31 Days of Hallowe’en 2019, Day 24: Yamishibai: Japanese Ghost Stories [闇芝居]

Image result for yamishibai

Another anime! But, because these episodes are so short (<5 minutes with opening and closing credits), I’ll write about a handful of episodes that I picked or that were recommended to me.

Yamishibai: Japanese Ghost Stories uses an interesting form of animation – to mimic the paper puppets of the kamishibai paper street theatre of the 1930s. So the characters barely move, but might move up and down or side to side – but it’s done so well that you don’t really notice. The minisodes are based on either Japanese folklore or modern urban legends, and aren’t averse to the odd jump scare.

yamishibai: japanese ghost stories horror anime animation 闇芝居

Yamishibai is currently in its 7th season, though whispers online suggest the show has declined in quality. Indeed, from a few picks from seasons 1-3, the worst of the bunch was a cursed carousel ride (3×10, “Merry Go-Round“), simply because of its laughable closing animation.

My top pick, a firm online favourite, is 1×08, “Umbrella Goddess“, about a young boy visiting his friend and his family who spots a strange lady holding an umbrella. Its tension-racheting is excellent, through its claustrophobic scene-framing and sympathetic voice acting, and the scares are enough to put an instinctive fist through your computer screen.

Creepy and mysterious, too, are 1×07, “Contradiction”, and 1×02, “Zanbai”, as both feature excellently horrifying imagery that deliberately go at odds with the gentle, tranquil paper puppetry that precedes it.

The whole series to date is a fast watch, and it’s easy to get through 6 or 7 in one sitting. They benefit greatly from their brisk lengths, much like horror shorts do because they don’t have to set narrative beats through character building or more complicated plots. These are simple, quick and unpredictable. Watch and be spooked, traditional-Japanese-style.

Score: 🎃🎃🎃🎃

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