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

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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.

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31 Days of Hallowe’en 2019, Day 13: SCHOOL-LIVE! Episode 1 [2015]

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Every horror-thon I always include an anime or two. This one, SCHOOL-LIVE!(Gakkougurashi!) slipped through the cracks because, well, I was put off by its adorable set-up.

However, if you’re going to watch this, or are thinking about watching this, DO NOT READ THE REST OF THIS REVIEW. Please – just go in blind. It’s far more rewarding that way.

[spoilers for episode 1 after the jump]

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31 Days of Horror 2018, Day 23: The Laughing Salesman 1×01 [2017]

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the laughing salesman, warau salesman, anime, horror anime, horror, halloween,

I enjoy a good creepy anime and, after the disappointing mediocrity that was Junji Ito Collection, I happened upon The Laughing Salesman on Crunchyroll. The thumbnail alone of the titular character was enough to give me the heebie jeebies, and suggested I was in for a treat…

[SPOILERS AWAIT]

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31 Days of Hallowe’en, Day 5: Perfect Blue (1997)

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Anime horror is hard to find. Good psychological anime horror? Almost impossible. Enter Perfect Blue, a film that is deceptively and increasingly more disturbing than most live-action peers, and so exquisitely animated that you forget you’re not watching ‘real’ people.

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[It all looks so wonderfully ’80s, right down to the poster.] The story follows Mima, a retired J-pop singer, and her desire to transition into acting. Like many ‘idol’ singers, she has intense fans who don’t take kindly to the news, including a stalker who sends her a hate-fax.

Mima’s first role is as a strip club rape victim in a crime drama. The filming, including its repeated cuts, restarts, gratuitous photography and Mima’s (acting) screams, greatly disturbs her manager, who flees the set in tears, and it borderline traumatises Mima also. Though it’s just fake and nobody is actually raping her, I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t incredibly uncomfortable to watch.

Shortly afterwards, several members of the show’s crew are brutally murdered. And I mean brutally. This movie doesn’t hold back on the gore.

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Mima begins losing her grip on reality, and that translates, Gogol-style, to us as the viewer in a series of unreliably-narrated snippets. This, plus the sporadic presence of Mima’s ghoulishly-drawn stalker, rapidly build up some heady and unsettling tension. And it just gets even more bizarre and shudder-worthy from there.

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It’s a film that stays with you long after the cheerful pop credits stop rolling. Its themes of loneliness, betrayal and alienation amid change are all too familiar to me right now, and lends the stalker-slasher scares an extra layer of tragic horror.

4/5

[After watching, I wasn’t surprised to find out that there was some hushed intra-fandom controversy that Darren Aronofsky lifted large parts of Perfect Blue for Inception,  Requiem for a Dream and Black Swan. He supposedly denied any influence from Perfect Blue, but admitted he saw it, then ended up buying the film rights anyway.]

 

31 Days of Hallowe’en, Day 2: Paprika (2006)

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“There are no boundaries to dreams.”

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Dreams are when we’re at our most vulnerable, when we invite our subsconscious to just have at it, allowing 6-8 hours of literally no rules in your own brain, while expecting to wake up relatively undamaged the next morning. It’s on par with trusting Harold Shipman to make sure your ma gets to the hospital for her flu jab.

So horror that exists in that zone is a fantastically macabre mind-fuck for me, akin to medical horror (“but doctors are supposed to use their surgical accuracy to help people!”). Or the potential intangibleness and thus, seeming invincibility of, your average house ghost.

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And so enter tonight’s entry in our horror-a-thon: Paprika (2006), a feature-length foray into the dreamosphere that inspired famous female fridger flick Inception. In this, a bunch of psychiatrists happily tinker with a DC Mini, a revolutionary device that permits them to enter their patients’ dreams in order to improve their therapy. Our main character, Dr. Atsuko Chiba, travels through dreams as her adorably-voiced alter-ego ‘Paprika’, the antithesis of her normal, stoic, adult-voiced self.

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Shit gets real when the device is stolen and used to vegetable-ise a handful of her coworkers, who start spouting a bunch of nonsensical garbage. And bleeding everywhere. And so even though Chiba’s boss bans use of the drug, the others decide to investigate, because the dream wold and real world have begun to merge. Eeep!paprika 2006paprika 2006paprika 2006

Now would be a good time to mention that this also includes nightmares, and holy crap, they are vivid and bizarre and gravity-defying and dimension-skewing and just overall “fuck u, physics!!!!11”. Because what’s the point of making a movie about dreams – and an animated one at that – if you can’t stuff it full of neon colours, tribally-marching fridges and dead-eyed cannibalistic putty dolls?

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Background art is usually far more detailed and flatter than the subjects, and Paprika makes use of the disembodied disparity with such creepy effectiveness. Even when the talking appliances and mildly murderous toys are off-screen, it’s clear when we’re seeing a dream and when we’re not.

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At a little over 70 minutes, this one’s short and sweet, so fairly light on the character development. Full of off-kilter dream designs, varied characters and some odd little turns and turns (less the twists, more the turns), I could see what sequences were almost lifted for Inception.

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Probably not the tentacle stuff, though.

Here it is, in its entirety: