Anime: Yamishibai Complete Collection
Released By: Sentai Filmworks
Release Date: April 19, 2016
Retail Price: $34.98
The anime series Yamishibai is a selection of short horror based segments that all focus on scary stories of Japanese myths as well as urban legends. These horror shorts are told using something known as kamishibai, a Japanese method of storytelling that depicts various paper scrolls (something that initially sets it apart from horror anime in general.) The different tales detail all entities of the horror genre such as demons, ghosts, hexes (or curses) and a slew of different avenues to explore. The man who hosts this platform of a mini horror theatre wears a yellow mask and holds his kamishibai prepared to get into the eeriest facest of Japan. The series can turn seemingly average objects, or people you may assume are average can have a deep rooted secret that awaits to shock viewers and characters in the midst of the horror series.
The rich adaptation of historical references and myths of Japan is what sets the dark mood of Yamishibai. Even though you may worry about potential cultural disconnects, they do find ways to address the different thematic elements without confusing viewers on the history. The episodes are definitely short (never surpassing a few minutes) but the plot is mapped out enough to keep you mostly understanding the concept as quickly as possible. Something that helps the comprehension is setting the anime series in modern Japan, where certain traditions are shifted better to others’ analysis of Yamishibai. The best comparison that I can use, would be likening Yamishibai to the Japanese equivalent of camp-fire stories. If you go into the series with that sentiment acknowledged, you will have a better understanding of what the energy of Yamishibai tries to capture in its own way.
What makes Yamishibai somewhat creepy is the atmosphere that the series presents. They don’t have too much time to elicit the spooked response that you hope for from a devout horror anime, but the darker ambiance of Yamishibai doesn’t go completely unnoticed. I can’t say by any means that the horror series achieves the success of the prime example of horror, Another - but they do their best to stay in the lane that thrives on scares. The series does stay (fairly) youth friendly, but even then it does have nods to storytelling that can be acceptable to people of all ages. There are moments that would be more than startling to children (without a doubt) from the suspenseful horror that awaits all viewers.
Horror is a delicate genre to take on and even harder to impress the dedicated fanbase, so Yamishibai Ghost Stories deserves some praise and recognition for trying to keep it alive (no pun intended.) It takes different methods of narrative with so many bizarre segments which means that at least one of them should be able to achieve a few moments of unsettling nerves. Even the more average inclusions have an effect from time to time, with the first “episode” including an average woman who radiates an ominous suspicion from a distance or up close. To contrast my previous point, there are certain episodes that don’t contain enough to desire a rewatch, making it slightly disjointed on occasion. Overall, the anime has many more strengths than weaknesses by providing us with a horror laced mood to accompany the twists and turns of Yamishibai.
Yamishibai uses a very different animation technique in opposition of the traditional anime stylings of most series. This anime isn’t meant to have a fluid appearance, instead in captivates with a motion comic direction that can be hit or miss with production. In this instance, the motion comic appeal is fitting (surprisingly) by showing the simplistic designs that are sometimes the most unsettling - whilst embracing a tactical method of scares to unsuspecting viewers. In the beginning, I wasn’t too keen on the concept of animation, but it proved to me that I was wrong about my expectations. The Japanese audio dub in Yamishibai makes the anime series all the more nerve wracking, in a joint effort with the subtle score to establish it as a well thought out anime. If you are a fan of the horror genre and are open to trying something new, pick up Yamishibai on DVD and Blu-ray now!
Overall Score: 7/10
Aedan’s Final Thoughts:
- This series had fun new ways of trying to incorporate horror into anime, which I can appreciate.
- The short stories varied in terms of enjoyment, but there were enough aspects that stood out for the better.
- I hope that Yamishibai can potentially help with demand for more horror anime, we are seriously lacking!