Animating Halloween: Yami Shibai 2 Episodes 1 and 2 Review

Episode 1 – Taro-Chan

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

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

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

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

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

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

Episode 2 – Kitchen

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

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

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

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

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


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Yami Shibai Review (Full)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Since, like I mentioned, I’ve already discussed each short in full, I will just give my masterlist of the episodes.

Episode 1 – The Talisman Woman

Episode 2 – Zanbai

Episode 3 – The Family Rule

Episode 4 – Hair

Episode 5 – The Next Floor

Episode 6 – The Overhead Rack

Episode 7 – Contradiction

Episode 8 – The Umbrella Goddess

Episode 9 – Curse

Episode 10 – Moon

Episode 11 – Video

Episode 12 – Tomonari

Episode 13 – The Tormentor

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

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

Episodes: 13

Year: 2013

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


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Animating Halloween: Yami Shibai Episode 13 FINALE Review

Episode 13 – The Tormentor

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Plot: A bunch of elementary school kids in the country spy on a mysterious house through binoculars. One of their friends states that their grandma told them when she was a little girl, she and a friend walked by the house and someone came out of it. When whoever or whatever it was came out, her friend disappeared and was never seen again. What’s really in that house? And are you safe from it even while spying through binoculars?

Breakdown: The season finale of Yami Shibai ends on a great note because this is one of the best entries in the series. You expect the kids to witness something that will come back to attack them later, but it doesn’t go that direction at all.

This is yet another story where it would be nice to have backstory. What is that dancing thing and why can’t you look it in the eye? Why does every adult seem to accept that this thing exists, wears blindfolds around it, yet they don’t warn the nearby children to not go anywhere near there or to not even look over there?

I will say that this episode has the best animation of all of the shorts. It’s still done in that paper cutout puppet manner, but you can tell more detail is put into various shots and several shots actually seem like they’re legit animated. The final jump scare of the short is the most animated I’ve ever seen anything in this show, and this was definitely the place to put it. I can’t tell what type of animation is being used for this shot, but it seems extremely realistic.

Overall, this was a spooky and scary finale to the season.

And yes, I said season. Yami Shibai has a season two! Here’s to another 13 episodes of ghosts, demons and horror!


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Animating Halloween: Yami Shibai Episode 11 and 12 Review

Episode 11 – Video

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Plot: Three middle-school boys are trying to finish up their homework before their summer break is over. When they start to get antsy, one of them decides to play a tape that his cousin lent him that supposedly shows a ghost.

Breakdown: Well, this one certainly makes up for the poo monster.

This episode is arguably the best and scariest one yet, though it also exercises the tried and true ghost story method of a ghost/monster on a video tape. The pacing and atmosphere are great, even if it’s a little predictable, and the jump scare was pretty good too. While a good chunk is kinda predictable, the absolutely ending twist did get me, and the visuals for that shot were just fantastic, especially with the angle.

And, really people, remember, if someone lends you a tape that supposedly has ghost footage on it, for the love of god, don’t play it. Especially if the person wrapped the tape in electrical tape to prevent people from watching it. Not only is that a bad omen, but hell, that electrical tape gunk has to be bad for the VCR heads.

Why didn’t they just burn the tape if they knew what it was?

Episode 12: Tomonari

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Plot: A teenage girl lives in a housing complex that a bunch of kids also happen to live in. One day, she spots the kids sitting in a circle and asks what they’re doing. They claim they’re playing with their friend, Tomonari, though this ‘friend’ turns out to be a weird black stain on the pavement. They ask if she’ll play with them, but she says she’s busy and promises to play some other time. She’ll keep her promise….Tomonari will make sure of that.

Breakdown: This one is more on the creepy side than full-on scary, but it’s a pretty unique take on a ghost kid story. Hell, the actual kids in their own right are pretty creepy. I have to wonder if they’re under some spell from Tomonari or if they really don’t get that something bad is happening. Do they really see a normal boy in this weird stain?

I am really curious as to what Tomonari actually is. I feel like the stain is supposed to be his remains, like the blob in The Overhead Rack. And that he’s just a lonely spirit looking for friends, yet the circumstances of his death, whatever they were, causes him to sometimes get these friends through violent manners.

Overall, pretty creepy episode. Not terrible frightening, but still gives you chills.


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Animating Halloween: Yami Shibai Episodes 9 and 10 Review

Episode 9 – Curse

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Plot: A little girl is being plagued by a terrible curse that is causing her great pain and turning her skin black and purple with an ominous hand print gripping her arm. Can anything free her from this hex?

Breakdown: Gonna keep this one shorter than normal because 1) it wasn’t scary and 2) it was just plain sad. There’s no creature this time around, just curse markings and this is one of those unfair ‘you’re cursed because your ancestors did something to get cursed’ curses.

The girl is perfectly nice, the mother is incredibly caring and even the priest and priestess trying to help her were really kind. This is just something terrible happening to a bunch of people who don’t deserve it. There aren’t even any jump scares, it’s just sadness.

Episode 10 – Moon

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Plot: A bunch of high school boys are staying overnight at an old-fashioned inn for a trip for their baseball team. One of the boys reminisces that they’ve been there before and recalls that another boy, Daisuke, fell in the pit toilet, yet Daisuke doesn’t remember. What happened down there?

Breakdown: This one is just silly to me, I’m sorry. Let me spoil it for you; haunted toilet. There ya go. That’s all you need to know.

Sure, porta potties and pit toilets are a bit creepy considering there could be anything down there from animals to creepers with cameras (it has happened), but come on; a haunted toilet? That warrants an animated short?

They throw in a jump scare or two, but I have a hard time staying creeped out or scared when all I can think of is poop…and the other boys’ nickname for Daisuke when he fell in the toilet in first grade; Doo-suke. I’m supposed to be scared at a short that says ‘Doo-suke’

And this is yet another story that would probably benefit from a backstory. Why is there a creature down there? Is that the spirit of another boy who died after falling in the toilet? It looks creepy, I guess, but the final scene with it just looks kinda stupid, especially with the craggy animation.

……And what the hell does this have to do with the moon? Does it only come out during full moons? Is it a were-poo monster?

If you’re referencing mooning, I’m going to put my foot through my screen.

Let me end this on the same note the short did.

*Bloop*


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Animating Halloween: Yami Shibai Episodes 7 and 8 Review

Episode 7 – Contradiction

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Plot: A girl gets an odd call from her friend in the middle of the night. Something strange has happened to her and her boyfriend after visiting a supposedly haunted hospital. Can she leave?

Breakdown: This one follows the strings of a traditional ghost story so no real backstory is needed for the ghost, really. From the clues left behind, we can surmise that the ghost used to be a patient at the hospital and was locked in that room until they died, and then the hospital closed down.

Some commenters were theorizing that the ghost is under some restrictions in that it needs explicit permission to do pretty much anything since it’s constantly asking ‘Can I leave?’ This probably relates back to this spirit being locked in a room and being unable to leave without permission.

Because this seemingly follows common ghost story tropes so well, it’s not difficult to see where this story is going from the very instant Mayumi relays the story of what happened to her and Tooru. The imagery is still pretty freaky, however.

Not the strongest entry, but still a pretty solid ghost story that you can share around a campfire.

Episode 8 – The Umbrella Goddess

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Plot: A boy goes to visit his friend who recently moved to the country. As he’s sitting with him outside enjoying the summer weather, he sees an odd woman holding an umbrella in her mouth and making weird ‘shiiiii’ noises. His friend’s parents lock him up for the night, doing everything in their power to protect him from this woman. Can he survive the night?

Breakdown: This one’s a little on the cheap side. It’s also a fairly typical monster story that seems to target children this time. Why she holds an umbrella and why she looks like the Crooked Man are beyond me, but the fact of the matter is that this Umbrella Goddess seems to appear only to the child that she intends to take. The adults know full out who and what this creature is, so they lock up Takeru with some salt and tell him to not open the door for anyone no matter what.

And like a typical horror movie character, of course he’s stupid and opens the door anyway. That’s not really a spoiler because the demon is not behind the door at that moment. Let me just say it ends on a jump scare that doesn’t even make sense.

All in all, it’s another okay ghost/monster story to tell around a fire, but the ending just makes no sense to me.


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Animating Halloween: Yami Shibai Episodes 5 and 6 Review

Episode 5 – The Next Floor

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Plot: A father is taking his son out to buy his birthday present at the mall when he suddenly has to leave for work. His mother is tasked with buying the boy a gift, but the mother coldly guilt trips his father by saying outright that his work means more to him than his son. Irritated by his wife’s attitude and her gall to say such a thing in front of their son, he merely wishes he were left alone. However, when he boards the elevator, he finds he just might get his wish.

Breakdown: This one works a bit better without the backstory as it’s one of those ‘be careful what you wish for’ morals, essentially. They typically don’t need intricate backstories to really get a decent grip on who’s doing this and why.

This segment was probably the creepiest one of all so far considering its familiar and modern setting and everyday events. While the mother is a major bitch, this family is also very realistic, allowing you to connect with them and worry for the safety of the father.

Problem is, I feel like the father didn’t deserve such a fate. He has a very valid point; it’s his working so hard that allows him to buy nice gifts for their child and, of course, live what I assume to be a fairly comfortable life, yet his wife is treating him like garbage and trying to alienate their son away from him. She’s literally saying ‘Yes, son, Daddy cares more about work than he does you. Now let’s buy all sorts of nice stuff for you with the money he makes from that job he has.’

Of course he wished to be left alone after that. Anyone would be pissed off if someone said that to them. We have nothing indicating that his dad’s a workaholic asshole. If he was, he wouldn’t have been there to begin with.

Really just makes you feel bad for the father and the son. Hell, I feel even worse for the son because now he has to deal with being brought up by his slag of a mother who will probably only talk about his father in a bad light as he grows up.

I kinda have to wonder if the mother was the one who triggered all that because she sure looks creepy enough.

In the end, this one was legitimately scary with imagery, atmosphere and relatability working in its favor, but you do end up feeling bad for the poor guy.

Episode 6 – The Overhead Rack

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Plot: A man who is extremely fatigued from working day in and out rides the train home one day when he spots a weird blob-like creature on the overhead rack.

Breakdown: This story kinda explains itself, which is nice because it negates the seeming need for us to be given a backstory. From what I can surmise, avoiding spoilers as much as I can, this creature on the overhead rack used to be a person who committed suicide by train and now he’s killing people off by possessing them and forcing them to kill themselves in the same manner as he did.

Another thing about this episode is that the art is noticeably different. Everyone looks kinda distorted and odd compared to how the art usually looks. If I wanted to analyze this whole short on a psychological basis, I might say that this is depicting depression. He is annoyed by how happy and energetic everyone else around him is, perhaps envious that his life is so exhausting and disheartening, and his views on the world as a whole are distorted, like how everything is depicted as just being off.

The creature may represent suicide ideation, even though this man has shown no real inkling of wanting to kill himself before this creature’s appearance. It’s latching onto people who specifically seem depressed and force the ideal on them, which is an interesting way to approach that topic to say the least.

Finally, the creature is incredibly creepy, though we don’t see how creepy it really is until we get a closeup. At first, it just seems like a red blob with a bit of a slit for a mouth. But when it gets closer we see that it has a realistic mouth with gnashing teeth and a shaking eyeball. Like I mentioned, it’s surmised that this thing was a person who died by suicide by train, so I assume this is a depiction of what was left of his body as a creature. In which case I say that is damn effective. This show really has an awesome knack for frightening visuals.


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Animating Halloween: Yami Shibai Episodes 3 and 4 Review

Yami Shibai Episode 3 – The Family Rule

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Plot: Toshiharu has recently moved back to the country with his parents. They meet with their extended family to discuss a ritual where they stave off a demon or spirit with laughter through the night since the spirit feeds on hatred and fear.

Breakdown: This one actually fares a bit better than the previous two episodes because it bothers to explain a little bit about what’s going on. This family is plagued by visits from a demon that possesses people and possibly kills them or other people. The demon feeds off of hatred and fear, so on the one day of the year where the demon seems to be active, the family laughs through the night.

I guess I just don’t entirely understand the ending. No spoilers, but I don’t get what happened with this ritual to make it end like that. Was it purely Toshiharu interrupting them? Because they seem to have been affected before he started spying on them. Was it the fact that Toshiharu wasn’t laughing? Because you’d think someone would tell him to participate if that was a problem. I just figured it was only the adults who needed to it.

I will also add that this episode has the freakiest imagery so far. That ending was just straight up creepy.

Episode 4 – Hair

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Plot: A teacher is working late one night when she tries to copy a paper and finds a hair mark copied on the paper. Is it just a few stray hairs or is she not alone?

Breakdown: This one is…..weird. It’s still creepy in its own right, but let me just get down to it, it’s a haunted copier. There’s a weird spirit of a girl with long hair living in the copier. That’s pretty much it for this whole short. There’s no twist, it’s just a creepy girl in a copier.

Schools at night already have an air of fright around them, and hair is a bit squicky, but when you get down to it it’s still a girl haunting a copier.

And this is another example of why these stories would benefit from being actual background information instead of flash-in-the-pan four minute shorts. Why is this girl haunting this copier? Why is her hair her main feature? Why is she seemingly killing people who use the copier at night? How did she die? From the way she’s dressed, I wouldn’t even say she was a student there.

All in all….just fairly weird.


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