Aragami is absolutely vintage Kitamura. A small cast (of three, unless you count one who dies about two minutes into the film). An unfolding mystery. And a couple of surprise twists which will jolt a surprised laugh out of you.
This and 2LDK were made as part of a friendly competition between directors, and of course being a Kitamura fan I like this one best. It’s odd, though, because not much really happens. There’s talking, eating, fighting, more talking, more fighting. So summing it up like that makes it sound dead dreary, but don’t be deceived. The antagonist, Aragami, functions in the age-old role of storyteller, with a single narrator spinning a tale to chill the blood. You can almost see the flicker of firelight, and hear the mournful wail of wind in the trees, imagining the huddled circle of listeners enrapt by the gradually unfolding mysteries.
My only regret was that the single woman hardly entered into the story. Don’t wish to be cranky and humourless, it’s just that such a tightly-woven story should have incorporated her to some degree, and it seems rather silly to have a cast of three when one has no real role to play. Perhaps they found a spare kimono in the wardrobe department and neither of the men wanted to wear it.
Anyway, all things considered, this is a cracking good yarn, especially for such a limited cast and set. I suspect that may have formed part of the competition: if so, the effect of those constraints in this case was to refine the story like a smelter, until only the pure ore of narrative and action remains.