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 just give my masterlist of the episodes.
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.
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+
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