The story is told mainly through narration and therefore occasionally drags, but the puppetry and the cinematography are well above the level of educational shows on TV.
Kawamoto's earlier short films featured less narration and, in some cases, an avant-garde visual style. They will be showcased later this month at Eurospace in Shibuya, Tokyo, in a retrospective program titled "Respect Kawamoto Kihachiro."
On the avant-garde end of the scale is Tabi (The Trip, 1973), a cut-out animation about a young woman's journey through a psychedelic world. The style here shows the strong influence of Trnka, under whom Kawamoto studied in 1963.
Oni (The Demon, 1972), Dojoji (1976) and Kataku (House of Flame, 1979) show puppet animation can be as haunting as live-action horror.
But not all his works are scary. Hanaori (Breaking of Branches is Forbidden, 1968) is a pantomime comedy about a young man who gets drunk while he was supposed to be guarding a cherry tree in full bloom.
As a side event, Kawamoto's puppets will be on exhibition Feb. 21-26 at the Daikokuya Gallery in Ginza, Tokyo.
"Shisha no Sho" is currently playing. "Respect Kawamoto Kihachiro" will be held Feb. 25-March 17.