The Kinrakuen ONA Questions Money’s Morality in the Modern World

The Kinrakuen (金楽園) is an independent computer-animated short by Daisuke Hagiwara. The five-minute film explores the meaning of money in modern society and its impact on people. Through a series of moving images and a hypnotic score, Hagiwara attempts to unravel how people have become consumed by these pieces of paper.

While the director clearly wishes to demonstrate the negative consequences of money upon the human soul, The Kinrakuen strangely manages to act as an ode to the artistic merits of various currencies around the world.

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The Kinrakuen Highlights the Chaos Behind Money Exchanges

The short opens by showing two lions guarding a solitary zero. The number acts as a portal from which the rest of the film is shown, and is possibly a symbolic reference to modern life being a zero-sum game. From The Kinrakuen’s outset, Hagiwara attempts to highlight how world economies often result in an advantage for one side and an equivalent loss for another, which leads to zero net improvements in the overarching economic landscape.

Numbers, currencies and financial symbols in various colors and sizes parade the screen to the sound of Indian Music created by Morning Set. Within these scenes, Hagiwara noted that he wished to reflect on “the concept of reincarnation”, in which money constantly changes hands, forms and purposes to create a more “comfortable” society. However, through these exchanges comes “social chaos” in which people continue the cycles of war, greed and control to dominate the people and places around them, rather than setting them free.

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The Kinrakuen Uses Real-Life World Leaders to Show Society’s Inequality

Interestingly, the only humans shown throughout the work are those who have been immortalized on paper currencies, while the workers and soldiers trapped within this numerical society are represented by animals. A series of pigs, sheep, goats and horses line the paper-made streets, holding a number in hand as they move back and forth to work. As they enter a doorway, huge skyscrapers rise from their labors and allow a militarized behemoth — whose head is an amalgamation of Queen Elizabeth, Benjamin Franklin and other world leaders — to tower over them.

From the moment we are born in modern society, we are assigned symbols and numbers, including nationality and family register, and live under the control of the country and government. However, like a disease without subjective symptoms, we are rarely aware of it. People create money to make it easier to understand the value of things. However, at some point, this piece of paper has hidden magical power, and now it has come to dominate even the people who created it. How much time do people spend on money? No matter how much you earn and how much you accumulate, human desires never end. Once this piece of paper takes tact, people’s morality collapses and they don’t mind going to war. – Daisuke Hagiwara

After the trumpets of war are blown, the workers are converted into soldiers who trudge out of their buildings to do their masters’ bidding. In the following scenes, Hagiwara reinforces the impersonal nature of warfare and how its purpose, no matter what might be insinuated on the surface, is for the financial benefit of a powerful few. If this society’s people weren’t already dehumanized through their animal characteristics, as soldiers they are now shown to have serial numbers hanging over their heads in which they have little value outside of being an instrument of war.

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As one soldier lies dying, his soul — represented through a zero — slowly rises into the air until it fits neatly in between a two and another zero to form the number 200. Rather than this person’s death being represented as a tragedy, it’s instead shown as adding value to society. Like any tool, the soldier has been used and, after fulfilling their role, has been destroyed in the process — a simple consequence of the system that surrounded them.

While Daisuke Hagiwara’s The Kinrakuen doesn’t have any dialogue or clear narrative structure, its mix of hypnotic music and animation creates a disturbing yet enchanting feeling that will likely keep audiences captivated. The short’s social commentary, which would have been incredibly timely during the 2008 recession, has once again resurfaced in popular conversation as more and more people attempt to transverse the difficult times that seemingly lie ahead.

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