Japanese major Shochiku andHong Kong-based special effects house Centro Digital Pictures are collaboratingon live-action creature feature Gegege NoKitaro.

The film, directed byKatsuhide Motoki, is the first live-action feature based on Shigeru Mizuki'sfamous character, created in 1954, and popularised in the Gegege No Kitaro manga series from 1966-1970.

Centro, established in 1987,is well-known for its effects work on KillBill 1&2, Kung-Fu Hustle and Shaolin Soccer and is one of Asia's leading animation and visual effects studios.

Centro will render Gegege No Kitaro's many action scenesand serve as the lead effects company in the group of production and CGI housesShochiku has assembled for the project.

"We are thrilled to beworking with Centro Digital Pictures on GegegeNo Kitaro," said Shochiku's managing director of theatrical distributionTeruki Matsumoto. "The film's sylised action sequences lend themselves to theamazing work done by the company."

Shochiku has considerableexperience with live-action adaptations of manga, such as last year's six-part Kazuo Umezu's Horror Theater.

The character of Kitaro is half-human,half-yokai (a general term for creatures and supernatural beings), orphaned asa child and dedicated to keeping the peace between the human and yokai worlds.The story follows Kitaro as he tries to save a high school girl (Mao Inoue) andstop a stone with the power to control both worlds from falling into the wronghands.

Kitaro spawned one of themost popular franchises in Japan, including animated TV series and features, videogames, toys and other merchandising. This is the first time the character hasbeen adapted for a live-action feature.

Although well-known as partof Japanese mythology, Mizuki's comic creations brought yokai into themainstream. His work also served as the basis for director Takashi Miike's The Great Yokai War.

Shochiku recently releasedHirokazu Kore-eda's Hana and willrelease the third film in director Yoji Yamada's samurai trilogy, Bushi No Ichibun (literal translation: A Samurai's Duty), this Christmas.

Gegege No Kitaro is currently in production in Kyoto and is tentatively slated for an April 2007 release.