Color animation / Vista / 2007 /138 min /Shin-ei Animation
Director: Hara Keiichi
Script: Hara Keiichi
Based on the book by: Kogure Masao
Cinematography: Yanai Koichi
Production Design: Nakamura Takashi
Music: Wakakusa Kei
Producer: Mogi Hitoshi
Coo: Tomizawa Kazato
Uehara Koichi: Yokokawa Takahiro
Uehara Hitomi, his younger sister: Matsumoto Tamaki
Uehara Yasuo, his father: Tanaka Naoki
Uehara Yukari, his mother: Nishida Naomi
Ossan, the dog: Yasuhara Yoshito
Lord Shimizu: Hazama Michio
Setting: Edo-period and present-day suburban Tokyo; Tono and Kamaishi in Iwate Prefecture, Okinawa
Coo is a kappa, a tiny amphibious creature with a dish-shaped skull. He lives in a swamp near Edo. There are rumors that the humans plan to drain the swamp for their own purposes, and Coo‘s father confronts a human samurai on the road one night to beg him to reconsider the plan. He brings the samurai a fish as a present, but the samurai is afraid of him and cuts him to pieces. Coo runs away, but just then an earthquake strikes and Coo falls into a crevice, where he is buried alive.
Hundreds of years later, Uehara Koichi finds Coo’s dried body in a riverbed in his neighborhood. He brings him home and revives him in the bathroom sink away from his little sister Hitomi’s prying eyes. It is impossible to keep it a secret from his family for long, however, and even his father Yasuo rushes home early from work to see the legendary creature. Coo regains his (superhuman) strength at the Uehara home to the point where he can easily beat anyone in sumo wrestling, and soon his thoughts turn to his own kind.
Coo’s old swamp has been turned into Koichi’s neighborhood, and there haven’t been any kappa there for centuries, the family imagines, but Koichi finds a book about Tono, a town in northern Japan with numerous kappa legends and convinces his family to let him bring Coo up there to search. Tono is a tourist venue, and the only kappa they find are statues outside the train station. There is a large reward for anyone who finds a real kappa, however, and Koichi gets nervous about carrying Coo around in his backpack when there is a bounty on his head. Coo and Koichi are set upon by tabloid photographers, and they take a photo of Coo before the kappa is able to use its supernatural powers to shatter the camera lens and scare them away. Coo and the family dog Ossan (“old man”) are able to communicate telepathically, and Ossan tells Coo about his own life until now: Ossan had a gentle master, but when the master began being bullied at school, he began taking his frustration out on Ossan.
Word about Coo has spread like wildfire, and the media and curious onlookers are swarming outside the Uehara household. Finally, when there is no other option but to
satisfy the masses, Yasuo agrees to bring Coo onto a daytime talk show. A scholar named Shimizu Sumio appears with them. Shimizu has long theorized that kappa really
exists, and he has an extraordinary reason for doing so: the severed arm of a kappa has
been passed down in his family from generation to generation. Coo recognizes it as his
own father’s arm; Shimizu’s samurai ancestor killed Coo’s father. Traumatized, Coo
shatters the looming television cameras. He runs through the studio until he is picked
up by Ossan, who carries him outside and down the street. Ossan is determined to keep
him away from the prying eyes of the humans, but they are hit by a passing car, sending
Coo flying and fatally injuring Ossan. Coo uses his telekinetic power to explode a vulture hovering over Ossan’s body, and begins to climb Tokyo Tower with his father’s arm in his mouth.
Coo considers suicide, but the sudden appearance of a dark dragon-shaped cloud
convinces him that it is not his time yet. After he returns to the Ueharas’ home, Coo receives a letter from one of his own kind. Koichi agrees to mail him in a box to the address provided. Coo emerges from the box in Okinawa, where Kijimuna, a shape shifting goblin, reveals to Coo that he, too, is a mythical creature. He tells Coo to call him Ossan.
A labor of love that touches on important contemporary issues such as environmental destruction, bullying, and media overload, this film took director Hara Keiichi five years to make. Hara is known for his work on “Crayon Shinchan” and “Doraemon.” Tono is a city in Iwate Prefecture in northern Japan. Its reputation as a mystical place was sealed with the 1910 publication of Yanagita Kunio’s collection of folklore, Tales of Tono.