Animating Halloween: Yami Shibai 5 Episode 1 and 2

Episode 1: Wrong Number

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Plot: A woman married a high-level salaryman to live an easy life with plenty of money to spare. However, she soon comes to hate her life. She despises that she has to care for their son, Hiro, and she is no longer enjoying her marriage. He’s gone all the time, and they never connect when he is home. One day, she starts getting mysterious messages coming from a woman who keeps thanking her for helping her out, but says she can’t leave yet. Confused and increasingly irritated as the calls keep coming, the woman continues to tell the caller that she has the wrong number, but maybe it’s she who has the wrong life.

Breakdown: Before the episode even starts, the intro is already creeping me out. Each Yami Shibai in the past, barring season three, has started with the narrator starting the show in front of a group of kids at the park. Now the narrator looks noticeably disheveled and the kids are all blacked out in a sketch style and seemingly hanging from the ceiling or shakily floating in mid-air…..Okay. Keep this up, season five. We’re doing good so far.

How’s the actual episode fare? Pretty damn well. It’s not often that Yami Shibai has a story that stars a character who actually deserves the horrors they face. In this circumstance, even moreso because of the theories involved in the person on the other line.

Spoilers! It’s not entirely clear, but from what you can gather, the woman on the other end of the phone is Hiro’s actual mother. It’s implied that the woman killed Hiro’s mother to get with his father so she could live an easy life with a fairly successful husband. Why it took her so long to come back, I dunno, but this was Hell Girl levels of sweet justice.

The art style in this episode is back to the old classic style that the earlier seasons had, but the editing is a bit different. They add grainy film effects (not the lines but the dust specks), color filters and glares to add to the atmosphere, and while I would prefer atmosphere be achieved with direction and not effects, they are not invasive and do add to the creepiness quite a bit.

The end theme is alright, and I really like the various silhouette cards they have going on. The ending is still a bit light-hearted, but not as much as the previous season.

You’ve got good momentum, season five. Let’s keep it up.

Episode 2 – Give it to Me

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Plot: A woman is walking through a park on her way home from work one day when she meets a little girl. The girl admires her butterfly brooch and repeatedly asks if she can have it. Unable to resist her pleas, the woman gives the girl her brooch and happily goes home. It’s nice to make kids happy, but sometimes greed can get the better of you.

Breakdown: This season is still showing to be much different and better than season four. This story is pretty creative. Though, sadly, it’s another story where a perfectly kind person is trapped in the horror.

Not only do they present you with a realistic scenario that anyone might fall into, but they make the little girl and the visuals very creepy, especially at the end. This is one of those stories where I don’t really care about knowing the backstory of the creature – I’m entertained enough, and the story works fine without it.

Seriously, though, it’s nice to be….well, nice, but if a little brat is sitting there going ‘hey, give it to me!’ over and over and over, no matter how cute they are, don’t do it. 1) Their parents might not want them taking stuff from strangers, 2) They should really learn to not take stuff from strangers, and 3) it just instills spoiled behaviors. Want something? Be an annoying little piss until you get it. Come on, who would give up a brooch to a whiny kid who keeps begging for it, anyway?

All in all, though, a very solid and creepy story, and I’m looking forward to what else YS5 has to offer. Being honest, I also appreciate that they seem to be using open endings less and less, and they seem to be getting a little less reliant on the narrators.


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Animating Halloween: Yami Shibai 4 Episodes 7 and 8

Episode 7: Footsteps

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Plot: A man on a shopping outing with his wife visits the restroom for a minute when he hears non-stop footsteps outside of the stall.

Breakdown: I can’t really decide if this episode was good or bad. On one hand, the footsteps were unnerving as they increased in intensity, and the final shot was kinda spooky. Plus the narrator for this episode is a fantastic story teller with his voice. On the other hand, this is another Yami Shibai episode that takes place in a toilet….Also, they kinda stretch for the spooky atmosphere here by making the stall very dark when it logically shouldn’t be. A bathroom in a crowded mall being mostly dark? Why?

It also has a confusing ‘story’. I guess the marks on the wall were sigils to ward off whatever was making the footstep noises, but why write them in such easily removable ink? Why is whatever is haunting this bathroom haunting this bathroom?

Middle of the road material, I suppose.

The live-action shots of the episode were just shots of him holding his phone, which has already been done and doesn’t add to the atmosphere or story at all.

Episode 8 – Cassette Tape

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Plot: A young man is returning to his old home for the wedding of one of his childhood friends. As he rustles through the stuff preserved perfectly in his old bedroom, he finds a tape titled ‘What happened today?’, which turns out to be an old audio journal he kept as a child. As he listens with nostalgia, he realizes that something is odd about what he’s saying and how he’s speaking. He soon has no recollection of the odd things he seems to be noting as the tape continues. So….what happened today?

Breakdown: Now we’re getting back into the good ol’ funk of the original Yami Shibai….but ultimately ending a bit flat.

This is just some nice psychological screwing that unnerves you from nearly the instant the tape starts. Also, the shot of the tape playing is the live-action shot for the episode, giving it a tad more creepiness.

The ending, while being ominous, is also very open-ended, which is why it’s somewhat flat. There’s some weird box that he keeps bringing up, but we never see the box or have any indication what’s inside it.

All in all, one of the stronger entries in this season. Just needed a firmer landing.


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Animating Halloween: Yami Shibai 4 Episodes 5 and 6

Episode 5: Night Bus

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Plot: On a night bus trip with his friends, a teenage boy has to make a rest stop after getting a terrible stomachache. When he returns, he gets back on the bus but realizes that something is strange about the other passengers.

Breakdown: The strongest episode so far, though predictable after the midway point. This episode tries to skew back into mostly creepy and realistic territory, and it works in its favor. This is also one of those stories where I don’t really need to know the backstory of the paranormal phenomenon for it to have a full impact.

Just as a tally, today’s live-action shot was the boy’s hand holding his phone, though the screen is still obviously animated. The art style is also getting notably more typical anime-style-ish, and apparently the narrator is changing in every episode. No idea why.

Episode 6: Guess Who?

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Plot: A young teenage girl finally gets up the courage to ask her senpai out on a date. They have a great time, but just as she’s about to gather the courage to talk about their relationship further as they wait for the train, she’s interrupted and he excuses himself for a moment. While she sits alone waiting for him, she realizes that they’re not the only two there.

Breakdown: Getting even better with this episode. This one is a bit more off-putting from the rest in a somewhat bad manner because it’s done in even more traditional anime style, particularly with the girl. Kinda takes you out of the kamishibai format, but it’s not too bad yet.

This episode is one of those stories where it’s both scary yet sad at the same time. It’s also very confusing. I’m going to lay it all out here for you so maybe I can get some different views, so be warned of spoilers.

A shy teenage girl gets up the nerve to ask her crush, known only as Senpai, out on a date to an amusement park. They have a great time all day and then sit at the train station as they prepare to go home. She wants to ask if he has a girlfriend, but gets interrupted as a train goes by. Senpai excuses himself to go get a drink, leaving the girl by herself in the empty train station. She spots a pale girl on the bench on the platform on the other side of the tracks. She gets up and walks toward the tracks and is just about to reach the edge of the platform when the train whizzes by, obscuring the girl’s sight. When the train clears, there’s no sign of the girl and no indication that she was hit by the train.

As she wonders what happened, her face is suddenly covered by a pair of hands and the voice of her senpai says ‘Guess who?’ She starts to get flustered by the physical contact and again attempts to ask him if he has a girlfriend. However, before she can ask, he presses his hands into her face, hurting her. She tries to pry him off of her when she suddenly starts forgetting who Senpai is. As she manages to sneak a peak through the fingers covering her eyes, she sees her reflection and realizes the girl from before is covering her eyes.

At this realization, the girl completely forgets everything about her senpai. She transforms to look somewhat similar to the creepy girl and completely forgets who she is as well before she disappears from the bench.

Some people in the comments theorized that this was a girl who died while waiting for her date, so whenever she sees young people on a date, she erases the girl’s memories of the boy and then kills them, but that doesn’t make much sense to me.

My first time watching this, I thought she really wasn’t on a date with anyone and was caught in a loop or something like that, mostly because we never see Senpai come back. However, that doesn’t bode too well with me either.

Not that Yami Shibai has ever aimed to make much sense. The ending is creepy to me, and the story as a whole is very sad if this was indeed an innocent girl who was tragically killed right before she was able to officially get together with her crush. I can’t even say ‘Well, at least she was able to spend her final day having fun with someone she cared for’ because she doesn’t remember it.

This is also the first time where the live-action shots have actually worked in the show’s favor. This time, we see hands covering up the screen like we were the girl in the scenario experiencing what she was experiencing and seeing what she saw. It was very effective, and also worked surprisingly well when they kept flashing back and forth between that style and the regular animation during the rest of the scene.

I, personally, really liked this episode, despite the confusing logic behind the ending. What’s your interpretation?


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Zekkyou Gakkyuu (Manga) Review

Plot: An anthology horror series also known as ‘Screaming Lessons’, a mysterious girl named Yomi introduces us to many short creepy and frightening horror stories.

Breakdown: I love this manga. I love horror anthologies as a whole, but this one is really great.

It’s difficult to explain this series in a review format since it’s a collection of (usually) separate stories, but most of the stories are incredibly interesting, thought-provoking and scary. That’s not to say that all of them were gems. There were some stories strewn about that were either just plain weird and not particularly scary, cliché or boring, but there was never a shortage of excitement and surprises in nearly every story and volume.

Another great thing about these stories is that not all of them end with the whole ‘everyone dies’ trope. While many people do die in this series, some survive their ordeals and it’s actually interesting to be on the edge of your seat for these stories because Emi Ishikawa, the author and artist of the series, really does a great job of making many of the characters likable and interesting, which just makes the stories all the more frightening because she shows time and again that she’s not afraid to kill off characters that are meant to be likable.

Surprisingly, the series does have a few stories that actually have happy endings. I won’t name which ones, but a particular story involving a couple was one of my personal favorites because it just ended so nicely yet believably.

Yomi is a really cool and creepy girl who is given her own backstory in the series and even shows up a few times in various stories. She does a magnificent job playing our narrator, and she sets the mood perfectly.

Art: The art has a bit of a shoujo slant to it. It’s not cutesy by any means, but it has that sort of style to it. The art as a whole is wonderful. Emi Ishikawa does a great job on everything; the character models, backgrounds, monster visuals and blood and gore.

Bottom Line: It’s a great series for fans of short horror stories, and I definitely recommend it for horror and short story fans.

Additional Information and Notes: Zekkyou Gakkyuu was written and illustrated by Emi Ishikawa. It was published by Ribon Magazine.

Volume: 20

Year: 2008-2015

A sequel series titled Zekkyou Gakkyuu: Tensei was produced almost immediately after the series ended, but it seems to be very rare and discontinued.

Recommended Audience: While not being overly gory, there are still various instances of blood, gore, murder and death. No sex that I remember, or nudity, swearing’s also not a commonality. I’d say at least 13+, maybe more for the scarier/bloodier chapters.


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