Like a feudal Japanese take on The Wind in the Willows, Yon Hui Lee’s CalArts graduate film tells a tale of fantasy and mob justice in a world of frogs and toads. The film opens with the murder of a frog, viewed only in the most fleeting of glimpses before cutting to a curious trial, presided over by a curious creature in a tall, pointy hat. The trial seems skewed against the bright red toad who insists on his innocence. No witnesses can speak to the crime itself, but the toad is apparently incriminated by his appearance, his dark eyes, red skin and big mouth being all the evidence needed for the denizens of Dodoba to insist on his guilt.
Lee assembles a highly colourful cast of characters for his six-minute short, playing up the contrast between the simple, silly character designs of the villagers and the seriousness of a story that involves murder, sham justice, and dangerous demons. Add in the more realistic backdrops and some excellent character acting throughout, and you have a polished piece that feels equal parts Miyazaki and Kurosawa.
Dodoba has such a strong sense of world-building that it practically begs for a sequel or spin-off, but so far at least, Lee has yet to return to this world of amphibious intrigue. That means you’ll want to make the most of this entry–make sure to stick around after the credits for a sweet little sequence that adds more context to the film’s events.
dir: Yon H. Lee
syn: In the village of Dodoba, a toad must face trial over the murder of a frog.
Bonus: Have a look at some of Lee’s character sketches in this Tumblr post.