Reopening the Theater of Darkness | Yami Shibai Season 8 Review

Plot: Season 8 of the horror anthology series, Yami Shibai.

Breakdown: Yami Shibai’s crew took one Halloween off last year to work on a spin-off anthology series called Ninja Collection, but since that bombed and no one remembers it even exists, they came back early this year to give us more horror anthology goodness.

And it was fine.

Like all of the seasons prior, I’ll give a masterlist of my reviews on each episode. However, since I have abandoned numbered rating systems, I’ll just give my brief thoughts on each episode like normal and draw a conclusion.

Episode 1: Dropped Handkerchief – Silly hook attached to a lame and cliche premise. Decent ambiance, though.

Episode 2: Death Day – Much better, and pretty unique. Was both creepy and genuinely scary at the end.

Episode 3: Don’t Look Back – The base concept itself is rather frightening to me, but this episode is very cliché and a giant mess in regards to its own rules and logic.

Episode 4: Bean-Throwing – Quite possibly one of the worst episodes of Yami Shibai based purely on the editing/composition. It’s torture. It’s a shame because the story is fairly unique – not scary, but unique.

Episode 5: The Sound of Laughter – Got me a little in hindsight, but not in a scary way. More of an ‘oh, that’s clever’ way.

Episode 6: Catch of the Day – The only unsettling part of this stupid episode was the pained sounds of a baby crying, but that has no real bearing on the story.

Episode 7: Issun Boshi – Really unique premise and rather interesting manifestation of feelings of jealousy and vengeance, but also really silly.

Episode 8: Viewing – Another fairly unique story held down by its weak premise. I still can’t get over how anyone who has ever been a student before would believe a trio of teens would randomly get the day off of school and then they decide to go anyway, uniform and all, for a…joke?

Episode 9: Antlion Pit – Out of all of the season eight episodes, this one is probably the most memorable to me. Outside of being a cautionary tale of something that many people don’t really have much control over, there isn’t much in the ways of scares here, but I did enjoy it quite a bit.

Episode 10: Footprints in the Snow – Best episode of season eight in all categories, from art to scares to uniqueness to ambiance, BUT it’s also incredibly depressing.

Episode 11: Curse – I really liked this one, but I wish the ending was different. Kinda ruins everything they were going for with the curse.

Episode 12: String Telephone – Really sloppy art, really sloppy premise, bad execution, but if told differently, it’d make for a fine campfire ghost story.

Episode 13: Sleeptalking – Season eight’s finale is just okay. I do find the premise to be a little scary, but they didn’t set up the twist well enough, if at all.

I was pretty underwhelmed by season eight, but outside of getting really frustrated with Bean-Throwing, nothing left too bad a taste in my mouth. There are plenty of spurts of creativity here, but it’s like they have a bucket of good ideas and half-ass the execution most of the time. A few of the entries were legitimately really good, but I yearn for more. I didn’t sacrifice last Halloween just for a few good Yami Shibai episodes in return.

Sad to say, but I think the days of the bookends with the narrator being anything more than typical bookends ever again are long over. I still enjoy them, especially the ending theme sequences, but I wish more effort would be put into making even a slight linear storyline again. You don’t even have to make a big deal out of it. Just make it a cool Easter egg or something.

Onto season nine!


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Animating Halloween: Yami Shibai 8 Episodes 11, 12 and 13 (SEASON FINALE) Review

Episode 11: Curse

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Plot: A teenager boy accidentally breaks a Jizo statue and everyone starts gossiping that he’ll soon wind up getting cursed.

Breakdown: I really liked this entry because it was a pretty good twist on the old “accidentally broke some sacred artifact and got cursed” story. The boy in this story doesn’t believe in curses at all, but he starts getting annoyed by everyone around him whispering and waiting for him to get cursed. At first, it’s just a general annoyance, but he starts seeing a strange man in a suit telling him to hurry up and get cursed already..

Soon, he starts hearing everyone around him waiting with smiles for him to get cursed and urging him to get cursed. Eventually, it’s all he sees and hears until the ending in which he falls down a flight of stairs and seemingly dies. The head of the Jizo statue rolls up next to him and starts cracking and glowing. The kid had indeed been cursed, but not in the way you’d expect.

The growing paranoia and the insensitivity of the people whispering around him made for a better scary experience than the typical bouts of bad luck or suddenly seeing ghosts experiences that most ‘cursed’ characters wind up with.

If I had one big criticism, it’d be that I think the story would have worked better if the guy went crazy and stayed that way instead of him going nuts for one day and then randomly dying. It just seems pointless to torment him for one day and then end it by killing him. There’d be a lot of irony/poetic justice, at least from the spirit’s perspective, in letting him be locked in a world where he never gets cursed, but everyone around him is eager for him to get cursed and thinks and says nothing but that around him.

Episode 12: String Telephone

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Plot: A man’s young daughter brings home a string telephone she made at school and wants to talk to him with it. However, they’re not the only people on the line.

Breakdown: This one has the makings of a decent campfire story, but execution is fairly sloppy.

First of all, the art is really messy. It’s like everything was hastily drawn with a ballpoint pen.

Second of all, I have no idea how things snowballed as badly as they did in the end. He went from going a little nuts at hearing this voice on the phone to suddenly having a time lapse where his wife and daughter leave him and his house fills with garbage because he’s going insane because of this string telephone that…I guess he can’t just throw away?

And then the ghost gets him? The end?

The voice on the phone seems to be of a woman with whom he was cheating on his wife. But I don’t know if she’s dead. The guy never says she’s dead, but she has to be if that’s her ghost on the other line, right?

Why would this lady wait until his daughter made a string phone before trying to contact him? He has a cell phone. Does that not work as well?

I guess, in the end, this was just a cautionary tale about cheating? Because if you do….and your daughter makes a string phone….your life will be ruined and you’ll die in a closet?

Like I said, the bare bones of the story works well enough as a campfire ghost story, it’s everything that was added as extra material that muddies the water too much.

Episode 13: Sleeptalking

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Plot: A college student becomes aware of his odd sleepwalking and sleeptalking habits where he frantically searches throughout his room for something.

Breakdown: Eh….Pbbbt.

Fairly lackluster season finale, if you ask me. It is kinda scary to think that you’re doing or saying strange things in your sleep without realizing it, and continuing to do the same weird actions over and over every night would be kinda creepy, but this story just didn’t have much to it.

After spending a fun night with his old childhood friend, a college student becomes aware of the fact that he wakes up every night searching his room for something. In order to figure out what’s happening, he films himself one night to watch video footage of it happening. He turns his room upside down searching for something when he finally finds what or, more to the point, who was missing.

I needed a third party to explain the ending to me, but apparently, and without any context clues beforehand, he and the childhood friend from before actually had a third best friend who went missing. The college student was searching for that friend in his sleep. The friend shows up, off screen, and says he found him, but now he’s missing and the third friend will search for him, implying that the third remaining friend will sleepwalk/talk as well until the day he vanishes and they’re all reunited in whatever purgatory world they’re vanishing off to.

I guess that’s kinda clever, but I wish it had been more properly set up is all.

And that was the final episode of season eight of Yami Shibai! My full review will be up soon, and then we’ll move on to season nine!


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Animating Halloween/Pixar’s Lamp | Coco (2017) Review

Plot: Miguel’s family has detested music for generations ever since his great-great grandfather abandoned his family to become a musician. Forced to follow his love of music and the famous musician Ernesto de la Cruz in secret, Miguel attempts to follow his dream of becoming a musician on Dia de Muertos by entering a music competition.

His grandma, having found out about his secret, destroys the guitar he built, leaving him with no means of participating in the competition. In an effort to secure a guitar in time, Miguel winds up getting trapped in the land of the dead when he tries to steal de la Cruz’s guitar from his tomb. Only the blessing of his deceased family members can send him back home, but they’ll only do it under the condition that he never play music again. Miguel scrambles to find another way home without sacrificing his love of music before sunrise or else he’ll be trapped in the land of the dead forever.

Breakdown: Warning – While I did my best to avoid spoilers in this review, I couldn’t avoid talking about some of them so, spoiler warning.

I have scoured far and wide for animated Halloween specials and movies, it never really occurred to me to look for any animated media about Dia de Muertos or the Day of the Dead until I decided to finally watch Coco. Let me be very clear – I’m aware that the Day of the Dead is not Halloween nor does Halloween’s roots really come from the Day of the Dead. They seem similar due to imagery such as graveyards and skulls and a few traditions such as dressing in costumes lining up, but they are not one in the same and come from very different backgrounds. Day of the Dead is also not celebrated on October 31st – although it does come immediately afterward on November 1st.

That being said, I still feel like this counts because….pbbttt….I want it to. Animating Halloween entries technically don’t have to be about Halloween, and it fits the general criteria so I’m counting it.

Onto more important matters, I need to get this out of my system, holy frickin’ rendering, this movie is GORGEOUS. Every frame of this movie is like it’s begging you to pause and stare at each image….which I did a few times. Pixar keeps outdoing itself at every turn. It’s beyond impressive. The details on the clothing and the faces, the hair, every little item and building, the textures, the animation, the absolutely heart-stopping coloring, the amazing stylization – I want to watch it all over again just to soak in more of those visuals. They’re so good.

This movie really aimed to celebrate Mexican culture, and while I can’t attest to any inaccuracies or the like since I am not Mexican or of Latin descent, I believe it achieved this goal in spades. It definitely serves as being a fantastic Dia de Muertos movie. It lends proper focus to the main themes and traditions of the holiday without beating you over the head with the message too much. I want to read up on it as much as I can because it looks like such a cool holiday that I wish we had in the States.

In regards to the story, it had its ups and downs. I think the premise is incredibly interesting and the story as a whole is well-executed, but that doesn’t mean it’s not without flaws. One of the biggest problems being that 90% of the movie is very predictable.

I’m going to say something silly right now, but believe me I have my reasons…..this is pretty much The Little Mermaid for the first 45 minutes. I’m not saying it’s about mermaids – there are approximately zero mermaids in the movie – I mean the general story notes hit the same. Something is banned and hated from the MC’s family/world, but the MC really adores the banned thing. MC enjoys the banned thing in secret until their fangirl/boyness gets found out. Parental figure destroys their hidden shrine to the banned thing, including one particularly important thing. MC runs off because of how awful and unfair they’re being. They accidentally enter another world by doing something unethical/wrong and they need to fix their mistakes without sacrificing their love of banned thing. In the end, both worlds combine and everyone’s happy. Bonus – the heavy music themes.

Even taking my comparison to The Little Mermaid out of the equation, it’s still a pretty predictable story for 90% of its runtime. However, it’s very much saved by two things; 1) The overall ride of the visuals, music and characters make this story memorable and unique. Remember, cliches and predictability are only as bad as you make them due to lack of style and innovation. 2) I said 90% of the storyline because there is a huge plot twist near the end that I never saw coming. I was really thrown for a loop when that was revealed. I knew that de la Cruz would turn out to be a bad guy because movies always tend to drive home a ‘don’t meet your heroes’ message for whatever reason, and the guy was simply hero worshipped by too many people to not turn out to be an awful person, but I never expected the other half of that reveal. I was completely blindsided.

Another issue was that I thought the family’s hatred of music was overkill to say the least. I can understand Imelda (Great-great grandmother) hating music that much, but not the entire family – most of which never even met the great-great grandfather. He could have abandoned his family for any profession. If he ran off to become a famous chef, would they all hate and banish food?

It’s revealed near the end that Coco never stopped loving her father and kept all of the letters and ‘poems’ he sent to her before his death, so why didn’t she stop this cycle of hatred? I’m not putting the full blame on her, since her mother seemed like a very outspoken person who likely passed on her hatred to Coco’s children without Coco getting a word in edgewise, but it still seems like something she had some modicum of control over, especially after Imelda died.

Give Triton credit. At least his hatred of humans and the surface world has quite a bit of justification behind it. Humans were a huge threat to sea creatures and they were responsible for killing his wife. Abandoning your family is a crappy thing to do no matter the reason, but music wasn’t responsible for him making that crappy decision. It just happened to be the dream he was pursuing. There’s nothing inherently bad about music. To have such a deep hatred of it that you harass people on the street for playing music, yell at family members for so much as humming or act like your son is a terrible person for wanting to be a musician is just crazy.

This was probably intentional, but the hypocritical aspect of Miguel’s family holding the concept of family so dear while also damning one of their family for something as silly as playing music is definitely not lost on me.

Of course, Miguel also had to learn the importance of family while both sides had to learn to balance family and passion, which was a sweet sentiment.

Being completely honest, in the end, Hector’s story was more interesting that Miguel’s journey, but I can’t go into that very much without spoiling a lot.

Miguel is a very nice and realistic boy, and, despite some hiccups, I never stopped rooting for him to both get back to the land of the living and retain his ability to practice music. Over the course of the story, it shifts from being simply about him pursuing his own dreams to also about bringing music back to his family.

The story as a whole is a great way to tackle the subject of death with children in a manner that is extremely respectful and not scary – at least in my opinion. No matter your beliefs on an afterlife, Coco isn’t afraid to talk about death, depict it and explore it in a manner that a child would understand fairly easily without too much to worry about in regards to frightening them.

There is one aspect of this lore that is scary and depressing even to adults – the concept of being forgotten. I think a lot of people have had that existential crisis where we think about what happens after we’re long gone and forgotten. Thinking about that in the scope of the physical world is enough of a heavy topic to weigh on any adult’s shoulders. Coco, however, introduces the concept of what I’ll call a double death.

When you die, you go to the land of the dead, which is basically our world only awesome because everyone’s a cool-ass skeleton and there’s a massive city with lots of neon lights, there are insanely cool spirit animals and everything’s incredible, but not in a heavenly perfect way.

Every Dia de Muertos, those in the land of the dead are allowed to pass over to the living world to visit their relatives and enjoy the festivities. You’re allowed to enter the physical world if your family has put up your photo in their ofrenda, which is a shrine where the photos of lost loved ones are displayed and offerings are placed during Dia de Muertos. Typically, as long as your photo is kept up every year, you’re not forgotten.

However, the depressing part comes for anyone who is forgotten. If your family or another loved one hasn’t put up your photo in an ofrenda and no one in the living world who knew you when you were alive still remembers you, you disappear…forever. You doubly die. How depressing is it to have an afterlife where you can die again, this time permanently, and the death is caused by your memory fading from the physical realm?

Hector even says disappearing in this manner happens to everyone eventually, which does make sense but geez, what a depressing concept.

Music being a central theme in this movie means the music has to be top-notch here, and I’m happy to report that it is. Both the orchestral score and the lyrical songs are phenomenal. It’s a soundtrack I’d gladly purchase.

The voice acting was also very well done. The movie has an almost entirely Latin cast, which is very appreciated, and everyone did quite well in their roles. I liked that they had Miguel be a decent singer but very obviously still sound like he’s rough and inexperienced. His passion for music and his skills with guitar playing shine through during these moments and make his performance both incredibly real and impacting without being distracting.

I loved Coco from start to finish, even if I was mostly latched onto the visuals for the first chunk of the movie before the story really took off. It’s one of Pixar’s best movies, if you ask me. I didn’t tear up at any point, but I had a blast watching it, and it did get me a tiny bit emotional near the end.

Recommended Audience: As I mentioned, this movie basically needs to talk about death and the afterlife a whole lot, which may be a touchy subject for children, but I believe it covers this topic so well that it wouldn’t be too risky for young children. Still, be warned that the themes are here and more sensitive children might not be receptive to it even with the happy and optimistic tone. It should also be noted that murder is brought up once. I don’t think there is anything else questionable or offensive etc. in this movie, so 6+.

Final Notes: Can we keep up discussing how awful Blu-ray cover art usually is? Look at the awesome poster I used for this review and then compare that with the Blu-ray.

This entire movie is chalked up to ‘Boy with guitar.’ Get your crap together, Blu-ray.


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Animating Halloween: Yami Shibai 8 Episodes 9 and 10 Review

Episode 9: Antlion Pit

Plot: A prominent office worker goes missing out of the blue. Her rival starts to become completely wiped out, exhausted from her workload but unable to find the time to get any rest. In her weariness, a desert appears before her on her way to work with a strange antlion pit in the center.

Breakdown: This one wasn’t scary, but it was depressing and had layers to it.

Saki’s rival goes missing, but she doesn’t think all too much about it since she has her own workload to worry about. She’s at the top of her game in the office, but her work is basically killing her. She goes home at extremely late hours only to go home to sleep for a short while before heading back to work.

While out walking, she sees a desert spring up out of nowhere. In the sand is an antlion pit. For those unfamiliar, antlion larvae create traps in the sand to capture and eat ants. The pit is dug in a cone shape, causing any ants that stumble into it to fall and be unable to climb the sloped sand back up, eventually falling to their doom in the center. This one, however, is a massive antlion pit big enough to nab humans.

Voices from within the pit try to coax her in by reminding her of how tired she is and how difficult it is for her to keep up with work. She nearly falls in, but manages to escape. When things only get worse at work and she gets even more rundown, she starts to give up on her life, which causes the pit to call to her again. This time, it’s successful and we’re shown that her rival also fell prey to the pit.

Later, Saki’s boss also thinks to himself about how much work he has to get done and how tired he is, leading him to the same desert. This time we see a line of people, first in near silhouette, emulating the appearance of a line of ants, all basically waiting to get into the pit and talking about how much work they have to do and how tired they are.

I think what they did here with the imagery is pretty clever. Indeed a lot of people basically just work themselves to the bone and/or live for work and don’t have much of a life otherwise, robbing them from truly living and essentially making them worker ants, if you will. Working too hard for too long will eventually lead to your demise.

I really like this episode. It’s not the most creative of all imagery considering comparing office workers to ants is not uncommon, but I like the additional imagery of the antlion pit and having the pit basically call out to you by drawing out your most negative feelings about your current work situation.

It’s very easy to find yourself working so hard that all you really want is to rest and you’ll take any opportunity to do so. And, sadly, sometimes you do find yourself going so far as to give up entirely. When you work yourself to the bone and wind up feeling like you’re not even really achieving anything, it can drain every bit of energy out of you. Someone in the comments said this was a particularly clever commentary on Japanese workforces, but, honestly, it applies just fine to American workforces and probably many, many others.

So, moral of the story, don’t work too hard……which….okay, is a good moral….but it’s not really a luxury for many people to not work this hard, which just leads me back around to the note about this story being depressing.

Episode 10: Footprints in the Snow

Plot: A pair of siblings are out in the woods building a snowman, but they’re not alone.

Breakdown: Best episode of season eight so far. It’s pretty scary, leaves just enough to the imagination and is fairly well-paced, but it’s also pretty depressing. I liked that they used footprints as both a lure to get a new victim to follow them and to trap them where they wanted them by making their own footprints disappear.

There hasn’t really been much differentiation in the art styles between episodes like normal, but this one is noticeably different, taking on a more water-colored art style. I like it.

Like I said, the only negative side to this story was that it was depressing. These poor kids were just having fun building a snowman and then that happens….


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Animating Halloween: Yami Shibai 8 Episodes 7 and 8 Review

Episode 7: Issun Boshi

Plot: Niimi used to be best friends with Miyama before he started dating a girl Niimi had a crush on. Miyama shares the tale of Issun Boshi – a creature that grants one wish to anyone who catches it. Consumed by jealousy, Niimi attempts to capture the creature, but things don’t turn out as planned.

Breakdown: This one was…..unique.

At face value, it’s a pretty goofy story, especially after Niimi accidentally steps on Issun Boshi. It gets damn near cartoony when Issun Boshi pops up in Niimi’s body and beats him up from the inside.

However, if you think about it a bit more, this story is a pretty good supernatural take on being consumed with jealousy or revenge. This is never a tale where the moral is ‘be careful what you wish for’ because Niimi never technically catches Issun Boshi nor is he offered a wish. He accidentally squishes him, which causes Issun Boshi to infiltrate his body and torment him as punishment. The only way he’ll let up is if he kills Miyama for spreading the story of Issun Boshi, causing people to chase him, and Nanako, his crush, for laughing at the legend.

I actually kinda like it, but I don’t much care for the slight implication that Niimi might have schizophrenia, and that’s the reason why he’s hearing voices and getting violent. If true, it’s perpetuating negative stereotypes about schizophrenia.

Episode 8: Viewing

Plot: A high school student gets notified by her teacher to not come to school the next day because the school will be shut down for a special viewing. Deciding to go anyway with her friends as a joke, she finds herself locked in a nightmare as she enters school grounds.

Breakdown: This episode is fine, but it’s also built on an insanely weak premise. What teenager thinks “Oh we get the day off school tomorrow? Hey, ya know what would be funny? If we went to school anyway for no reason and to do nothing. Let’s also wear our school uniforms in case anyone catches us.” Like, what? I know some kids do loiter in their school in the off-hours, but why would that be the first thing you’d think to do when told you have a sudden day off from school?

It’s not like the school is empty either. The teacher specifically said it was closed for a special viewing, meaning there would be some people there.

As for what went down when she actually did go to the school….it’s very confusing. She gets there and sees the classrooms filled with students who shouldn’t be there. Suddenly, the ‘viewing’ starts, and everyone puts their hands to their eyes and screams while a bunch of students drag a coffin through the halls. When the screaming stops, the girl opens her eyes to see that everyone now has empty eye sockets. The coffin opens and reveals Chie’s body and the Chie we’ve been seeing disappears, implying that she’s dead I guess.

So the moral of the story is if your teacher tells you to not go to school, you have to do everything in your power to resist going to school anyway. I know how much you kids love school, but if you go to it during off-hours you’ll die, so don’t do it.


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Animating Halloween: Yami Shibai 8 Episodes 5 and 6 Review

Episode 5: The Sound of Laughter

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Plot: A teenage boy is studying for his entrance exams when he starts hearing the sound of an old lady laughing wherever he goes.

Breakdown: This episode was funny, but I could see how it could be kinda spooky for a split second at the end.

The entire episode, I felt like laughing with the old lady, whom we never see by the way. And at the end, when the laughter spreads like laughing gas to the teen’s parents and they just can’t stop laughing no matter what, I was starting to laugh out loud.

Then you realize, ooh it’s spooky because the laughter spread to you. Clever, if you can get it to work, which it did for me, but that novelty wears off very quickly.

I still don’t understand what is up with this old lady. Why is she laughing and tormenting this family? What’s her story?

Episode 6: Catch of the Day

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Plot: A man brings home an odd fish after going fishing with a friend and starts acting very odd.

Breakdown: This episode was really stupid.

Guy caught a ‘fish’ that we never see, and he starts acting all weird because of it. In the middle of the night, his wife catches him cutting up the creature, which is…kinda blur censored or something? It’s clearly still alive and wailing like a baby as he chops it up. This made me very concerned that the ‘fish’ he ‘caught’ was actually a baby he kidnapped, which is why he desperately didn’t want his wife to see it…..

But nope.

It’s just a sea creature of some sort that makes the men turn into….I dunno, something after they eat it. The final shot is of the wife trying to pull off a blanket from her sleeping husband, implying he had turned into a monster, but they cut away before we see it. I guess it is slightly creative, but it’s definitely not scary and not all that interesting.


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Animating Halloween: Yami Shibai 8 Episodes 3 and 4 Review

Episode 3: Don’t Look Back

Plot: A young man finds himself lost in an unfamiliar neighborhood with a sign that says ‘From this point forward, don’t look back.’

Breakdown: This episode has the same cliché vibes as the first episode, even though it’s not quite as bad. However, like the first episode, there is also a problem in how the gimmick works.

In this episode, the obvious gimmick is that you can’t look back when you’re walking in this place or else you’ll disappear. The main character meets a young woman who also stumbled into this place. She used to be traveling with her boyfriend, but he looked back when he heard voices and vanished instantly. She has gone crazy desperately trying to not look back no matter what, and she’s trying to save the main character from suffering the same fate as her boyfriend.

Thing is, this place is also a purgatory of sorts. She states she’s been walking for so many days that she’s lost track, implying that no matter how much you walk you can’t escape from this place….so…why not look back? Sounds like you’re screwed either way.

This place also doesn’t follow its own rules. She says you can’t look back or else you’ll vanish, but then she also says she’s looked back several times, but she doesn’t explain what happened when she did. There’s just a closeup shot of a rock on the ground as she says it.

When you do look back and vanish, you’re just transported to the same location only a lot foggier and with ghosts hanging out in the windows of the houses. You’re still stuck in a loop either way. It’s never established that the ghosts will do anything to you, and it still seems like it’s pointless to not look back. If you’re trapped forever, you’re trapped forever.

Tell you the truth, the non-ghost neighborhood is really almost as bad. The ghosts are still technically in that area trying to trick travelers into looking behind them. They pretend to be your loved ones or kind strangers and they never leave you alone. The only difference is that you can’t see them. All the while, you try desperately to not look back and keep walking forward, knowing you’re not actually getting anywhere.

This story is actually pretty frightening to me, but, honestly, the ‘don’t look back’ stuff doesn’t have anything to do with it. The concept of just wandering into to some unknown area and being trapped forever without even realizing it seems like hell to me.

Episode 4: Bean-Throwing

Plot: A little boy is concerned that her mother has befriended a demon and is desperate to drive him out of their home.

Breakdown: Jeeezzzzz that episode was a nightmare to sit through…..Not because it was scary, though.

This episode was a total mess because of the dialogue. The little boy, Youta, is narrating throughout each second of this episode, but there is also regular dialogue going throughout the episode as well in the background. So, if you speak Japanese, you have to focus a lot to get both tracks of dialogue or stop and rewatch sections to focus on one track at a time. And if you don’t understand Japanese, you have to constantly pause the video to understand what’s being said in both tracks.

It totally took me out of whatever scary experience I would have had watching this episode.

If that wasn’t bad enough, Youta’s narration goes at a mile a minute because the episodes are so short. It’s like he chugged a case of Redbull before recording. So you not only have to pay attention to two tracks of dialogue most of the time, but you also have to keep pausing even more frequently just to read what Youta’s saying.

Once you manage to trudge through all of that, you find yourself with a fairly unique story, but also one that’s not that scary. Youta’s family used to be fairly happy, but things changed when his father suddenly left. He started hearing his mother having secret conversations at night with a shadowy figure that had red eyes. After having a weird existential crisis that seems way too heavy for his age, Youta felt like he had to get rid of the demon to protect his mother, but he didn’t know how to do it.

His school has a tradition every year of bean-throwing. People are meant to throw beans at demons once a year to keep them and the misfortune they bring away for a year. Why beans have this power, I don’t know.

Youta keeps a bag of beans from the event. That night, he sneaks to his mother’s room when she’s speaking with the demon, telling him she believes Youta’s starting to figure out their secret. He bursts in, breaking the light, and blindly throws beans everywhere to ensure the demon is gone.

When he’s done, he manages to find a light and turns it on. Both his mother and the demon are gone. He rubs his head and feels something odd. The end.

From what I gather, Youta and his parents must have been demons? That’s the only reason why his mother would have also vanished after the bean pelting. I think his father was either killed by a demon or could no longer maintain a non-demonic image anymore and had to stay hidden from Youta until he was old enough to know about his heritage.

I believe at the end Youta is feeling horns developing on his head?

This is interesting and all, but it’s not really scary. It’s mostly just sad because Youta, I guess, killed or banished his parents and now he has to grow up as a demon child without anyone to help him? Or is the talk about needing to do the bean throwing every year seemingly pointless because it means the demons return and indicate that his parents will be back next year?

I don’t know. And quite frankly I don’t want to keep analyzing this episode to figure out anymore. Even in the comments section people were like “I need a mangekyo sharingan to follow this episode.” This episode needed to be at least a couple minutes longer and have more breaks in the narration to not be so sloppy. It is ridiculous.


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Animating Halloween: Yami Shibai 8 Episodes 1 and 2 Review

Episode 1: Dropped Handkerchief

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Plot: Four teenagers go to an abandoned house in the middle of the night as a test of courage…..What could possibly go wrong?

Breakdown: Welcome one and all to 2021’s Animating Halloween! Yami Shibai is finally back after….*snicker* ghosting us last year, and they made up for the lack of season last year with two seasons premiering this year. Season nine is wrapping up right now, and we’ll be going over that this year as well to also make up for the lack of Yami Shibai in Animating Halloween last year.

I’m really excited…..buuuuuttttt…..

This episode was kinda lame, if you couldn’t tell from the plot alone. It’s so ridiculously cliché. It’s so disappointing that this is what we have to start out with. I mean, come on, four teenagers go to an abandoned house at night as a test of courage? Plus, the house has spooOOooooky backstory to it in that people just vanish when they’re in the house and the last residents were a family that also suddenly vanished?

Granted, the story itself has decent ambiance, but the only non-cliche hook is the aspect of the handkerchief, and that’s just boring in my opinion.

They very briefly show a shot of a drawing the kid from the missing family made where it depicts him playing the handkerchief game with what I assume is his family? The handkerchief game is almost exactly like Duck Duck Goose. A person who is ‘it’ walks behind a circle of people. They drop a handkerchief behind one of them, declaring them ‘it’ and that person has to pick up the handkerchief, chase the tagger and try to catch or kiss (?) them before they’re able to make a full lap around the circle and take the tagged person’s spot.

The teenagers all happen to sit in a circle when they visit the kid’s room, since that’s supposedly the most haunted room in the house. They want to party there, but one of them notices a handkerchief behind another person that wasn’t there before. The lights suddenly go out, and when they come back on the person who was nearest the handkerchief is shown to have vanished. The same repeats until everyone’s gone.

It happens so quickly that I just don’t see the point in even playing this game. It would be interesting if they showed one of them winning the game and escaping the house, but none of them can even try. The best that happens is one of them realizes the handkerchief is connected to the disappearances and throws it after they pick it up, but they still die. Even if you realized the game in time, there’s no one to chase or catch so how would you even win?

We have a new intro, this time being the narrator presenting his kamishibai show to a bunch of ghosts populating a dark foggy street. The ending has a new song, which is pretty darn good. The animation accompanying is has a girl made out of pencil scribbles running down a live-action street passing some fellow scribble people until she reaches the Yami Shibai narrator. It’s possible some of these people are references to the stories but I can’t be certain.

Episode 2: Death Day

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Plot: The Kunitake family has a tradition of always gathering in the family home and spending the day together on the anniversary of their mother’s death. It seems like an innocent enough tradition to Sachiko, who has recently married into the family, until she realizes that maybe the mother is celebrating this day as well.

Breakdown: Alright, this is more like it! A more original premise, pretty spooky ambiance and a genuinely surprising and scary twist at the end.

I am very thankful that they didn’t show what the ghost looked like in the end because that would have ruined the entire twist and the looming fear over what was in the room with them. Not sure why Sachiko could see the ghost when no one else could, but that’s an easily hand-waved detail.

Overall, I really enjoyed this story. Wish this one had been the first episode of the season, but what can ya do?


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Animating Halloween 2021 Update

Hello visitors of this little ol’ blog. Hope you’re all staying healthy and happy.

October is just around the corner, which means Animating Halloween is coming up real soon. With that, I have some good news and some bad news.

The good news is Yami Shibai has released two new seasons since the last Animating Halloween, which is AWESOME because I really thought Yami Shibai was over and done with. The tradition continues!

The bad news is things are kinda hectic right now. I’m moving soon-ish (numerous variables are keeping that up in the air. It’s kinda frustrating.) and I still have to do a bunch of stuff in preparation of that. Plus I have other personal things to handle. Animating Halloween is still on for sure, but posting once a day as I usually do during October may not work for me right now. To not rob you of Animating Halloween goodness, I will do a rollover AH day into November for each day I miss in October.

I know my posting habits aren’t spot-on either way, but I wanted to at least give you guys a heads up this year. I love doing these month-long review specials and it always makes me disappointed when I don’t manage to complete it, both for you guys and myself. Halloween is one of my favorite holidays, and I want you guys to be able to celebrate alongside me. 🙂

Finally, if you have anything you’d like to see me review for Animating Halloween, feel free to make suggestions. As a reminder, I will review anything as long as it’s mostly animated or is a graphic novel/manga of some sort and, of course, related to either Halloween or horror.

Have a Happy and SpooOooooOOOOoooookkkkyyyy Halloween, everyone! And thank you all for reading! 🧡

AniManga Clash! Yu-Gi-Oh Season Zero Episode 11: The Rumored CapuMon’s New Arrival (Placeholder + Notes on Chapter 24)

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Plot: Miho is gifted a gacha machine from a college student named Warashibe, who has a crush on her. The machine is filled with Capsule Monsters – toys used to play the latest gaming craze of the same name. Warashibe is friends with Yugi since they play Capsule Monsters together, and he helped Warashibe set all of this up.

Miho is flattered, so she sends him a nice letter and a Capsule Monster, stating that she’s starting to get into the game too.

Problem is, Warashibe is a massive creeper. Even Yugi, one of the friendliest souls in the world, is put off by his overly dramatic and obsessive behavior both in regards to Capsule Monsters and Miho. He has a ‘secret base’ that is actually an old warehouse loaded with every Capsule Monster you could ever dream of, and he spends a lot of his time playing with them in the dark. He had a chance encounter with Miho a short while before and was so enamored with her that he dubbed her his Capsule Monster Goddess.

In another effort to win Miho over, Warashibe traps Yugi into helping him with a ploy. Yugi pretends to be an attacker threatening Miho and Warashibe fights him off. However, the plan fails. Miho freaks out at Warashibe’s advances and even yells that she knows really nothing about Capsule Monsters, much to Warashibe’s dismay.

The next day at school, Jonouchi, Anzu and Honda mock Warashibe for what he did. However, they don’t realize that he’s in the cafeteria with them in disguise listening to their every word. Seeing them as a threat to his and Miho’s relationship, Warashibe poisons Anzu, Jonouchi and Honda with glasses of raw water, giving them stomachaches.

A note in her locker leads Miho to the revelation that Warashibe was behind this. Pissed off, she grabs Yugi and they head to Warashibe’s secret base to chew him out. However, he posits a challenge – Miho will face him in one game of Capsule Monsters. If she wins, he’ll leave her alone forever. If she loses, she has to give herself over to him.

She accepts, and they start the game. Using a gacha machine, they select their Capsule Monsters. However, Miho’s picks are horrible. She has three level ones, the lowest level, one level two and a level four. Warashibe has two level fours and three level fives, the highest level you can use.

Miho doesn’t even get two turns into the game before she becomes frustrated at the one-sidedness and Warashibe’s attitude. Yugi accidentally knocks the gacha machine over and reveals a hidden mechanism designed to give Warashibe the best Capsule Monsters.

They try to run out of the building, but Warashibe uses a trap gate over the door to stop them. He also unveils a giant capsule in which he plans to keep Miho forever. The beam which is holding the gate crumbles, however, and knocks Miho out. Yami emerges from the smoke holding Miho’s unconscious body and challenges Warashibe to a game himself.

Yami decides to use the Capsule Monsters that Miho used in their game instead of picking a better batch, and they’ll simply pick up where Miho left off, not clear the board and start a new game. He has also declared that this game will be a Shadow Game.

Warashibe accepts and the battle starts. Warashibe easily starts picking off all of Yami’s creatures one by one, and he’s quickly left with only one on the board. However, Yami points out that he was luring him into a trap. He has lined up all of his monsters into a diagonal line in front of Yami’s last creature, who, despite being a lowly level two, just so happens to have the ability to insta-kill any monster, even level fives, as long as they’re diagonal to it.

Yami activates the ability, destroying all of Warashibe’s monsters and winning the game. Yami reminds Warashibe that Capsule Monsters aren’t about collecting – they’re about battle and using even seeming disadvantageous creatures to their full potential to win.

Warashibe has a hissy fit about the loss, but Yami delivers his punishment game – locking Warashibe in a giant level one Capsule Monster capsule.

Back with a now recovered Anzu, Jonouchi and Honda, the group talks about what happened. Miho runs up yelling about the new Capsule Monster she got, but trips and falls, dropping a slue of Capsule Monsters everywhere.

Breakdown: Oh my god. Fuck this episode with a spork made of porcupine needles.

This episode is a perfect storm of annoyingness and bad writing decisions.

Miho being given the focus is already bad enough, but Warashibe is one of the creepiest yet lamest piece of shit antagonists I’ve ever seen. The guy tries to act all menacing while he sucks on a striped lollipop 24/7, sits at gacha machines for hours basically emptying them out to get the best Capsule Monsters, sits in the dark in his little den of Capsule Monsters just playing by himself somehow and when he doesn’t get what he wants he collapses on the ground crying and has a tantrum.

Funnily enough, the subber pointed out during his last tantrum that his name translates to ‘Child.’

He also has a super-villain-esque trap set up in this warehouse and has that ridiculous life-sized Capsule Monster capsule that he plans on storing Miho in? What the actual hell?

Not to mention that he likes to pepper in English words into his speech, and they’re always just pet names for Miho like ‘Baby’ ‘Sweetheart’ and ‘My darling.’ Plus, his creepy little smiley expression can go die in a hole.

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While I do commend Miho for stepping up during this episode, she’s also a complete dumbass for the entire run. Creepy college student she barely knows gifting her a gacha Capsule Monsters machine loaded with Capsule Monsters? Better write him what was basically a love letter and include a little gift for him so he’s lead on even more. Have physical evidence that would link him to the poisoning of your three friends? Better not call the cops and instead confront him yourself with your only defense being a four foot tall spiky haired game enthusiast who is so innocent his mind is literally a child’s playroom. Guy who is obsessed with Capsule Monsters, has a warehouse full of rare Capsule Monsters (that Miho’s currently in) and spends his days playing Capsule Monsters whenever he can? Meanwhile you admit that you know little to nothing of the game and have only started practicing by yourself a day ago? Better accept his challenge where the stakes involve you handing yourself over to him if you lose.

I thought they would pull a 180 on me. I thought they’d have Miho take Yami’s place in this Shadow Game and actually manage to impress everyone with how skilled she is, secretly being a Capsule Monsters nut or something. It would’ve been a good twist, a great (and much needed) moment for Miho and it would have added something to her character.

But nope.

She makes stupid moves, basically quits after two turns and then is knocked out and Yami has to swoop in and save her ass. Then she becomes obsessed with Capsule Monsters for a quick end tag joke, but I guarantee this will never be brought up again. She ends the episode with no development or anything – she’s just ditz-ass Miho as usual.

What’s even worse is they kinda imply that Yami was just employing a strategy that Miho started – a brilliant but also completely luck based strategy that instantly won the game. I can’t believe for a minute that that would be the case. Even little Yugi pointed out that she was making bad moves, and it was never implied that she might have been up to something. Plus, if she really did have this brilliant strategy in mind, why did she quit after two moves? Even in her inner monologue, she admits that she has no idea what she’s doing.

I’m want to believe this is poor wording and that Yami was really taking advantage of a situation and monster that Miho didn’t realize she had….but I can’t.

The reason for this being the only actual AniManga Clash note I have for this episode. I mentioned in the review of chapter 24 that the Shadow Game part of that chapter was the only part adapted in Season Zero. And, yeah, it is. Just replace Warashibe with Mokuba, replace a weird love obsession motive with one of vengeance and remove Miho entirely and it’s the same game. He even cheated the same way and got the same punishment.

Remember how I mentioned that, in that chapter, they foreshadowed Yami’s strategy by having his bird monster off on its own while the other monsters were bunched up together? He was clearly planning that BS move from the very beginning….

Well…..Miho’s side of the field is set up the exact same way…..

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So even though she herself admits that she has no clue what the hell she’s doing, she still managed to think up and create this miracle winning opening formation and perfectly set up the BS win. Yami basically just noticed what she was planning and went through the motions, I guess. Miho’s an unwitting Capsule Monster prodigy.

OR, and here’s the more likely theory, the artists mirrored this game without it clicking in their minds that this opening formation was the perfect setup for Yami’s BS plan and didn’t realize what it would be implying to anyone paying attention.

This is another reason why it would have made more sense for Miho to take Yami’s place here. Have her hustle Warashibe and even trick Yugi. Act like the simple annoying moron she always is, but slowly reveal that she’s secretly a badass Capsule Monster player who has been playing in private for a long time. She just doesn’t tell anyone because it’s viewed as a game for younger children and she doesn’t want to get made fun of. She can even claim she told Warashibe that she didn’t know anything about Capsule Monsters because she thought he was creepy and wanted him to go away.

Then her opening formation would make perfect sense, and she’d be winning her own freedom instead of Yami doing it for her.

But again, nope. Just have her be a complete idiot who accepted a challenge that clearly wasn’t in her favor, even in spite of the rigged capsule selection.

And how, after all of that, is she suddenly obsessed with Capsule Monsters? I’d think if a guy stalked me, poisoned my friends, nearly kept me as a human Capsule Monster for his own sick enjoyment, and gambled my life on a rigged Capsule Monster game, the last game I’d ever want to play would be Capsule Monsters. But, nope nope nope. Miho does things just cuz.

Is this the last Miho-centric episode? Please say it is. They never do anything worthwhile with her and she’s like sandpaper on all of my senses, so why bother?

Go away, Miho.

Next time, Jonouchi tries to win big on a local game show, but certain people aren’t willing to let him get the prize money so easily.


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