Animating Halloween: Yami Shibai 9 Episodes 11, 12, 13 (Season Finale) + Special (Episode 0) Review

Episode 11: Dragon Palace

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Plot: An overworked man and his coworker go night fishing to relax. He soon realizes that his friend isn’t exactly fishing for fish….

Breakdown: Unrelated to the episode, but can I just take the time out to say, holy crap, how am I just now noticing that this season has a full zodiac motif and it isn’t just an opening sequence gimmick?

Every episode so far has had a title and theme that involved a zodiac animal. I feel like a fool.

Anyway, this episode is okay. Not the first time I’ve seen a story where someone who is overworked or lonely or something gets dragged away by some mysterious beautiful woman who just wants to suck the life force out of the men, but this version was done well enough. Not sure what any of this has to do with dragons, though. Is the woman meant to be a dragon?

Episode 12: Monkey Prayer

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Plot: The legend of the Monkey Prayer claims it will bring death to anyone of your choosing.

Breakdown: There’s nothing inherently wrong with this episode, but there’s not a lot to sink your teeth into in regards to unique aspects. I’ve never heard of the Monkey Prayer before, but there’s certainly no shortage of legends concerning curses that bring death upon someone. The background of the legend is that monkeys started mimicking humans in prayer during funerals, but they have a special way of praying, with their elbows touching when they put their hands together. It’s not really that unique.

The other aspect of this episode is not judging a book by its cover. There’s a creepy girl in class who first alerts Mei to this legend. At first, it seems like she’d be the one doing the cursing, but it turns out she’s not only innocent, she was also giving Mei information that could save her life. I’ve also seen this before. In fact, I feel like I’ve probably seen it in Yami Shibai several times.

The motive of the actual culprit is very vague. Someone theorized that she was jealous because she had a crush on Mei’s boyfriend, but it’s not really clear.

It’s fine, but it’s kinda sloppy and not enough is done to make it stand out much.

Episode 13: Year of the Cat

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Plot: A designer tells his coworker about the legend of the cat of the zodiac. The story goes that the rat tricked the cat when they were supposed to have a feast with god, causing him to miss the party. While this legend is a relatively well-known folktale, there’s an urban legend tied with the myth. Apparently, after that incident, the cat ate the rat, and god kicked the cat out of the zodiac as punishment. People are still born in the year of the cat to this day, and if god notices them he wipes them from existence.

Breakdown: Fruits Basket reference!

Now that that’s out of the way, this is a pretty clever horror twist on the legend of the cat of the zodiac, and this is a great note to cap off the zodiac motif of this season. I’m not sure it’s all that scary, though. I suppose not many people would know whether or not they were born in the year of the cat, but the main lesson here seems to be to keep your ego in check. If you do that, then you’ll never receive the punishment from god.

I like how the episode mirrors the legend by having Mitsuki deceive the MC about the design contest their boss was holding. However, this time the rat’s the ‘good’ guy instead of being, well, a rat. He wasn’t really justified in what he did, though, so it’s hard to call him a good guy. The MC may have been an asshole, but he didn’t really seem bad enough to do that to him.

SPECIAL (Episode 0): The Old Well

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Plot: A woman is camping with friends when she accidentally falls down a well. Trapped, she has to find a way out on her own. However, she’s not really alone.

Breakdown: I can’t really get a lot of information on this special. From the way it’s formatted, I guess it was a….mobile exclusive episode that was released before season nine’s proper premiere as a way of promotion, but I can’t be sure. It does have an extremely weird vertical format, though.

This is, by far, the scariest episode of season nine, and probably one of the most legitimately scary episodes of Yami Shibai that I’ve ever seen. Granted, it’s not the most creative premise in the world, but it did manage to play on my biggest fear – drowning. And drowning in such a confined space as a well just makes it worse. I’m not claustrophobic, but in a circumstance of drowning, it would make me panic so much more.

The ending is simultaneously depressing and scary, which is kinda good for a horror story since it means I sympathize with the main character. Still, what an awful fate for that poor girl.

And that was all of Yami Shibai 9! I really hope we get season ten next year, but for now we’ll just head on to do the full Yami Shibai 9 review and kinda close out this year’s Animating Halloween!

Like I mentioned in my announcement at the start of the month, I knew I’d be very sparse on Halloween content this year due to personal matters, and I certainly was, so allow me to welcome you all to Animating Halloween: Noctober! Throughout November, I will be peppering in more Halloween reviews throughout my regular reviews of the month. While a good chunk of the hecticness has died down for me, it will start back up soon enough. I hope to be back to normal in time for A Very Animated Holiday Special, but we’ll have to see. Until then, thank you all for your patience, comments, likes and sticking with me through the spoooOOOOoooookiness.

👻 Have a Happy and Safe Halloween! 🎃


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Animating Halloween: Yami Shibai 9 Episodes 9 and 10 Review

Episode 9: Snake Celebration

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Plot: A woman who has recently married visits her in-laws for the first time in order to celebrate her brother-in-law’s birthday.

Breakdown: This episode had a lot of promise in the first half but really fell off in the latter half. This story does a good job at making you like the main character and the in-laws, and the noises made when the family were behind the paper doors were really creepy…..However…

I know people, myself included, sometimes have a problem with Yami Shibai choosing not to show enough of the ghost or monster or what have you, but this episode has the opposite problem in that it shows too much. I was so into it until the instant they showed what the snake monster looked like. They had a perfect thing going where were just seeing what was happening via silhouette behind the paper door, but then they made that pointless by outright showing us the creature full out for numerous seconds, and it’s really lame.

Spoiler alert, the in-laws are snake people, but in the lamest of terms. As in, when they shed their skin, they’re just scaly. That’s it. No creativity whatsoever just…scales. And of course the ending is the MC turning into a snake person too, but really just getting scales. They’re not killing her or anyone else, they’re simply making her scaly. And that’s only when she chooses to look that way. The family usually has regular human appearances, and it’s only when they shed this skin that they look this way. I wouldn’t want to become scaly, but it’s hardly the scariest horror story ending.

I will say that the art style is creepy enough. It’s a bit rough and ugly, but the faces are just subtle enough in their creepy stares and slightly wide eyes that it makes you uncomfortable.

Episode 10: Boar Meat

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Plot: A young girl named Nao, who has recently moved to the countryside, has a difficult time making friends until she meets another girl named Botan. A strong bond forms between them quickly as they care for peonies through the winter, but there’s something peculiar about Botan….

Breakdown: I was really loving this story for a while. The art, the water color-like coloring style, the characters, the story, the pacing – it was one of the most engaging Yami Shibai stories I’ve seen to date.

However, it’s also one of those episodes that makes absolutely no sense unless you know Japanese, and even once you learn the context it’s still a little confusing. Granted, the story isn’t confusing at all until the very ending.

A bullied new kid in town, Nao, befriends a really nice girl named Botan, and they live in their own little world simply caring for a peony plant on a hilltop in the woods. It’s obvious something is off about Botan, but her intentions with Nao never seem malicious.

I feel like I have to spoil this one to explain how confusing the ending is, so fair spoiler warning.

At the end of the episode, Botan hurts her leg on something unseen. In a panic, Nao rushes off to get help, despite Botan’s pleas to not leave her side. As we cut to black after the incident, we see Nao with a really haunted expression sitting quietly at the table as her mom talks to someone on the phone about making a hotpot for dinner with the boar meat they’re giving them…..the end.

It’s rare that I reach these levels of confusion, but there I was. The sub I watched didn’t have any notes about the context here, as usual, so I went to the comment section to find someone explaining the ending.

According to one of the commenters, Botan was actually a boar who could, for some reason and somehow, take the form of a young girl. But, to everyone else, Botan just looked like a boar. Case and point, one of Nao’s bullies started throwing rocks at them because he believed Nao was being attacked by the boar. During the attack, Botan’s eyes turned yellow, scaring the boy away.

When Botan hurt her leg, she actually got it caught in a trap meant to hunt boars. It’s unclear what would have happened had Nao stayed with her, but, supposedly, when Nao went to get help, she either returned to realize her friend was actually a boar, which had since been killed by the trappers, or the people she got to help were the trappers, who in turn killed Botan right in front of Nao – either of which would explain why she looks so horrified and grief-stricken near the end. I can only imagine she felt exponentially worse once her mother started talking about making a hotpot with the boar meat that was offered by the trappers who just killed her best friend.

You may be wondering how the heck we jumped from a little girl taking care of a flower to a boar. The thread holding all of this together is Botan’s name. Botan means ‘peony’, but there’s also a Japanese stew called Botan Nabe made with wild boar meat. It’s named as such because the pieces of boar meat are cut and arranged like the petals of a peony. Basically, the ending is a super dark joke on Botan’s name.

There was also a theory that Botan was merely caught in a trap and was later killed by a wild boar, but this theory doesn’t fit nearly as well as the other one, especially since the mother would be ridiculously nonchalant about the entire situation. “Oh a boar killed my daughter’s best friend? Oh sorry about the fuss. Sure, I’d love to make dinner out of the boar meat!”

Either way, holy crap, what a depressing end to this story. This poor girl is just lonely and bullied. She finally finds a friend, and not only does she realize she wasn’t an actual person the whole time, but she, at best, saw her dead body (I have no clue if she ever reverted to looking like a boar to Nao at any point. For all we know, she could have seen a young girl’s dead body.) or, at worst, witnessed her being slaughtered. And no matter which of those it was, she still has to deal with the fact that her best friend is for DINNER. What the actual hell?

In my opinion, as long as you know the context, this is a pretty good story, but that ending is way too depressing. Season nine’s really going heavy with the sad stories, eh?


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Animating Halloween: Yami Shibai 9 Episodes 7 and 8 Review

Episode 7: Mr. Rooster

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Plot: A punk rock band gets a new bassist named Mr. Rooster, but he’s a bit…off.

Breakdown: Hmmm. This one is interesting. Not sure I’d go so far as to call it scary, especially since the supernatural aspect technically wasn’t malicious, but it was somewhat creative and the imagery made it a little creepy.

I don’t much care for the ‘It was all a dream….?’ ending, but eh.

Episode 8: Rocking Horse

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Plot: A man’s sister sends him his old rocking horse for his son to play with. His son loves the toy….but so does someone else.

Breakdown: Wow, this was probably one of the best episodes of Yami Shibai. Not reaching the peak of quality, but still fairly high on the list.

Rocking horses aren’t really one of those old toys that typically gets used as horror story props, but they took the idea and ran with it. The rocking horse on its own looks weird enough to seem both realistic as a toy and yet very creepy. The episode has some really eerie vibes to it, a really intriguing story and a frightening end.

My only real gripe with it is the fact that the story just stops. It sets up this mystery so well, but right as it starts getting really interesting, the episode ends. I am well familiar with Yami Shibai’s system. Their episodes are four minutes long at most, and that’s barely enough time to tell a coherent story from start to finish. Many times, this results in the episodes having very abrupt endings that, many times, also end in cliffhangers. But this was one of those episodes where I felt like it was more of a cliffhanger middle than a cliffhanger ending. This story definitely needs a part two, but they haven’t done that in Yami Shibai in a long, long time so I’ll probably never get proper resolution to it.

Great episode, but I really needed like one more minute to get a satisfying ending.


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Animating Halloween: Yami Shibai 9 Episodes 5 and 6 Review

Episode 5: Paper Mache Tiger

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Plot: A man’s son dies in a tragic accident, leaving only the paper-mache tiger he helped him make as one of his only precious heirlooms.

Breakdown: Yami Shibai likes to delve into ghost stories that are purely sad sometimes, and this is one of those moments.

This episode is sad from start to finish, and there’s never a moment where you’re creeped out. In fact, if anything, the presence of the ghost makes you feel somewhat comforted. However, the story has an extremely bittersweet ending. The instant the head of the paper mache tiger starts shaking its head ‘no’ back and forth, you start panicking, but then when the head falls, you’re really hit with the full brunt of the grief of their situation. I won’t spoil the story for you, but I very much enjoyed it, no matter how sad it was. I’ll say this is now my favorite story of both season eight and nine.

Episode 6: Spirit Ox

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Plot: A man starts reliving the same day over and over.

Breakdown: I was gearing up to write this one off as just plain stupid, but it wound up being really sweet and wholesome. I had a feeling about the twist at the end about the ‘special occasion’ but I was so confused about the spirit ox aspect.

I don’t want to spoil anything, so I’ll just tell you to read up on the Japanese Bon festival before watching this.

Overall, this was a really sweet and lighthearted story that I really enjoyed.


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Animating Halloween: Yami Shibai 9 Episodes 3 and 4 Review

Episode 3: The 44th Sheep

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Plot: A college student suffers from insomnia, but flies off the handle in a rage when his friend tells him to count sheep to get to sleep, muttering that the 44th sheep will come for him if he does. That night, the friend decides to see what he was talking about by counting sheep. When he gets to 44….

Breakdown: This one was a half goofy half creepy.

I never really thought you could make a scary story out of counting sheep, but if it was possible, they did as good a job as anyone.

While it does a good job at being creepy, especially using the limited animation to its benefit, you just can’t escape the goofiness of the concept. It can’t help but be marred a little on the subject matter alone.

Episode 4: Lapdog

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Plot: A woman takes a job as a petsitter for an old lady in a secluded town. The pay is good, the dog is adorable and it’s not too much of a hassle. However, no good deed goes unpunished.

Breakdown: This episode was frickin’ hilarious.

I don’t even want to spoil why it’s hilarious, just trust me. It is. And I don’t mean that in a manner of the episode being stupid. I just mean the story is good but goofy.

Also, in case you’re like me and hate stories with animal death, don’t worry, the cute little puppy doesn’t die. It has a depressing ending, but the puppy doesn’t die. Also, wait until you see the puppy in a raincoat. It’s adorable.


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Animating Halloween: Yami Shibai 9 Episodes 1 and 2 Review

Episode 1: Rat’s Wedding

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Plot: A man gets a new job in a strange town that is currently practicing a tradition where a wedding and a funeral are held at the same time.

Breakdown: SEASON NINE, BABY! Let’s do this!

Our ninth season of Yami Shibai has the narrator presenting the stories to a demonic looking version of the zodiac characters, and that’s really damn neat.

As for our first episode of the season, this one was pretty entertaining, a little creepy, but not really scary. A man gets a well-paying job at a company that resides in a very small town. The town is currently holding a traditional event where they have a wedding and funeral at the same time. The tradition was started as a means to cheer up the bereaved. When the wedded couple have their first child, it’s supposedly the reincarnation of the one whose funeral was held on the wedding day.

This whole creepy cult-like small town is always a pretty unsettling concept to me, but it loses its footing near the end. First of all, this whole story doesn’t make much sense. The boss guy who is telling the new guy all of this information says that, due to the tradition, their town never experiences town growth or loss. But…does that mean no one ever dies unless there’s a wedding planned? Or is there a spontaneous wedding planned when someone dies suddenly?

The new guy ends up basically getting kidnapped by the townsfolk to act as the groom for the bride of the wedding, but he’s a new person, doesn’t that mean the population technically grew?

The reason the episode is called Rat Wedding is shown in the ending….I…guess the townsfolk were all rat demons or something? When the new guy saw the funeral procession, there were six coffins. When he wakes up to his new bride, she’s holding six babies, but they’re not in the town anymore, I don’t think, so did they leave? Doesn’t that mean the population went down?

I don’t get it.

It’s an entertaining little story, but not really enough to elicit any fear.

The ED for this season is quite nice as always. The background visuals are a series of masks on pendulums that slowly grow more and more grotesque.

Episode 2: The Man in the Rabbit Hutch

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Plot: An elementary school teacher starts reading a story written by one of her students when the story starts to get a little too real.

Breakdown: This was pretty cool and creepy story. They showed just enough of the man in the rabbit hutch for him to be creepy while not giving away so much as to make him goofy. Just the disgusting sounds of him chewing on carrots was enough to have me consistently creeped out by the thing.

The one bad spot about this story is that it’s a little too obvious what the ending will be once the kid says he needs to find the man a new place to live. However, it’s made up for a little bit by including that awful crunch sound in the end. Eugh.


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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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