The film is based around "Otokoyo", a game of hide and seek played by children, wearing fox masks, near the ruins of an abandoned old city. The children who play this disappear, believed to be spirited away by demons. Kakurenbo follows Hikora, a boy who joins the game with hopes of finding his missing sister, Sorincha. The storyline is built on the idea that Tokyo is losing its natural aesthetic, which includes child's games such as hide and seek in order for industrial progress to ensue i.e. lighting the city of Tokyo costing innocence of childhood games.
The plot is broken up into different parts, with each group of kids having their own story.
Noshiga, Tachiji and Suku. Edit
Noshiga, Tachiji and Suku can be heard in the beginning of the film, discussing about the recurring disappearances of various children in the middle of the night in the city of Tokyo. In the middle of the conversation, Tachiji confesses that a friend had spotted the shadow of a demon lurking near the town; Noshiga, however, rebuts that demons don't exist and that it was hard to believe that the children are taken away by the supernatural. Their conversation is interrupted by a girl giggling as she had heard them; and as she seemed to know something about the town and about the game of Otokoyo ~ a version of 'Hide-and-Seek' which the children play in the town ~ they press her in to tell them about it.
Later, the three boys are seen running through the maze of a town, checking the neon signboards to find their way to the Otokoyo Square. When they finally made it, they realize that they were the last participants to arrive with Suku also realizing that there were eight participants instead of the initial seven the girl had mentioned. Noshiga, Tachiji and Suku were revealed as the stereotypical three-man-gang; Noshiga being the leader and Tachiji and Suku as his accomplices.
The group of eight was split into smaller groups of two or three, leaving Noshiga, Tachiji and Suku on their own as they explore one of the tunnels. As Noshiga starts to nonchalantly knock at the walls and stray objects with a stick he had brought along, Tachiji begins to grow unnerved by the darkness and the additional noise and tells Noshiga to keep it down as the demons may hear them if he kept up. Just when Noshiga laughs Tachiji's warning off, the tunnel seems to shake by a massive force and the lights begin to flicker menacingly before reverting to normal. While Tachiji and Suku wonders about what the cause of the 'earthquake' was, Noshiga remains unperturbed, assuming that someone was pushing a hot dog cart somewhere; an assumption which the two younger boys highly doubt. Suddenly Noshiga stops and gasps as he spots a demon statue. Angry that he had been spooked, Nohsiga throws his stick at the statue, aiming for its head; but ends up shattering the light bulb dangling in front of it. As they continue on their way, Tachiji is the last to walk off as he stares uneasily at the statue. When he does leave, it is revealed that the statue is one of the demons and Noshiga's aggressive behaviour towards it had woken it up.
The trio stopped in a few minutes to rest after having wandered further and further into the tunnels and Noshiga, now feeling hungry after the long walk, asked Tachiji and Suku if they brought anything to eat; which the latter answering that they didn't. Noshiga sits down heavily on the bench and tells Tachiji to look for the 'hot dog cart' they had heard earlier. Tachiji was obviously exasperated that Noshiga was still being immature about the entire situation but he decides to look anyway with Suku volunteering to help him, thus leaving the large boy alone on the bench. As Noshiga is about to fall asleep while waiting, the noise from further in the tunnel woke him up with a start; when he turns round to see what the source was, he sees something in the distance, prompting him to gasp "...It can't be..." By this time, Suku and Tachiji had returned and by the sound of their voices, thery were, no doubt, frantic as they try to warn Noshiga of the thing approaching behind him. When Noshiga turns around, he found himself face-to-face with the demon he had woken up. As they made to escape, Tachiji stopped in his tracks to wait for Noshiga but that becomes his fatal mistake as Noshiga accidentally rams him down, rendering him unconscious for a few seconds. Now that the demon was proven to be real, Noshiga was too much in a panic to do a thing and he left, leaving Tachiji behind. As Tachiji finally regains consciousness and adjusts his glasses, he sensed the demon now hovering right over him; and as he turns around to face his doom, the demon gnashes its teeth at him, making him scream.
Later, the eighth player of Otokoyo ~ the only girl in the group who is currently with Hikora and Yaimao ~ looks out the window and sees Noshiga and Suku outside, now being chased by a different demon ~ the four-legged horned demon now known as the Blood Taker/Chitori ~ before taking a left down the alleyway, barely escaping the demon for a little while as the demon sensed the presences of Hikura, Yaimoa and the girl in one of the buildings.
Now, both Noshiga and Suku were back in the tunnels, desparate for some place to hide. Noshiga finds his hiding place in a trash can and frantically tells Suku to hide somewhere else. With no other way to turn to, Suku makes for a dark doorway and heads inside; but his scream and a roar confirmed that the previous demon ~ now known as the Liver Taker/Kimotori ~ had caught him. After minutes of silence, Noshiga decides to peek out from under the lid of the trash can but he makes the mistake of the Blood Taker spotting him. Now his panic levels shooting up high to the point that he couldn't stand, he crawls away but feels a presence in front of him. He pleads for Suku to save him, but when he looked up, the Liver Taker was the one who responded to him with one clawed hand holding an unconscious ~ or dead ~ Suku by the head. It was possible that the Blood Taker didn't like the fact that the Liver Taker caught one of its victims first and it charges at the other demon while Noshiga tries to get out of its way. When Noshiga looked up again, the Blood Taker had dismembered the Liver Taker and was chewing on the demon's arm. Believing that the Blood Taker was devouring Suku, Noshiga promptly blacks out, thus him being the third person to be caught... as well as easy prey for the Blood Taker.
Inmu and Yanku Edit
Inmu and Yanku are first seen in the Otokoyo square before Noshiga, Tachiji and Suku arrive; conversing silently with glances and gestures. Unlike the two other groups who had their purposes to fulfil ~ Noshiga's gang wishing to prove that the demons in the Otokoyo game didn't exist, and Hikora and Yaimao participating to search for Hikora's missing sister Sorincha ~ Inmu and Yanku's goal was an enigma which they both kept between themselves. Their dark past is also something that the two of them never spoke of; in fact, the twins were the only characters whose voices were never heard throughout the film.
The twins are later shown to have made their way to an underground maze of sorts where they were suddenly given a very rude entrance by the Oil Taker/Aburatori who tore down the wall the twins were facing. The chase was on with the twins running fast to lose the demon behind them. They diverged paths, causing the demon's cart to crash into another wall, before heading off to be reunited. The demon is shown to be slightly fazed by the crash... with its 'brother' emerging from the rubble, looking exceptionally angry.
Minutes or hours had passed and the twins had reunited but were still on the run with the Oil Taker still chasing after them with the cart. Just when things didn't seem to be in their bleakest and the twins seemed to know where to go, the other Oil Taker steps in their path, blocking their way. The twins slow down and turn round to see that they were surrounded now that the cart had arrived, thus boxing them both in. However, the twins showed no signs of fear at the sight of the twin demons. Instead, they scoured the ground for weapons, the brother in red ~ presumably Yanku ~ picking up an old hockey stick and testing its strength; and the brother in green ~ presumably Inmu ~ picking up a large rock and testing its weight by tossing it lightly in his hand. While their expressions were hidden by their Kitsune masks, their body languages and gestures made it clear that neither brother was going down without a fight; and that message was confirmed with Yanku rushing up and delivering the first blow.
Hikora and Yaimao - ??? Edit
Hikora and Yaimao are the main focus of the film as well as the main characters, both of them sharing the same goal of locating Hikora's sister Sorincha and bringing her home safely even if it meant the cost of both their lives. In the beginning, the two of them are seen hanging around near the entrance of the gate they were about to enter in the Otokoyo square. Hikora was distracted for a moment as he watches a mysterious girl younger than all the other players ~ ??? ~ playing with a light blue butterfly before watching it fly off.
Hikora and Yaimao are later seen walking through a hallway of one of the empty apartment buildings. There they discuss their motives as they walked through the darkness, starting with Yaimao asking Hikora about his sister's disappearance. Hikora reveals that Sorincha had played Otokoyo some time before before, this leading to her disappearance, and he hopes that she is still alive; in turn, Yaimao admits that he wants to know where all the missing children had gone and that he wanted to save them to if they could. Suddenly as they were reaching the end of the hallway, they heard a sound and saw a shadow approaching, prompting Yaimao to stand protectively in front of Hikora as they wait for the creature to emerge. That creature turned out to be the mysterious girl Hikora had seen before at the gathering, and she runs off with Hikora feeling strangely attracted to her, this causing the two boys to follow her.
The pair are seen again on one of the higher floors of the building where they stopped to rest at a stairwell. Hikora informs Yaimao that although he was unsure why, the mysterious girl reminded him strongly of Sorincha. Yaimao was about to agree with him when a strong light burst through the shutters of the windows, nearly blinding them. The light, however, got Hikora to pay attention to what looked like a poster on the board but it is revealed to be an illustrated list of five demons, four of which were currently on the hunt for the children ~ the Liver Taker, Blood Taker, Oil Takers and Child Taker/Kotori ~. The fifth demon drawn in the centre was unidentified as the mysterious girl had appeared again just when Hikora was about to figure out what it was. The girl was staring out through the window, watching Noshiga and Suku running scared on the road below. Yaimao, now growing steadily suspicious of her and curious at the same time, approaches the girl and asks her what she was looking at. He gets a different view though: the Blood Taker stomping through the street. Forgetting his suspicions towards the girl, Yaimao tells Hikora that they had to run and calls the girl to come with them.
Hikora, Yaimao and the girl had kept on running until they seemed to have come to the centre of the town of Tokyo. All three stare up at the tall skyscraper-lie building in front of them just a few feet away across a wide bridge. Yaimao confirms that this was possibly where all the children who played the game were kept and that hopefully Sorincha was inside too. But before they could get inside, Yaimao looks up and sees the Child Taker watching them from above through the centre window with its wide beady eyes; he tells Hikora to run but Hikora stopped when he saw that Yaimao wasn't moving.
"Go, Hikora! Go find Sorincha!"
The Child Taker decided to make its debut to the children and it launches itself from the building, landing right on top of Yaimao before Hikora could do anything to help. When the dust cleared, the demon is grinning madly and Yaimao is lying unconscious under it. Much to Hikora's shock, the girl moves to the demon's side, revealing that she was in league with the demon all along. Fueled by anger that the girl betrayed him and Yaimao and was now giggling at his distress and the shock of having seen his best friend being attacked by the demon and all the other demons having gathered for the final event; Hikora rushes over towards the Child Taker and the girl, screaming Yaimao's name.
Hikora wakes up to find that he had lost consciousness on the bridge. All four demons were nowhere in sight and he ached all over. Suddenly he hears a girl's voice counting upwards to ten in a sing-song tone and he realizes, to his surprise, that the voice belonged to Sorincha. He turns towards the shrine-like entrance of the building to see a girl with her back towards him, her face against a low wall, her hands over her eyes, counting. Hikora approaches her slowly and when the girl finally reaches ten and calls 'Ready or not?', he calls out to her:
"Sorincha... Is that you?"
"...Here I come."
The girl turns around only to reveal herself as the mysterious girl from earlier. That's when Hikora realized that the girl was Sorincha all along... but she wasn't herself.
"Just... Who are you!?"
Hikora, his fear mixed with confusion, watched as the girl walks towards the steps in a strange manner, her body hunched and lumbering; her head tilts up suddenly as the lightning strikes, causing Hikora to look up, the lights making him realize something off about the building around him. He also remembers the fact that there were eight kids instead of seven; and his mind shifts back to the illustration of the demons he and Yaimao had seen at the stairwell and recalls the fifth demon in the centre. He then concludes that Sorincha, the eighth player, is possessed by the fifth demon, the Ninetails/Oshiro-sama, who has been keeping tabs on them during the entire game.
As though to confirm his fears, the Ninetails shows its true form through Sorincha's body, causing her hair to grow astonishingly long, her nails to become dark claws and her Kitsune mask to form the face of a ferocious Oni. As her eyes glow red and amber, she starts chanting again but with the Oni's voice merged with her own:
"Who'll play Hide-and-Seek with me?"
It was then when she explains the reason why Otokoyo was played:
"When we play the game of Otokoyo, the town gets brighter. However, that doesn't last for long. That's why we must play this game of Hide-and-Seek... again... and again... and again."
At first, Hikora is unable to digest what Sorincha meant by those words; but when the tower in front of him starts to flicker with lights, he looks up... and discovers the terrible answer.
Above him were the bodies of Tachiji, Suku, Yanku and Inmu, bound and harnessed to machinery, the technology absorbing and converting their life energy into electrical energy to cast light onto the town. It was with this horrible revelation that Hikora finally noticed that over the low wall that Sorincha was counting at, harnessed at the base of the tower, at the very entrance was Yaimao. Yaimao suddenly gives out a weakened grunt, alerting Hikora that his friend was still alive.
Now knowing what his best friend would endure if he stayed latched onto the machinery, Hikora ran towards the tower again, wanting Yaimao to be released but he slips and falls to the ground, unable to move any further due to his injuries.
"Who'll play Hide-and-Seek with me?"
As though that innocent yet menacing phrase was the signal, the last few restraints were latched onto Yaimao and the machine is activated. In excruciating pain as the machine activates and turns on the power switch, Yaimao dies screaming as his life energy is sucked out of him and the tower's lights turn on as well as the lights on all the other buildings. Hikora now understands that the tower was like a giant conduit, absorbing energy from all the children that lost Otokoyo and using the energy to ensure lighting for the entirety of Tokyo.
"Hee hee hee hee hee.... Everyone has been caught."
Hikora, now helpless in doing anything, watched in terror as the city lights up bit by bit and then finds himself face-to-face with the demon-possessed Sorincha.
"You're the last one. You've won."
In saying so, the possessed Sorincha removes her mask and holds it up to Hikora as though wanting him to take it.
"Now, you're IT."
A long time after the events of Kakurenbo, a few children can be seen playing Otokoyo and laughing merrily while running away form the seeker. The boy counts up in a sing-song voice, his back towards them and his front towards what looks like some sort of lighthouse. Soon he reaches ten...
"Ten. Ready or not?"
"Ready!!" All the other children call out to the boy.
The boy turns around, revealing himself to be Hikora, now possessed by the Ninetails, his eyes glowing red in the darkness.
"Here I come!"
As Hikora runs away from the scene to look for the children, the lighthouse is zoomed in, showing the same machinery form the giant conduit... only it harnessed only one person: Noshiga. The light begin to dim and flicker slowly... Once, twice.... On the third time, the lights go out completely, signaling that the every ounce of energy has been used up and the game will continue on for the city to light up.... no matter how many times that will be....