Animating Halloween: Yami Shibai Episode 13 FINALE Review

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Yami Shibai Episode 13 – The Tormentor FINALE

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!

Animating Halloween: Yami Shibai Episode 11 and 12 Review

Yami Shibai 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.

One more episode, people!

Animating Halloween: Yami Shibai Episodes 9 and 10 Review

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Yami Shibai Episode 9 – Curse

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?

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

*Bloop*

Animating Halloween: Yami Shibai Episodes 7 and 8 Review

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Yami Shibai Episode 7 – Contradiction

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. In fact, it was this episode where I got the picture for my sidebar background.

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.

Animating Halloween: Yami Shibai Episodes 5 and 6 Review

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Yami Shibai Episode 5 – The Next Floor

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.

Blood Reign: Curse of the Yoma Review

Rating: 6.5/10

Plot: Two ninjas, Marou and Hikage, are best friends. However, one day, in the wake of war, Marou suddenly turns on him and his ninja clan, injuring Hikage with a shuriken in the process. Hikage sets out to find him, but soon finds out that he is the leader of newly respawning Yoma who have been awakened and empowered by the blood, death and hatred of war. They call him Kikuga no Miko, and he plans to destroy the world with his army of yoma. Hikage is the only one with a chance to save him or kill him.

Breakdown: This is a pretty ‘meh’ feature for the bulk of the first half. Two ninja are best friends from childhood. Aat least I assume as much. Quite literally the only evidence towards this is constant clips of them running through a field of flowers as children. One of them betrays the other and their ninja clan with only the other best friend able to stop him. Really a cliché plot point, even in the 80’s, but the show does a pretty good job of keeping you interested and entertained throughout it all.

Hikage’s a bit of a bore. Another common trope of ninja shows are main characters who are stoic and silent. While this can be fine and badass, Hikage gives off a more ‘not talking because I’m rude’ and ‘I’m very boring’ vibe. He’s not an awful main character as we can see that he does truly care about the people who get close to him, but for most of the OVA he’s pretty boring. His English dub voice actor doesn’t help at all. He sounds so bored most of the time.

Marou’s also a bit of a problem. Like I stated, we get no real insight into his and Hikage’s friendship outside of a constant scene of them running through a field of flowers as children. While they do a fairly good job at making us more emotionally connected to this character towards the very end, you feel no real emotion about his and Hikage’s situation for most of the show because we don’t know Marou outside of him being evil. The first scene in the series is him attacking Hikage and leaving the village.

Inuyasha did the same thing. Remember, the very first scene in Inuyasha is of him wreaking havoc in the village, stealing, possibly killing people, pretty sure he maimed Kaede and basically painting the picture that he was a bad guy and Kikyo was the hero. Despite starting off rocky, through character development and backstory, we learned why he did this and that he is actually a good guy at heart. This series either didn’t have the necessary amount of caring to bother showing such background or development. He’s evil but we’re supposed to care about him because Hikage basically tells us to.

As another means to get us emotionally connected to his character, we have a bit of a plot twist near the end of the movie. Her name is Kotone and she was Marou’s wife before she was slain by Marou. She wanders the earth as a spirit after her death and meets another character named Aya. We can emotionally connect with Kotone because her story is quite sad, but she does come right out of nowhere. She also serves as a bit of a weird plot device at the end of the series that I won’t spoil but it doesn’t make much sense to me.

Aya is actually two different characters over the course of the series. She’s a woman that Hikage meets in the first episode. She takes him to a village made up of travelers who live their lives getting drunk, partying and pretty much just ignoring the harshness of the world around them.

It’s later revealed that she, along with everyone else in the village, had horrible pasts that made them want to commit suicide. A yoma created a village where travelers like her who have lost the will to live get to live relatively peacefully until the yoma decides to eat some of them. I would suppose the other villagers don’t question this either because of the spell by the yoma or because they’re all travelers and thus don’t find it odd when someone suddenly disappears. Hikage develops a bit of a thing for her, but she’s not the character who meets Kotone.

Aya #2 is a konoichi from a ninja village that Hikage meets in his travels. She’s being chased by ninjas from her village claiming that she killed their master. She denies this, but we never find out the story behind this nor whether or not she actually did it. I’d say ‘no’ considering her demeanor and the fact that she doesn’t seem all that skillful as a ninja to kill a master of all people, but we never learn for sure.

Aya’s….okay. While she has an interesting weapon (razor sharp wires that she can shoot from her hands) she doesn’t get to do a lot with it. She accidentally blinds one of her comrades and manages to hit a demon horse, but her attack actually ends up backfiring on her.

She’s not….annoying, per se. She does fall in love with Hikage faster than a Disney princess, but I do give her props for being practically the only one with a voice actress who seems to actually give a crap. She does get slightly annoying when captured, though, and seems to suffer from the same speech impediment as Miaka, Kagome, Tamahome and Inuyasha. She constantly yells Hikage’s name and can’t seem to save herself for the, no pun intended, life of her. Damn shame too, since she’s the only female fighter in the entire OVA.

There is plenty to like about this OVA, though. The atmosphere is fairly creepy, and there are some moments that are legitimately frightening. The yoma, while having a very common theme of bugs such as spiders (okay, arachnids) and moths along with snakes as the enemies were pretty good in design and fairly intimidating. Oh and did I mention there’s a werewolf-centaur in this movie? That’s either incredibly awesome or Mad Libs yoma edition.

While you really only watch this for creepy scenes and fairly cool fights for a bulk of the OVA, the relationships are usually fairly sincere. I just wish we had gotten a bit more development for them to feel more emotionally connected.

Art: The art and animation are pretty dated. It was never distractedly bad, but it definitely showed its age. While many of the visuals were creepy and the character designs were okay, it still seemed quite rough and not quite fluid.

Also, it kinda bothers me that Hikage wasn’t injured more than he was. He wears an eyepatch for the bulk of part 1 and we see that he didn’t even lose his eye – he just got a small cut under his eye from Marou’s shuriken. Wouldn’t bother me as much if the scar were actually noticeable. For a good chunk of part 2 I kept forgetting that he had that scar.

Music: Ehhhhhh. While not being particularly bad either, the music is also dated. And when I say that, I don’t mean it’s old traditional Japanese music to fit the era, I mean it’s really energetic synthesizer music. Sometimes the music does get distracting, but, for the most part, the score is okay.

Bottomline: It’s a short, fairly decent watch for any fans of the genre. I see that people are actually quite mixed in their opinion of this show. Some say it’s awful, others say it’s okay and some say it’s awesome. I guess it’s not a taste for everyone, but you be the judge.

Additional Information and Notes: Blood Reign: Curse of the Yoma was produced by JC Staff and Toho.

It was directed by Takashi Anno, and it was based off of a manga written and illustrated by Kei Kusunoki.

It is/was under an English dub license by ADV Films.

Runtime: 80 minutes

Year: 1989

Recommended Audience: LOTS of blood, gore, guts and dead bodies. A couple of scenes are pretty damn gross in their graphic nature, and there’s never a shortage of blood flying around in battle. In terms of sex, there is none, no nudity either (well, there’s a naked baby at the end if that’s really offensive to you) some swearing peppered throughout, Aya #2 has a swearing streak for a bit. 16+