatever touch-ups might have been done for this movie, director Yūta Murano and Aija-do Animation Works’ impressive work is plain to see and hear.
Then, we cut back to Hime’s elementary school years, which feature a great many scenes of her father running around and screaming his head off as every other adult in his life wonders why on Earth it even matters so much for Kakushi to keep his job secret from his daughter. This kind of brazen and utterly sincere clash of tones is nothing new for anime, though I must admit that even after so many years of consuming Japanese media both as a fan and a critic, I can still find it hard to immerse myself in a story that will veer so wildly from crazy comedy to treacly melodrama. It isn’t as if our main character isn’t in capable hands, either—Hiroshi Kamiya is an industry veteran, and he’s made a fine career out of playing larger-than-life personalities of many different stripes, from Blue Exorcist‘s Mephisto Pheles to Attack on Titan‘s Levi Ackermann. It’s just that, even in their original twenty-minute-long versions, the tales of Kakushi and Hime could feel like a lot, and condensing so many of them into an 80-minute-long single serving threatens to turn Kakushigoto Theatrical Edition into an exhausting experience.
It’s honestly impressive that the movie even works at all, considering that we’re only getting 80-minutes out of the original four-ish hours of broadcast material. I only saw the first few episodes when they aired, myself, so I can’t tell you exactly what got cut out, but the patches in the story aren’t exactly hard to spot. Despite the very large cast of supporting players, both from Hime’s school life and from “G-Pro” (the crew of artists and assistance that help make Kakushi’s manga), there’s hardly anything resembling a true character arc for anyone beyond our two leads. There’s a large chunk of time during the middle act of the film where it becomes increasingly obvious that we’re only getting snippets of individual stories that have been pasted together somewhat inelegantly into a movie, especially when scenes devolve into montages that probably make a lot more sense for fans who recognize the stories that the movie zips right on past.
Still, as the story started to settle into its groove—which, admittedly, doesn’t happen until we’ve reached the final third of the movie’s runtime—I found myself warming up to this version of Kakushigoto. The vacillations between comedy and drama begin to feel more coherent here, and the movie lays down some much-needed context for why Kakushi behaves the way he does, and how his choices have gone on to affect his daughter all these years, even as she approaches adulthood and has to start finding her own way through life. Some of the side-plots that get a lot of focus in this last act still feel undercut by all of the editing, specifically one that involves some Kakushi and his wife’s longstanding family drama from before Hime was even born. I still basically “got” it, though, and I suppose that means that this re-edit has to be doing something right.
Kakushigoto Theatrical Edition is one of those strange artifacts of the anime industry that feels like it is from a different time entirely. In the days before home video existed, it made sense to create theatrical re-cuts of TV shows for the audiences who missed out the first time, or for fans that wanted to experience their favorite moments all over again. These days, even with Blu-Rays being as expensive as they are, I feel like the existence of modern streaming services makes projects like this one more-or-less obsolete, especially here in the West. At the end of the day, if you are eager to experience i>Kakushigoto for yourself, and you literally have no other way to do so, then this Theatrical Edition is a perfectly fine way to kill an hour-and-a-half. If the option to legally stream the TV series exists, though, then by all means, go with that one. It will do everything right that this movie does, and it will have room to tell Hime and Kakushi’s full story, as originally intended.