Spooky Ghost Stories The Origin: Yamishibai Season 3

Hello again mortals who dwell on my island! For the spooky month I have been watching this strange.. little anime made out of short stories. Season 1 was a banger, season 2 was so… and now I watched the third season. Is it better than season 2?! According to most it is. I think it is! It does something in its final episode that makes everything better… but that also kind of messes me up in the format I do these reviews… what is going on!?

The Twisted Season

The third season of Yamishibai delivers WAAAAAY more on the horror than season 2.  While it keeps on the same directors as the second season and I expected it to be kind of bad it almost feels as if the stories chosen have since been adapted to the direction style. There is a sense of more randomness in this season. Where season 1 focussed on retelling the classic ghost stories, season 2 seemed to “set up”  for classic stories this third season seems to go bigger and bolder. It seems more focussed on original creatures slightly inspired  by folklore rather than borrowing from it heavily. In a way I’d argue these stories feel more like “Creepy Pastas” and that works out really well for me. I get everything much more! There is still the “what the heck did I just watch” vibe but never did I wonder “does this references anything.. am I missing something”. So one of my biggest issues with the second season and even the first season has been fixed. However this comes with a new problem.. but I am not sure if it is an actual problem..because.. later we see that stylistic choice connects to a certain story.

The Narrator of season 1 and 2 has been replaced by a young boy who hears voices from the other side which makes him draw. These drawings form the inspiration for the new stories. Stories have no more explanation on who the main character is and we are drawn in from the sketch. It is a stylistic choice I like a lot that can add some extra tension. We do not always know who the main character is and it offers that extra bit of insecurity in some cases. In others  it requires the story to set up the characters just a tiny bit more which already makes them slightly more endeared to us. At the same time though this does take a bit away from the Kamishibai show illusion. In this season we also see a slight artstyle change. The Kamishibai like images that the show is famous for feel more colourful and cheerful! They lack the grim eeriness of the first two seasons. Almost as if these target a younger audience.. which makes sense because this storyteller is a lot younger. And just like his mind seems to be a bit distrubed so do these stories change in a similar vein.

The stories seem more focussed on body horror and blatant monsters rather than ghosts that follow a certain set of rules. No instead we focus more on creepiness of twisting necks, changing shapes and gruesome implications. We lose a tad of subtlety and cleverness but in return we get a much more intense dramatic build up.. where the crux of the show isn’t always at the end.  Sometimes it even happens near the middle of the episode.  A few stories had me pretty scared and there certainly is a lot less “missed” opportunities. However since the narrator is a young boy..the scares seem to reflect that mindset. What would an eight year old come up with as a scary story. This results in this being the season that has some of the scariest creatures you have seen so far, who are further away from any logic.. or stories that would really resonate with children a lot…but the end scares are often a tad childish.. so in a way this is the season of untapped potential. The idea is there but the punchline often misses.

The other side!

Yamishibai season 3 ditches the classical ghost-stories more in favour of monster stories.. while there are ghosts and  spiritual forces, they are a lot less subtle about their ways. Where season 2 had people startled, cursed or possessed by the end.. in this season the forces do not inconvenience you here the forces are downright trying to get you killed or mamed. This makes season 3 a very different show as season 2. Where  moral lessons seemed to form the core to induce the haunts of the second season here it  seems more to be induced by over conconfidence seasons don’t feel as preachy and instead more like a classic horror movie! Like the past two blogs about this show I will discuss the plot synopisis after which I give each episode a micro review! Be warned if you think a synopsis is a spoiler.

Episode 1: Lend it to Me

A young man visits a bathhouse after work, he seems to be the only male guest when a woman asks him to lend him stuff she did not seem to get at the checkout counter. The two have a talk and she sounds cute! Then the requests the woman begins to make start to get stranger and stranger and she begins to ask more and more aggressively.

What a great way to begin this season! It is a very good episode that properly introduces the scares. At first you do not know why! Why does the girl ask for a pair of scissors or a razor!  Why is she so upset he hasn’t got one!  The way old gritty movie filter that shows gives the bathhouse a bit of a grimey derelict look and the disembodied echoed voice from over the wall makes you wonder what will happen. When it is time for the big creature reveal we get a very brief and surreal shot, that can easily leave you jump-scared. It does not come where you expect it either.  The creature design is wacky and makes you wonder what you have seen and ends in some very weird end credits.. that leave you pondering.. we do not get an “end..” we get a sketch.. that looks like a horrifying cap off. A very strong start and one of the better episodes of the series even.

Episode 2: Tunnel

Two friends are driving through the mountains when a wrong turn makes them realise they are short on gas. Encountering a tunnel that seems the quickest way back to the interstate they drive in and of course run out of gas.  Tired from pushing the car they take a break when they see two children just outside the car window…but is it really just two children?!

While the first episode crossed us over from the Old Yamishibai into this new one .. this completely embraces it’s new style. The way that it seems to reach it’s climax in the middle of the episode is quite strange.. but we see why when it is clear this show pays as much attention to scaring you with the aftermath as the actual event. Sometimes an ambiguous fate is not enough. This season is more like “Oh My God they are eating her, and then they are going to eat me Oh my goooooooddd!” .. but not in the Troll 2 sort of way.. you are told what these monsters are capable of and what you should fear… only to reveal the truth is even more hopeless. This season caters into the fear of certain death and in this episode it is down very powerful. The last show in the tunnel is amazing and the linke we can make to it is nothing short but dreadful! One of the seasons highlights for me.

Episode 3: Rat

A young couple just started to live together in a new apartment , to save some money they went for a very cheap apartment which has a rat infestation. The girl being afraid of the rats gets bitten by one. Her partner then has to leave on a business trip and leaves her alone with nothing to defend herself but a rattrap. He tells her she has to get used to the rats..and we see her being slowly pushed to the brink of insanity as she tries to follow her husband’s will.

This is one of the lesser episodes for me! The reveal in the end was quite predictable and feeling odd. This is the first story that really seems to lean into the younger and more inexperienced story teller scenario. Or I could just be justifying this while in the end the episode isn’t all that scary. The visuals are noticeably brighter here in that the two episodes that went before and while the visual style does fit some of the episodes I think for this episode it all feels too bright and too clean. Let us feel they live in a rat infested hellhole instead of a clean house with some adorable little critters.  The ending visual is super silly and it doesn’t seem to end as powerful as most of the other episodes.  No matter how I look at it this one is an odd one out! I do have to give it some credits though for the tense scene before the conclusions so it is not totally without merit.

Episode 4: The Noisy Hospital Room

A fairly young man wakes up in the hospital after a nightmare, seeming himself being operated on in a room he was told by a nurse not to visit. When his vivid nightmares have given him cold-sweats however he has to explore the hospital to find him some change of clothes or he might catch a cold. During his search for a new nightgown he learns some horrible truths of this hospital.

A mid tier episode that is a bit bogged down because of the odd sound design that is present throughout this entire season. There is a lot of laughter, whispers and other effects that are meant to sound creepy that in fact sound rather cheesy. Like A Wilhelm Scream doesn’t really invoke fear anymore even if someone meets a gruesome end. The twist is deliciously evil  in this episode but once again the entities seem slightly over designed giving it a slightly comical appearance. It feels more like something you show you kids in a picture book as a monster than something you need to be scared off. The strong dialogue that clearly captures the fear by the good voice acting can’t save the episode from mediocrity either as it is slightly drowned out by stock effects.This is the first episode that uses a number of fake outs to set us up for a proper scare but unfortunately fails to deliver a proper scare afterwards.  Too childish for adults but a great story for a scaredy cat and wouldn’t you know it I have the perfect score for that!

Episode 5:  Museum of Taxidermy

Taxidermy is that art of stuffing a dead animal and turning it into a “stuffed” statue preserved through the ages. Now that that has been explained for those who do not know .. or did not know the english word… this episode is set in a museum filled with stuffed animals. A couple staying in town runs in there to take shelter from the rain. Luckily the museum is free and they take a peek. The woman gets fascinated by how lifelike the animals look, particularly interested in a dog that almost seems to follow her with her eyes. Her boyfriend decides to prank her and shet gets mad and leaves.. trying to enter his hotel room later he finds her unresponsive and his own key missing.. So now he has to go back to the museum and search for it.

Where the sound design last episode was pretty shitty here it shines in telling a message. The fact that the hotel is called Hotel Otherside.. and the young boy  narrator keeps screaming for things to happen on the other side.. hints at a connection between the stories and the real world which this episode really makes clear. Something is odd.. as if we are in a twilight zone of sorts. It banks heavy on that feeling and ends up with a satisfying punchline and amazing end visual. It is sick, it is twisted and it looks just silly enough  to not be full of gross-out horror. It walks the fine line very well and we have a clear idea what happened on the other side..even though we never get to fully see it!  Very nice with enough classic horror vibes form both the Twilight Zone and House of Wax to be deemed one of my top 3 episodes!  Yet this time it has some competition and the third place spot!

Episode 6: “That Side” Festival

A festival is in town. Asako and Miki attend all sorts of fun activities together. They are having a great time until Asako gets mesmerised by a booth filled with mysterious masks. She loses sight of Miki and asks herself loudly where Miki went. One of the masks seems to respond with “That Side” suddenly the fair isn’t the same place it used to be anymore and everything goes extremely twisted and dark.

A mid tier episode that has some amazing visuals but at the same time it feels so over designed that it stands out a bit. The cotton candy vendor on the Other Side of things for example spins cotton candy by vomiting his own intestines  on a cotton candy stick.  While it looks gruesome it also looks like.. too much.  It gets a cartoony quality. There are a lot of creatures here that look extremely silly and rudimentary. It is a great ride and I bet it would be awesome for a horror artist to check out these designs. This episode has some heavy Spirited Away vibes through it.. but then a darker take.  It however misses the finality of the rest of the season and while I don’t need finality in all episodes I really wish here we would at least see the girl become bound to this new world or lose herself in it or something.  It needed a nail to the coffin sort of speak. Without it.. it is nice but is exactly down the middle for me  when it comes to spookiness. I can’t  mark it as that so I will label it Scares without Nightmares…but if you can get past the odd designs you can scale this up one tier!

Episode 7: Behind

During Summer camp one guy insists on bothering the girls dorm even if his friends are too pooped to pop!  When he keeps insisting his friends ask him how he has  so much energy! He tells them he doesn’t but he has been having nightmares, people laughing and a creature then coming into the classroom and turning his head around on his neck but he knows that if he sees whatever is doing that .something horrible will happen.Later that night one of his friends wakes needing to go to the bathroom when he hears cracking sounds from his friends neck.

A very scary episode that is really hindered by a single really weird visual! It feels so silly it ruins the entire episode. Luckily I came to play Yomawari and I could accept the weirdness which gave me some appreciation of it. If you want to know how silly the visuals go…look up the game Hylics or Hylics two, a surreal RPG “series” and you have an idea on how odd it will look. I would have loved to see this episode go a bit more subtle myself but the combination of “have you heard’ and then seeing another effect occur is pretty cool.  Is it linked together, are there dark forces at work here what will happen outside the dream.. what happens inside the dream. There is a light and a dark theme going on as well. That once again seems to be describing the existence of two sides. Had the ending not looked unintentionally comical this would have been my third favourite episode or maybe even my second favourite but now it has to do with fourth place.

Episode 8: The Empress Doll

Daphne, Fred, Shaggy and Velma travel to a haunted house and go to investigate it. Well it’s not really those four .. but still four meddlesome kids visiting a haunted house and encountering a presence. This one seems to be of an Empress Doll.. one of those stacks of porcelain dolls on a stair things you might have seen them before! While the house seems clear and safe at first a glance trough a mirror allows them to peer into a world yet unseen.

While the episode does start really suspenseful the end screen is yet again another very derpy looking monster. Which ruins the tension. What makes it worse is that the big “kill”  makes no sense. We see someone suffer in a certain way. Making us believe either their soul was taken or they got so scared that their mind just shut down. Yet suddenly things completely shift and it makes no sense in the timeline of this episode. When did that happen?!  Did they leave the person behind? If so that is rather poorly established. Once more the tension build up is great, reminding me a bit of the Amityville Horror series which I really like. It also is somewhat reminiscent of the Warner siblings horror series like Annabelle. It succeeds in once again establishing “another side” but fails to deliver another scare.

Episode 9: The Fourth Man

A girl in highschool overheard a rumor about an urban legend about “the handshake men”  . These are people who will ask you for a handshake. If you refuse to give them a hand they will crush you into a meatball but if you happen to encounter a fourth one you have to refuse or they will bite off your hand. Later at night the girl is asked by her sister to go to her school as she left her notebook there and cant finish her homework afterwards. On their way back the girl encounters a strange looking man asking for a handshake.

This easily is the best episode of the season. It follows that Urban Legend feeling of the first two seasons but doesn’t require any prior knowledge due to explaining the myth entirely. It feels like a genuine Japanese ghost story, similar to Red Cloak, Blue Cloak, just a bit more tame. It has several jump scares, fake outs and misdirections and the conclusion it reaches in the end is satisfying! While we do not see anything gruesome happen there are some pretty heavy implications being made here that reminds me of some Goosebumps like novels I used to read.  It has atmosphere, good visuals and nothing too silly to ruin the experience! This is definitely a story you can tell by the campfire or during a horror D&D campaign. If you watch anything be sure to check out this one!

Episode 10: Merry-Go Round

A young couple is visiting a mini theme park sitting on the roof of a Mall. They have only just arrived when they encounter a creepy clown, giving the girl a red balloon. Soon after it is announced the mall is already closing. Super disappointed the girl pouts when the clown offers her one last ride on the Merry-Go-Round for free. The girl gets on and seems to have a lot of fun but she might have misinterpreted the words “one last ride”

This one really benefits from the brighter visual style. Of course the clown giving away blood red balloons immediately evokes memories of It. Yet when the Merry-Go-Round goes round and round this episode seems to start to take more and more cues from the bad Nightmare on Elm Street movies. It delves into the absurd once again and so many elements seem to not play a role in this. There are a lot of creepy people around the Merry-Go Round but non of them really seem to have any correlation to what is going on.  Maybe they do but the connection is not made clear at all. As a result this episode feels really disjointed. It does have some creepy visuals  and I don’t even mind what happens in the end all that much but the dialogue, the set up and the result do not seem to match up. As if I am watching three different writers create a four minute story. While I do enjoy extreme random horror at times, in a four minute interval it is too much to make this enjoyable. 

Episode 11: Cuckoo Clock 

A young girl staying over at her grandma’s house with her mother for a few days discovers her Grandma’s clock and is immediately obsessed, wanting to see the Cuckoo pop up every hour she has some good and innocent fun. On her first night there the girl wakes up a few moments to midnight, very thirsty! She goes downstairs to drink when she notices the clock will nearly reveal the Cuckoo again.. when at twelve the Cuckoo doesn’t show up.. the girl goes to investigate a bit closer… she shouldn’t have!

This episode was okay! I really do like the episodes where people get obsessed with Mundane objects holding less than Mundane powers. This is another one that can feel insanely silly but this one still feels like it could be an actual ghost story of the orient. This is how you do silly episodes!  It once again uses body morphing for a shock effect but this one is done kinda cool, even if it also looks very odd. The story beats the story hits feel logical next to each other and while it is not all that scary it is just a fun four minute watch. Reminding me a bit of those Goosebumps Junior novels! Safe for your kid! Fun for the family!

Episode 12: In the Water

It’s the competitive swimming season. One particular schools ace is put under a lot of pressure from his coach so now he has to train and train and train. Luckily he can train at night since he has been given a key to the school’s pool! Just after dark at 8 in the evening, the boy decides to go for a final training session. During this session he notices something odd in the pool! He thinks he is seeing things because he is put under so much pressure and decides to train anyway! He gets into trouble for this choice…. in record time!

This is one of those episodes that is a bit bogged down by cultural differences and plot convenience. Working to hard so you hallucinate seems to occur in many Japanese man according to this series though! Still it seems like a bad idea to jump into the water when something seems off.. it damages this horror experience for me. I doubt a semi-pro swimmer would risk jumping into the water if something dangerous might be in it. It doesn’t help that later in the episode the swimmer tries to flee the pool by swimming to the stairs.. while he could easily push him up onto the dry land way before that. How could he not push himself to saftey as soon as he could?!  Fear?! In the end I doubt it would matter as the deed had more or less already been done.. but jeesz this man seems to tried really hard to win himself a Darwin Award. Also the creature/visual has no set up, no reason to be there and it is super ugly as well. As in.. it’s ugly..but it is also not very well drawn with very weird proportions that also lead to other visuals shown before not making sense.  Bad episode!

Episode 13: —Drawings—-

Yes I actually did type what this episode is about! Well done in discovering it!  This episodes ties all stories together as from the intro of the boy drawing we don’t cut.. we see the boy drawing! A teacher finds him and asks what he is doing .. he says nothing and walks off.  She later finds out he is in her new class and tries to befriend him by asking him to draw her. He refuses telling her she is boring. As she discovers more he finds out the boy has been sketching all sorts of people who have gone missing… the boy shows up and finally agrees to draw her, and it is revealed that this boy would grow up to become the storyteller of the previous season and his stories turn kids into monsters for more stories in the future!

This episode is great for the scale! It really brings all the other ghost stories together but for that reason I have hidden the plot of this episode from you! It connects everything, intro, outro and episodes. Visuals shown in the intro of season two suddenly make sense, and the odd choices this movie makes in terms of narratives all make sense now. Some of these flaws in the stories described earlier were clearly put in with intention! While I commend them for this bold choice it also comes with a problem.. Did people make it this far?  Since it is so episodic and stand-alone one could easily watch these episodes out of order yet this one SHOULD be watched last. It doesn’t follow the rules of the show but it is amazing. The ending feels disjointed but delicious. Appealing to fans of the series and making me excited for a fourth season. The story that is interwoven in this episode feels a bit short.. as a lot of time is spent on the epilogue but it still is deeply satisfying.. though I can not rank it among the other episodes.. This is it’s own thing and it is quite good! Yet not perfect.

Into the Darkness

This season to me is much better then the second one! Albeit a tad to obvious and odd at times, I think this is for me might even rival the first season. Yes there are more lows and the highs aren’t AS high but it was enough! Where season 1 over-achieved at times this one just does the job it needs to do and it does it well. I never felt that lost and the final episode was a little cherry on top of an already pretty good season. Even as a Gaijin you can understand all these episodes and never do you have to google something to appreciate the story. Watch these after midnight just when you begin to feel.. Oh I am really tired.. that is the perfect moment where the weirdness can get to you less.. but the scares can get to you hard! I will at least give the fourth season a chance now as well! So be sure to come back for more soon!

Stranger Short Stories the Ani-Meh: Yamishibai Season 2

Dear Mortals last week’s spooky anime was a collection of short stories called Yamishibai and I was seriously impressed with this series.  With the second season getting a new director that would stay for the ongoing season I was sure this one would be even more potent… yet me and the Crunchyroll Comment section had to reach a tragic conclusion. The second season is nowhere near as good as the first.

 Lost Direction

In the previous post I explained why the visuals of Yamishibai have meaning and how the format lended itself quite well for the short episode format. It kept things spooky.  In part due to the amazing direction of Tomoya Takashima with the writing of Hiromu Kumamoto. For this second season the series was helmed by Takashi Shimizu and Noboru Iguchi as directors and Shōichirō Masumoto  is responsible for the script this time. Like season 1 it is still an ILCA studio production that is available for free on Crunchyroll .This is a season that clearly got a lot less love in the comments though and that has mostly to do with the direction of this season. There almost seems to be a stylistic change. Even noticeable between the two directors. One clearly more capable than the other but both are bogged down by their choice in stories this time. Leaning heavily into the biggest gripe I had with last season. 

This season has a lot of implied messages. Where season 1 put a twist on folklore stories and retells them, season 2 implies their presence. What I mean by that is that Season 1 feels more like a Show and Tell format “Today I will tell you a scary story about a fabled curse”  while Season 2.. sets up for people to recognise a folklore story.. If Season 1 would be a Pokedex entry about folklore Season 2 is the Whose that Pokémon of Folklore. Which probably makes it a lot more interesting for Japanese viewers and those VERY well familiarised with japanese ghost stories.. and I mean VERY well. As a Gaijin though I oftenly missed what was going on this season. It still is fascinating in ways but it is strange and makes no sense rather than it being scary. The jump scares have been replaced a bit .. by a big clue to reveal the story in the end. As a fan of both western and asian horror this really missed a bit of the balance for me. 

That being said this season still has a few gems in between. The ratio if just off. The tales are still fascinating in a way as well, they just feed that horror itch less and are more an interesting thing to research. There is a bit less of variety in stories as well, with the majority being possession type stories. Season 1 offered a mix between survival scenarios , curses , monsters and possessions. Like last time let’s discuss all the episodes with a short summary (not spoilers but I do tell the story premise)  after which I give a bunch of microreviews. 

Barely Scared

No episode can match the top 5 episodes of season one but there where still a few stories that were quite good! Plus due to the easy format you can gloss over this season and pick the episodes you think might be interesting.  After all even if there was just one worthwhile episode in this format it is still worth watching as these people clearly did still put a lot of effort into these stories.

Episode 1:  Taro Chan

This is the story about a cop, trying to teach the kids about bike safety using a ventriloquist dummy named Taro-Chan. The act seems to go smoothly until Taro’s head suddenly jams, after working around it a bit , the cop discovers and removes a wooden seal from Taro’s neck and suddenly things get very strange.

This episode for me is the perfect summary of season 2. It shows everything that is wrong with the direction at its worst. The dialogue written for Taro-chan doesn’t produce any feelings of anxiety. The fear the cop experiences isn’t done as well as fear was depicted in the last season and the ending really doesn’t deliver. If you are a horror fan you have probably seen a better haunted ventriloquist dummy story than this one. It tells a story but it needed more than 4 minutes to be something special.. now it’s basically.. there once was a haunted ventriloquist dummy…it could talk by itself ..the end. It doesn’t help that the dummy still uses the cop voice, the events happening feel weird and uneventful. Probably the worst episode of season 2 straight away. 

Episode 2: Kitchen

A girl is visiting a friend who had just moved into a new place. As a housewarming of sorts the homeowner girl cooks for the protagonist girl. When the latter notices a voice coming out of the AC unit in the kitchen and some shadows appearing out of nowhere she isn’t sure if she is crazy or if it’s real.  She needs to decide if she wants to warn her friend and look stupid.. or hope that she beliefs her.

Directed by the “other one” you can see it is paced a lot better then the first episode. There even is a nice dramatic build up that could lead into some scares. The visuals are creepy and produce the right atmosphere. Unfortunately this episode is plagued a bit by its  writing.
This might be me not understanding Japanese culture very well.. but if you see a shadowy figure threatening your friend and you are going besides yourself with fear..would you really try to be polite and compliment her cooking?!  Would said friend really go so angry that she kicks you out of the house when you don’t compliment her noodles straight away.? If I saw something scary I would tell my friend..I rather think they are crazy than risk  her being eaten by a potential delusion! The art cues, visual design and pacing are great though. The last minute is a bit of a trainwreck in writing.. but just the build up makes this episode worth the watch. Kinda!

Episode 3:  Inside

A boy finds a Russian Nesting Doll and brings it home.  His mother is properly creeped out by the “toy”  and tells the boy she will get rid of it. Reluctantly the boy hands it over to his mother, but the next day he sees she still has it.. his mother’s behaviour slowly begins to grow more erratic as the boy decides to investigate.

One of the strongest episodes this season in terms of visuals and writing but that lacked the directional punchline to make it a perfect score on Pinkie’s Spook-o-meter. The episode has intrigue, cool visuals, a progressive sense of dread and it doesn’t require you to know a story by heart. By the way characters act, how visuals are presented it is perfectly clear what is happening here. It just misses that step beyond. You get the horror tale you expect when it’s about a nesting doll but it could have used a bit more subterfuge or a fake-out somewhere. A bit too straight forward but definitely a great story to tell around a campfire.

Episode 4: Wall Woman

A man has a crush on the woman living in the building next to him. He always stares at her during his studies wondering if she is single or not. Then one day he sees a creature enter her room. As he sees the woman walk onto the balcony again shortly after the two have eye contact for the first time when things get scary.

This episode reminded me a lot off the first episode of season 1. I deemed that episode mid-tier and for this episode I mostly feel the same. It has a bit more dramatic build up, but there is no real twist again. You know how the episode will end. This is more one of those slow burn episodes which can work great but you need a bit more time than four minutes to make it special. This director aims to end with the jump-scare on the final second.. every time where in season 1 the big event also usually ended in the final bit.. scenes sometimes lingered  allowing scares to take earlier than anticipated.. here you are more prepared. It has the dramatic build up from a coaster (often stronger than season 1)  but after that you only get that one expected drop. Not bad but nothing special either.

Episode 5: Locker

A girl is in love with a sporty guy and tries to ask him out.  While going home upset she did not talk to him she overheard a rumor about a magic locker in the underground passage of the school. If you leave a photo there in the locker that holds a weird statue you are able to have a happy future with that other person. The girl goes to try it out.. but hey that wishing doll looks kind of creepy.

Great episode! Yet again it is way too obvious but at least his one had some surprise elements still.  Even though you know where the plot will be headed you never know how or why until it is too late and it can still leave you in suspense. In that way this episode may provide you with the most Western like sense of horror where the tension lies in not if something ifs finite but how it will meet its end. With some gore and nice voicework as well as some proper  character building this episode does everything I want. It is not perfect but this one is up there with the better Season 1 episodes! Definitely top three! In fact this is the clear number 2. If you want to skip through the season this one is episode would be one of my recommended stops.

Episode 6: Nao-Chan

A family who sleeps with their son in their bed do not read him stories at bedtime but instead to sentai like shadow play. Late at night however the boy starts to begin talking to a spirit he calls Nao-Chan. As the parents try to figure out who that is.. every night Naeo-Chan comes closer to the family.

Great visuals , bad episode.This is one of the few episodes that doesn’t reach its climax at the end of the episode, instead this ending is supposed to show something subtle.. but it doesn’t connect.  Once more it feels like they needed an extra twist or a visual.. this time in the end. There are some cool things being implied here but the way the set-up scene cuts away too early and the ending scene implies anything through dialogue only it really feels like we are missing a piece of the puzzle here. Like with episode 2 a strange lack of communication makes the scene more awkward than it needs to be and for the twist line being said in the end there is a perfectly feasible explanation that takes the wind out of the sails of this episode entirely. It’s not unwatchable and for the visual you could watch it, but if horror is a punch to the face than this episode is a slap with a limp sardine.

Episode 7: Gachapon

On his way back from work a frustrated salaryman sees an old man playing desperately with a Gachapon machine. The old guy is completely fascinated by it and the man wonders why the old man would want all these toys.  The next day he walks buy and sees the Gachapon is not in use. The sign mentions a cost of 20 Y,. The box is blackened so he can not see what is inside. Curious the man pays 20 yen and gets a gachapon that holds the favourite eraser he lost as a child. How strange..but the scratch on makes him realise it is definitely his! As he wants to play more we are cued in that the price might be more than just 20 yen.

Amazing episode, number three spot for sure! This one is fascinating rather than scary but it is still kind of creepy to see unfold what actually happens. This episode uses irony to make the story so much stronger as well. Once more not ending on the “climax” but instead letting the  moment linger a bit.. making this pay off feel SO much more satisfying than almost anything else. Probably the best episode in overall quality but it lacks that spook factor that number one and two have. Still this episode is great to watch, the desire that fuels the protagonist is feasible and whatever supernatural forces are at work here can keep him from noticing certain things without it feeling forced. In this episode I did notice how this episode seems to try certain values to people. Don’t assume all rumors are true, don’t meddle into affairs, don’t get stuck in the past. It is a neat enough theme but once again a bit obvious.

Episode 8: Farewell Confession

A man is attending a strange type of funeral with long lost relatives. it is called a farewell confession. People sit with the dead and tell them a secret they want to ascent to heaven with them and liberate them.  Some of these are very innocent others go very far.. as in your daughter is actually MY daughter. When our protagonist offers his confession though the ritual goes Awry.

Horrible writing plagues this episode….unless of course the translation was off. If that first secret was not.. I was the one who made your wife pregnant not you…but instead half mumblings sounding like that.. I might be okay with this.. but as I had perceived it now.. and the line sounded pretty clear to me as well once more we delve into a very unlikely scenario and values. Strangely we only hear half the main character’s confession..but unless he did some REALLY depraved stuff with the confession target it doesn’t seem worse as .. your daughter is not your biological child…A second issue makes this episode a bit ridiculous .. which is the existence of a certain meme. I had a lot of fun with this episode reading the comments and everyone seemed to agree with how silly this was. This one is a bit so bad it’s a good variety..Alas for spook score that doesn’t count.

Episode 9: Ominie-san

A teacher from the big city transfers over to the school in a small rural town. When a strange lunch of purplish meat is served, it is named Omnie-san. Everyone digs into the meat like crazy devouring it as if they are mad-men. The teacher is off put by this and dumps her meat only to find people eating it in a restaurant as well. Losing her appetite she calls in sick. She and her worker now have to make sure she stays healthy..in this strange town.

This is another one of those strange episodes that clearly seems to be referencing something. Since the meat has an honorific.. was it a person they are eating? Do the kanji in the word Omnini-San mean anything? What is going on. It feels strange and macabre sure.. but there never is a real pay off. We see an effect happen near the end but what does that reveal? Maybe it is just that tasty that people pig out on it so much? Clearly there is something ominous implied about what we see in the end but I have NO clue what happened there. Once again due to the strange direction that doesn’t linger enough on some points and just adds cuts that help convey an emotion.. but not what is going on. I know I should feel uneasy.. the episode cues me in on that.. but it fails to cue me on on why. In the end I am working my brain to hard to be scared.

Episode 10: Bugged

A bitter man lives in a house and the only thing he does is work and then write about what issues he has about other people’s happiness. He tells he is bugged with women who let him in his eyes, he is bugged by a couple sharing an umbrella in the summer rain because it is too warm, he is bugged by everything. Then moths start appearing in his room, which he gasses and then burns. Because it bugs him there are bugs, when he writes about  what bugs him.

A strong albeit pedantic episode.  This one tells us about a bunch of metaphors becoming real all surrounding what plagues this man and how he responds to it. It leads into some of the coolest and most gruesome visuals in the series so far and I was really pleased and startled by that.  However this one again is so obvious that it just fizzles out by the end. One of those “count-down” episodes. I really support the message this episode is trying to send though but as Chandler Bing would say… could this episode BE anymore obvious?! It’s such a shame that this show both manages to dumb things down  and still keep some things so obscure. It’s two tones which clash and “Bugged” seems almost like a Polar opposite of Ominie-San. While I don’t think the episode is very flawed it does showcase an inconsistency in the show in general.. .all in all, the amazing visuals and relevant message keep this episode in the positive score range.

Episode 11: Picking Up

On his commute home a man finds a novel that was left behind in the train. He begins reading it and it is so good that he ends up in a station in the middle of nowhere just to read it in peace and quiet. While trying to search what station he is in, the man finds out about a writing competition which he enters with the novel he found. The organisation seems pleased and ask him if the novel is his and of course he says yes.

A solid enough episode that is a bit too morally preachy. I also saw another story than the comment section on Crunchyroll saw.  I saw a story about mistaken identity, while others saw a story of getting punished for a sin. The morale is the same though! Do not lie! In a way this episode reminded me a lot of the movie Drag Me to Hell and I really like that movie. It also reminded me of another horror story of mistaken identity.. It was a short story in a dutch book I once read.  And YET again that is this season shows that they lack the ability to let these episodes shine. It’s a solid story but not a single special thing is done about it. It isn’t that hard to add a little twist to make it a bit more special. In this case I can come up with four or five twiss just from the top of my head. It’s neat as it is .. but too neat.

Episode 12: Netsuke

A college student is helping her grandma cleaning up the store when she finds some heirlooms left by her grandpa. Grandma tells her that she can keep any stuff she wants but warns her that Grandpa never allowed her to even touch those Netsuke.  These are tiny japanese ornaments in this case shaped like two faces. The woman makes earrings out of them. Late at night when she heads home she notices two strange figures following her.

This is it! The number 1 episode! It feels so spooky, it has several scary moments, it has a twisted reveal and the morale of “don’t take what doesn’t belong to you”  is less hammered in here because  she was in fact gifted with these.. sort off. It isn’t pedantic this time around but more appealing to common sense.. slightly hidden away. Sometimes WE  do need to look a gifted horse in the mouth. This episode has such cool visuals, clearly ghostly figures, fear, music.. it has it all. In fact this episode might even come close to my top 3 of the season now that I have had some time to let it sink. This episode has some action and a strange but satisfying ending. If you watch just one episode of season 2.. make sure that this one is it.

Episode 13: Bringer Drums

A couple moves into a rural town that seems rather welcoming. On their way there they see the path is decorated with bringer drums. The village elder says that is a thing they do to bring good spirits and positive energy to new residents and that it will help them feel  and act like they were born and raised here.  Then late at night the drums begin to beat by themselves and the girl of the couple realised that whatever these drums might bring isn’t necessarily good!

This is one of those, you have to know the lore to get it kind of episodes as there is a myth of bringer drums out there that makes this story a lot more understandable and while you can go out and search for that it doesn’t make the episode that much more enjoyable because of the lame choice of a jump scare in the end. It just doesn’t work. I am pretty sure there are more myths about the bringer drums than the one I read as this also had another element that some others seem to recognise in the comments.  I knew neither.. So in the end all I saw was a vague myth that isn’t that much more scary then windchimes going off in a horror movie.  That is the entire scare and it makes it very one dimensional.  Had the drums been given a scary look.. or they wondered about the odd look at the very least .. but they just think it is cute.. untill these drums go off..very flat and the scare at the end made me laugh instead. I was drinking a coke so I regret that. Unfortunately I also regret watching this episode.

Ghost Costume

I rated quite a few episodes favourably still I would like to think but overall the quality did take a big dip down. The lows were lower than those in season 1 and only one high rivalled the highs of last season. I did kind of enjoy my time with this season but I can see why so many people really hated it and dropped the show from here on out. I’ll give the new directors one more season.. and if that is this quality instead of the first .. my last anime halloween review (if I have time)  will be something completely else., If it isn’t as good as this season I might even not do the review! The show really has potential but here the tone wasn’t right for horror, either to preachy and handholding or to obscure for the most of it. Mostly due to the direction and scene choice. Still it’s an interesting  series of tales but you can’t help but compare it to the first season.

Imagine being in one of those haunted theme parks for Halloween. The first one is a better than average and unique looking zombie that has a lot of gore and startling effects on it.. but it is also a very unique character in it’s narrative.. maybe a civil war guy.. that also pirated on the side. Or a slasher character that looks unique but as if he could have a tea party with Jason, Michael and Ghostface. It has some proper weapons to  chase you down with you running frightfully. This season.. is that guy that runs around with a blanket with two holes for eyes that has no cool stuff but just can yell Boo really loudly! He has some timing skills so he can catch you off guard and make you yelp once or twice.. but in the end it is still the soldier pirate zombie that haunts your dreams.. even if you saw him way before.

Now that we’ve seen enough Kami-Shibai theater for one week it is time to go pack some more stuff! If you want to help me with my move please consider donating to my Ko-Fi page! The funds will be used to decorate a small little writing space for myself! Or just comment something and be social! So I can relax read all the love with a smile after a day of packing and cleaning! Thank you and I hope you have a spooktastic October!

Scary Short Stories The Anime: Yami Shibai Season 1 Review

Anime is great! I love it! It has so many genres. Even when I compare them to western genres like action, sci-fi , romance and …… well…… there is one genre that I don’t think anime ever does “right”. With a few exceptions of course..but horror anime usually add additional genres like action or mystery and they tend to be heavy on that other genre and low on the horror. Which was weird to me! As anime has some amazing ghost stories! Luckily I found an anime for my Haloween month that I actually classify as Horror.. I even found it scary… I am just not sure it’s “anime”……….

The Devil is in the Details

Yami Shibai, whose official title is Yami Shibai: Japanese ghost stories is a fairly long running anime that actually still seems to be more or less ongoing. Currently having 7 seasons with  91 episodes in total. Each season being 13 episodes. It is produced by studio Ilca who almost exclusively produce horror content…. and the Love Live School Idol movie! However this year the same studio brought us Ninja Collection..which is a  summer anime but I am not sure if anyone is watching that. They also made a show about a fart solving problems like only a fart can do… but I am pretty sure I included that when I said they did horror. Each episode features a stand alone story but they are tied together by a masked Story teller voiced by Kanji Tsuda.. whom you might know from… Yami Shibai Season 1 through 7.. or as Kamen Rider Ryuki.   He did more things but none of it sounded familiar to me.. so he already is kind of like a ghost!

The concept of Yami Shibai is to mimic the Kamishibai theater storytelling. This is a traditional form of Japanese storytelling with picture boards being presented in a wooden cabinet. There is an old man telling ghost stories using a Kami-Shibai and his call for attention functions as the show’s intro with the stories being the actual episode. Each episode lasts for about 4 minutes. The show including the intro.. and a very creepy Hatsune Miku outro  lasts 5 minutes which means you can watch an entire season in about an hour if you skip out on the outro! The animation is very static, almost still as if an actual Kamishibai with only very minimal animation, think high budget Visual novels.. or the execution scenes in the Danganronpa games. But more on that later! Here we just factually describe the style!

Every episode is a classical ghost story, usually with a twist/bad or open ending.  For all intents and purposes I will exclusively be reviewing the first season giving episode summaries but not full on spoilers. Reviewing each unique episode in terms of how spooky they are.Micro-reviews! Yay!  I just might review other seasons throughout halloween month as well. So sorry for the spoiler.. but I did really enjoy this first season! The director changed and remained the same into the second season so I assume that is going to be even better.
Now join me as we enjoy some classical Japanese storytelling. Attention kids and adults alike come join us for story time this is Yami Shibai!

13 Ghosts

So before I talk about the entire show let’s talk about the episodes a bit first! And measure how spooky they are! The basic premises of an episode will be discussed here so if you think that is a spoiler …. which it is not… I would advise you to skip to the next section. 

Episode 1: The Talisman Woman

A man moves into a new apartment and finds a mysterious seal on his ceiling! When he removes it a mysterious woman stares at him from afar.  When he gets home the next day, there is yet another talisman on that same spot! Could it be there is something living in his house?

A great benchmark episode! It has some eerie vibes to it, some nice subversion and even a possible jump scare! Mind you that I do watch these after midnight with all the lights off to set a proper atmosphere when reviewing these.. but this one is a great standard. It is mid-tier for me which is a nice way to start this series off. It doesn’t peak nor does it disappoint. It makes you anxious enough to slowly raise your heartbeat!

Episode 2: Zanbai

A traveler/tourist gets himself hospitalised with a broken foot when mountain climbing. He has to stay overnight in a hospital. But some other patients in the hospital are whispering together..of making sure he does not escape?! Did he mishear, are they even talking about him? What is with that strange greeting they gave him?!

This one builds up tension but let’s it fizzle a bit..which weirdly kind of makes it work still. This one did make my blood a degree colder or so… but the ending is slightly too odd and very implied. Look up what Banzai’s true meaning is before looking at this one or things might go over your head a bit. Got uneasy but I never startled

Episode 3: The Family Rule

A man that married into an old family gets told that he has to perform  a ritual with his new family to keep an ancient demon at bay! However when his son wakes up to investigate the ritual  is put at risk!

Top 5 for certain! The build up was great, the visuals really worked wonders and  the resolution was both equally horrific as satisfying. This one cleverly uses fear to instill fear and to create an exciting incident that within four minutes worked very very well for me! You know exactly what happens, what people are thinking and what unfolds.. by minimal dialogue and simple but twisted expressions! Quite creepy!

Episode 4: Hair

A woman is working late trying to make copies for something that looks like a school newspaper or something. However when the machine is used black.. almost hair like streaks appear all over the paper.. and as the woman investigates the machine an incident of freaky events occurs. 

Great scares, great effects.. dumb woman! I mean I know work ethic is a bit stricter in Japan but if I saw something living inside the copy machine.. I sure as heck would not begin opening some drawers to reveal the creepy entity! I would dash out the room and come back  the next day. While I liked the story it is also the story that follows that western trope of stupidity the most which makes it less spooky..because well… serves them right for being this dense?!

Episode 5: The Next Floor

A man ditches his kid for his birthday!  Because he has work to do! When his wife gets angry at him for leaving his son on his birthday.. the man gets in an elevator, wanting to be left alone. Then suddenly goes below it’s lowest level.. and each floor the man encounters begins to be creepier and stranger.

This one is among my favourites as well potential top 3. It has a great sense of mystery, there is an ominous feeling from the get-go and there is a lot of cool stuff done with lighting and atmosphere in this one.  What is happening?! We are kept in the dark until the very end.
This one had a scare that actually startled me! So it is pretty spooky!

Episode 6: The Overhead Rack

On a subway ride home an overworked man hallucinates a fleshie mass staring at him from the overhead rack! He brushes this off as a figment of his imagination and long hours.. but when suddenly the subway hits a person and all electricity is cut off for the rescue workers to do their job..it is revealed he might not be hallucinating stuff after all.

A mediocre episode that uses the Kamishibai art brilliantly. But cutting a whole in a drawing they manage to project real human teeth on a drawn creature and it is unnerving as heck!  The static paper movement versus the more natural behaviour of the real teeth really convey a sense of confusion! Of being something from between two worlds. While not the most scary story due to the weird logic in some elements of the story it is definitely a noteworthy one.

Episode 7: Contradiction

A woman receives a disturbing phone call from her friend.. telling her boyfriend got possessed by something scary during a visit to a haunted hospital. She said her boyfriend changed and asked if she could sleep at her friend’s place that night. Yet she sounds strange. Then the boyfriend shows up at the woman’s house telling how his girlfriend got possessed by something scary during their visit to a haunted hospital. .both accounts are fully animated. Who can the woman trust.. only one of them is speaking the truth here clearly?! Right?!

A strong episode that had quite a bit of kick! Seeing both the male account as the female account offers a duality in choices that conveys an anxious decision at the likes of cutting the red or blue wire for defusing a bomb. We as the viewer are not cued in on the truth so we have to discover it along with the main character and it works very well. There are some uber creepy visuals here as well.. and because they only MIGHT be true.. it is even creepier for me! Where is the real monster? Definitely one of the  highlights in this season! 

Episode 8: The Umbrella Goddess

While visiting his friend during a sunny day a young boy sees a woman with an Umbrella in her mouth! This causes the friend’s boy’s father to seal the boy in a shed..giving him the key to unlock the door.. telling whatever he does he should not open the door.. and that what he has to do now has to do with the Umbrella lady! If the boy can hold out untill daylight he should be safe.

Another top 3 episode for me! While a classic story the four minutes short tosses everything in it’s arsenal at you to confuse you!  It had some amazing visuals, incredible sound design and the Umbrella Goddess is even in the siple drawstyle something that does genuinely seem creepy! The voice acting is great.. and  the cinematography is really amazing!  That final line the narrator tells at the end before saying “the end” might be my favourite line in the series.. no it’s stronger than that..it IS my favourite line in the series.

Episode 9: Cursed

A young girl is afflicted with terrible skin conditions. Someone else his hand is burned on her skin and she is filled with dark necrotic spots! So far no one has been able to help her but then her mother discovers a female priest that might be able to help! From there on out things do not go as one might have expected.

A very strong ending visual redeems this story from being “boring” but this one felt.. a bit cheap. It reminded me a bit of the movie Drag me to Hell but we never get the payoff.  It almost feels as if we have seen the wrong part of the story. I think this is because the workings of the curse are not clear enough, having a skin condition does not seem that harsh compared to what we’ve seen before. Visually strong but little spooks to be had from this episode.

Episode 10: The Moon

While at a baseball training camp some of the players reminisce about how they went to this camp when they were kids as well. Explaining how one of them fell in a pit toilet. (A hole in the ground but with a sort of bowl to pee and poop on)  all those years ago. The boy can not remember this and goes to the pit toilet to wash up and see if he can jog his memory… then he memorises.. he wasn’t the only presence in that hole all those years ago.

A strong story with some amazing scary visuals and some great atmosphere! It would be among my favourites if this basically was not a “poop-ghost” There is literally something evil living in a hole filled with crap!  It kills suspense for me.. a lot. I am  not exactly sure how pit toilets work and had I known I might have had a different visual in my head but for now.. this one is mid tier.

Episode 11: Video

While doing homework before the start of school after vacations three boys get bored and decide to watch a haunted tape completely covered in tape to seal it! It is said that a real ghost lives in that tape. The boys watch and see a fault in the movie..that might be a ghost..when one of the boys notices a statue seems to have moved. It might not be a statue at all upon closer inspection..his friends do not notice ..but no matter if he rewinds pauses or fast forwards through the video.. the boy begins to notice the ghostly presence is going closer.. and closer to the screen.

I expected the story of Ringu ..but instead I got something that had a much more immediate pay off. Seven days, my sitting-meat!  This is a potent video. Creepy visuals and vcr levels of details on the screen make you lean towards your screen to watch it more closely.. Something the episode uses to it’s advantage to make your heart skip a beat…or all of them!  A bit generic of a plot so a higher mid tier episode for my taste! Pretty sweet spooks.

Episode 12: Tomonari Kun

A girl exits school and sees a bunch of younger boys stare at a black shadow like mass, that is then named Tomanari Kun. They ask if the girl wants to play with them and she promises she will, but she has no time today! As time progresses the boys ..and according to them Tomonari Kun begin to grow more impatient and then one day they decide to play at her house instead. 

Another highlight! I had quite a few. but this episode might actually be in that top 3.. in fact it might be close to my favourite . The ending employs a technique I really love in horror , letting a part of the scary stuff happen far in the background.. it makes everything feel so much more inevitable ..  you as the viewer feel more powerless to stop it or will it away and then there is plenty of good stuff to fantasies about here in terms of what actually is happening there! We never get an answer but we do get a new mystery! How do we interpret the story ? It is left up to us to decide. The kids are pretty creepy and the voice acting is pretty nice here as well. Having some children of the corn vibes or Wicker man sensation through the story! (Not the Nick Cage one)  Great episode! 

Episode 13: Tormentor

Based on the ghost story about a dancing spirit whose moves you are doomed to repeat until you die from fatigue  this episode starts of with a Disturbia like scene of two boys playing with a pair of binoculars when they see a few blindfolded monks being up to something. A mysterious woman seems to be dancing behind them the boys try to take a peek when one of them starts dancing. The boy is retrieved by his parents but the binoculars are left with the other kid.. who goes to return them the next day… noticing everything is getting stranger by the moment.

This to me was the weakest story of the bunch! The dance used is very weird and almost just flailing your arms around. That is an effective way to kill someone.. but if you do not know the original story here.. like I did not .. you have no real idea what is going on it feels more unintendedly hilarious It tries to go for one final jumpscare in the end..but this one is blatantly obvious..It made me learn about some folklore though! Still not scary at all!

The Light in the Darkness

if you like this show will depend on three factors.  Firstly you have to like implied endings. Not a single one will tell you what really happened with maybe  Overhead Rack being the only exception and even then we aren’t exactly sure. You never find out the faith of a person and it is up to  you to assume if they got a good or a bad ending. Japanese ghost stories also have a bit of a different flow than western ones. Culturally they are a bit different and we will not know all of these things are based on actual ghost stories.  We will not know the subtlety in some shows as a western audience. The four minute format works mostly because these are urban legends people know.Not everything will resonate with us and you have to be ready for that. This show is vague and doesn’t hold your hand when it comes to narratives. I honestly hope you have enough depth to take a peek into another culture ..but if you just want a spooky Naruto clone.. this is not your show.

The second thing is the animation! It isn’t fluid! It isn’t fast and at times it looks cheap. On CrunchyRoll I saw a lot of people rip on the art style. Yes some drawings are “ugly” but that is the whole point. That water painted look is something that is reminiscent of an ancient art.. and they do great things with it. Making holes in the film to bring in certain creepy light effects or monster effects is all very unique and fitting. It disorients you as well. Because everything is basically slightly animated still shot jump scares hot so much harder. You can not see things approach.. not it is there when the creators want it it to be there! I adore this style! I love this style for this short show format. It has these extreme close ups that remind me of Ren and Stimpy suddenly showing something zoomed in to make it look extra horrible.  The music and the animation serve it’s exact purpose.. to unnerve you! Some of the creature design is really good as well but this is a show best watched in the dark after midnight!