Animating Halloween: Yami Shibai 2 Episodes 1 and 2 Review

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Yami Shibai 2 Episode 1 – Taro-Chan

Plot: A police officer goes around to schools giving safety lectures with his puppet, Taro-chan. While he’s a talented ventriloquist, perhaps it’s Taro’s turn to say a few words.

Breakdown: Opening the season on a creepy, then funny and yet ultimately sad note, this episode kinda cheats a little because dammit, using ventriloquist puppets should be cheating! They’re one of the pinnacle creepy yet for some reason for children icons of our time like clowns or Furbys. I had nightmares for years about that stupid Urkel puppet from Family Matters, and that’s a damn sitcom! You’re cheating, anime! You just are!

That being said, this does seem to follow the typical ‘haunted puppet’ formula. Acts all normal then boom it can talk on its own. But it’s not being threatening, really. It just gains the ability to talk and essentially goes on with the act in the same way, to a degree. Sure, it doesn’t let go of the officer’s arm, which leads to a funny shot of the officer trying to fight with the puppet to free his arm while Taro tries to tell his story about bike safety. However, it’s not doing anything you’d think it would do like gain a demonic voice or start cutting people up.

It takes a really sad turn near the end, and I feel like spoiling this one, so turn away until episode 2 pops up to avoid it;

It starts telling a story about how he was riding his bike and got hit by a car. His limbs start flying off, he starts getting louder and louder with the details of the crash and just as the officer is able to throw him off of his arm, he fumbles to the floor and keeps repeating that it hurt in a terribly distressed tone of voice. So, yeah, the insinuation here is that this is the spirit of a real boy who died after getting hit by a car. How he became a puppet and why is beyond me, but this is one of those instances where I don’t really care. Maybe the guy in the car did it to him? I don’t think the officer did it because he seems completely baffled by the whole ordeal and has no idea what the little wooden o-fuda is for.

I’ve never felt bad for a ventriloquist dummy before, but Yami Shibai 2 somehow managed it. This segment was a bit creepy for a minute, but damn it just ends so sadly.

Episode 2 – Kitchen

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Plot: A college student visits her friend at her new apartment. While it looks brand new, the building was occupied once before. Perhaps the old tenants are still around….

Breakdown: This one has creepy visuals, but overall feels a little on the lazy side. It’s really just a ghost that makes people go crazy and kills others for whatever reason. You can guess what will happen from the instant that the friend says that people used to live there before. And I hate to beat this dead horse, but a proper backstory for stuff like this would be nice.

What I didn’t expect was the absolute ending, which just seems equally lazy and makes no sense. If it had the ability to spread out to such a wide range, why didn’t it ever do it before? It could kill or possess everyone in town with such a power.

Like I said, the creature itself looks creepy enough and is animated in that craggy ‘crayon’ type look, but the rest of the animation seems off. I can’t pinpoint what it is, but this segment’s animation seems more…..’kid-ish’ than normal.

The ED this time is just alright. It’s the same basic style as the last one only the distortion isn’t as obvious and the melody isn’t as good.

Yami Shibai Review (Full)

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Plot: A series of short four-minute ghost and demon stories and urban legends presented in an animated kamishibai format.

Breakdown: I’ve already given my opinions of each of the episodes of this series, but I thought I’d do a quick wrap-up review for organization sake.

I really love short stories. They’re quick, fun and usually impacting and memorable. I especially love short horror stories. Those stories that instantly put you in front of a campfire with friends and family in your mind. Those urban legends that get passed around from person to person, leaving whole areas of people slightly on edge. They’re just awesome….when they work correctly.

This series is based off of an old Japanese street theater technique called kamishibai. A kamisibaiya, kamishibai narrator, would travel around with a butai, essentially a fold-up mini-theater and paper slides that would be interchanged to show passage of time and movement throughout the story.

This type of entertainment was very popular in the 1930s and post-war Japan, entertaining audiences of children all across the country. In order to make money on these shows, the showrunners would sell sweets to the children as their fee for the show.

As you can probably guess, while kamishibai did enjoy a period of great popularity, it was eventually all but snuffed out by the advent of television. Somewhat ironically, in Japan, television was referred to in the early days as denki kamishibai or electric kamishibai.

There are stray kamishibai shows in Japan today, but it’s mostly just a memory now. However, it is fondly remembered for its impact on Japanese children and society as a whole during the harrowing period in the 1930s and ’40s.

It is also greatly respected for its influence on the development of manga and anime. In fact, some of the first manga and anime started out as stories in kamishibai, such as Oden Bat, and the manga artist Shigeru Mizuki, creator of GeGeGe no Kitaro and Akuma-kun, started his career as a kamishibai artist.

Yami Shibai presents each episode as a kamishibai show with a mysterious masked narrator showing each story. While kamishibai typically showed a wide variety of stories, Yami Shibai focuses entirely on horror, ghosts, demons and monsters.

Since, like I mentioned, I’ve already discussed each short in full, I will rate each episode, linking to the individual reviews, then give an overall rating based on the individual ratings.

Episode 1 – 7/10

Episode 2 – 6/10

Episode 3 – 7.5/10

Episode 4 – 6/10

Episode 5 – 8/10

Episode 6 – 8.5/10

Episode 7 – 7.5/10

Episode 8 – 7/10

Episode 9 – 7/10

Episode 10 – 3.5/10

Episode 11 – 8.5/10

Episode 12 – 8/10

Episode 13 – 8.5/10

Overall (Rounded up) – 7.5/10

Really think the toilet monster hurt the rating more than I first thought.

The animation style is something I feel compelled to warn some people about, though, since I imagine this animated kamishibai format, which is basically paper dolls and everything animated in puppetry style and stop-motion, would get on the nerves of some people. I really believe this style greatly helps the storytelling aesthetic, but it appeared to annoy some people, so fair warning.

Additional Information and Notes: Yami Shibai: Japanese Ghost Stories was produced by ILCA. It was written by Hiromu Kuramoto and directed by Tomoya Takashima.

Episodes: 13

Year: 2013

Recommended Audience: There is a lot of ‘scary imagery’ but there’s not any gore, and the death scenes aren’t that bad. They usually cut away to the credits right before the big death happens. There’s one episode that touches upon suicide. There’s no sex, nudity etc. No swearing. 10+