Original Date: August 28, 2014
Want something horror-related that’s not overloaded with shock value? Looking for something like that is a challenging feat in media today, particularly in anime? In that case, ILCA’s Yamishibai: Japanese Ghost Stories delivers the rich terror atmosphere the show provides. Making its debut Summer 2013 on Crunchyroll,Yamishibai is an anime series of short horror stories based on Japanese myths and urban legends. As one of many anime shows to have each episode go by in a 5-minute run time, it attempts to serve terror and chills as a horror short form.
Conducting an ominous and creepy style, the ante is upped with a unique addition of picture-story — stop-motion style paper puppets playing out the show. It may be horror yet it never had a thought of being excessive in typical gory and violent horror tropes. The tension and ghostly atmosphere enough keeps the viewer marginally invested during the course of the entire run. The pace of the show is agile and swift that the show in total is approximately an hour to watch, meaning it values repeat watching like viewing 2 anime episodes.
Majority of the stories do grip into being horrifying effective such as the tale of the flesh-like mass on a train, the black shadow mass that haunts in an apartment complex and the Tormentor. Those particular episodes manage to deliver a believable haunting aura, especially with the creature designs of those monsters where if you even think about them, the thought alone can terrify you.
Although some episodes may send a chill to the core, some stories may end being silly and laughable. For instance, the hair monster in the office copier in Episode 4 and a monster who haunts in a pit toilet in Episode 10 could have potential in being terrifying but the ending result was rather unintentionally hilarious. Whenever that hair monster appeared in its episode, it didn’t have the presence of fear and endangerment but rather of it needing a haircut. The pattern of the stories do end up being foreseeable and pointing out the obvious at the end of every short. It often gets repetitive for a while but the overall short never lacks in suspense and keep the audiences’ interest intact.
The whole show in general is more story-driven than being a character piece as the old man is rather portrayed as a framing device than an actual character. There is mainly various characters in each story that will end up being the victims of whatever curse comes upon them although the character themselves aren’t that interesting but it is never acquired for them to have much of an arc since they only have a diminutive runtime anyway.
ILCA is a relatively new studio, whose other work they were doing was CG animation for Gyrozetter and this show’s second season.
It may seem a little weird at first when you notice no mouths move, no eye blinking or any human movement performing awkwardly. The way it’s told resemble more of watching a moving book or comic on the screen than any actual animation and yet that actually helps the show than endangers it as uses the method of traditional kamishibai (Paper Drama) in the production and it does demonstrate that this style is organic to its premise and it was effective in delivering the intensity.
The color scheme is dark, grimy, and bleak. It resembles of what you see if you ever went to your attic or basement during a thunderstorm at night. The right amount of creepiness and sheer terror into its presentation gives out a vibe that you’re immersed into that setting as well as if something were to happen this instant second.
Music in the show compliments it although it’s barely noticeable until the horror moments actually happen. The composer Nico does achieve in delivering an ominous score fitting to the show’s tone and setting. The pieces were simple and nuance that had a sinister latency, with no instances of being too overbearing or obnoxious for dramatic effect.
There is an ending theme song “Kaikai Emaki” (怪々絵巻?, Mysterious Picture Scroll)” sung by Vocaloid Hatsune Miku . The way the song is portrayed in a distorted and unsettling tune represented itself fairly adequate.
Yamishibai fulfilled their potential in creating horror short stories that can make you frightened and terrify you without ever having to resort to unnecessary typical horror elements. Plus, it’s a show that is appropriate for people for all ages as it never seems to go too far or off base with its premise.
Some may have faults with repetition of the resolutions of every story, animation or lack thereof but the kamishibai style they used was effective in a way the creators wanted it to be and while it can be redundant, it was never dull. The atmosphere of the show from the sound to being story-driven are big positive factors.
Plus, for those that like to marathon shows, you can easily do it within an hour or so as the show maintain their pace. Anime fans who are also horror storytelling fans will definitely find much enjoyment from watching this series.
FINAL VERDICT – THE MIND OF THE HYBRID ONE VERSION (6/13/2016): Now that I have watched all 3 seasons of this show (Season 2 in Summer 2014 and Season 3 this year in the past Winter season), my final verdict of this show hasn’t changed. The tales of this show does have this creepy eerie feeling you have all in the span of 5 minutes a episode so it doesn’t overstay its welcome and also easy to marathon for a day and those that like their horror less excessive and more atmospheric.
So how does Yamishibai scare up the audiences?
8/10 – SOLID B.
YAMISHIBAI: JAPANESE GHOST STORIES is available on DVD and Blu-ray from Sentai Filmworks. Streaming options are available on Crunchyroll.
I’m MAK2.0 aka The Blue Hybrid, and be sure to watch your back around……well, anywhere.
YAMISHIBAI: JAPANESE GHOST STORIES – animated by ILCA / licensed by SENTAI FILMWORKS