Yami Shibai 4 (Full) Review

Plot: A continuation of the horror anthology told as a series of kamishibai productions.

Breakdown: When I first went into the fourth season of Yami Shibai 4, I was met with a tidal wave of negative comments and reviews. People hated this season with a passion, but I was more than open to it because, well, I really love this franchise. While they have had their share of bad stories, I wasn’t ready to write off this season from the start.

That being said, this season is, by far, the weakest of the seasons so far. Each season has had their problems. Season one was the strongest, though was damaged by the stupid toilet monster story. Season two had plenty of good ideas, but ultimately ended up a largely ‘meh’ season with poor execution. Season three relied a bit too heavily on monsters for my taste and changed into a format that was slightly difficult to get used to, though ultimately paid off very well.

Season four didn’t do anything different except made the narrator tell the whole story, which has its ups and downs, and include one live-action shot per story, which is largely pointless. It had many silly or meh stories and ended with absolutely no fanfare.

Episode 1: Tongue – 5/10 Clever-ish twist, but confusing to the point where I can’t make much sense of it at all. It’s also not that creepy or scary.

Episode 2: Fish Tank – 2/10 Not scary, creepy or clever. It has the most cliché of all horror story plots and only kinda gets points for using a monster that I’ve never seen done before.

Episode 3: Sewing Shears – 3/10 Again, not scary and very cliché. Points only go to the kinda creepy monster and the aspect of shears.

Episode 4: Red High Heel – 5/10 Good idea, nice start, poor execution. Disappointing. I still think my suggested ending would’ve been better.

Episode 5: Night Bus – 7/10 Best episode so far, but still not very strong.

Episode 6: Guess Who? – 7.5/10 Getting better. This one is creepy, off-putting and clever, but the only thing that gets me is the logistics of what exactly happened and who that girl even was.

Episode 7: Footsteps – 5/10 Middle of the road rating for a middle of the road entry. I should dock it off for reminding me of the toilet episode, but I feel nice today.

Episode 8: Cassette Tape – 8/10 I really enjoyed this episode, and it’s impressive that it gets a rating so high given that there is really not much animation on screen. It’s mostly just the shots of the tape recorder. Creepy, amps up the tension very well and uses its concept very well. I just wish the box had been better explained.

Episode 9: Grinding Teeth – 6/10 Creepy focal point, cringey (in a good way) sound effects, not too bad about halfway in, drops the ball and falls flat. Disappointing.

Episode 10: Calling Crane – 9/10 My favorite of the entire season. While the game itself is just weird, this is a very beautifully drawn and colored episode with plenty of creepiness and atmosphere.

Episode 11: White Line – 8/10 Clever and creepy with a unique enough premise and freaky visuals. A lack of live-action shot is distracting due to the break in continuity, though.

Episode 12: Snow Hut – 6.5/10 I still can’t decide on how much I really like this episode. It’s clever, but not scary. It has some creepy visuals, but it makes me sadder than anything else. Plus, it really bothers me that they never explain why this snow hut needs someone occupying it.

Episode 13: Underground Walkway – 6/10 You ever have those moments where you’re watching a horror movie and you want to yell out to the screen ‘Don’t go in there! Who the hell would go in there?! Turn around! Does this look safe!? Go back! You ran into a scary person! Turn around! What is wrong with you?!’ That is this episode in a nutshell. I docked off half a point because this is the season finale and it fizzles out. Is it the worst entry? No. But it does require major stupidity to pull the plot off and the twist isn’t that scary at all. Being a disappointing season finale, especially when you’re following up the awesome season three finale, is just not cool.

Overall Rating: 6/10

Recommended Audience: No worse off than any other Yami Shibai season. 10+

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Animating Halloween: Yami Shibai 4 Episodes 11, 12 and 13 FINALE

Episode 11: White Line

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Plot: A teacher is working late one night when she spots a young boy in a tattered school uniform drawing chalk lines on the yard. As she goes to investigate, she finds the boy has vanished, but the white line has been drawn into the school. Where does the white line lead?

Breakdown: This one’s pretty clever and unique. It’s not the creepiest or scariest story in the world by a long shot, but I enjoyed quite a bit, especially the ending, and it’s one of the stronger entries this season.

The art style this time around is kinda back to being a little more anime-ish, but not too badly. It’s also like the lines are much crisper and sharper than they usually are and like the coloring is fuller and more vibrant.

There’s no live-action shot this time around, which was weird, but the narrator was delightfully entertaining, especially at the end.

Episode 12 – Snow Hut

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And then he gets shot through the eye…..Oh sorry, that’s Saw II.

Plot: A young boy and his older brother decide to build a snow hut. As his brother goes off to get something for them to eat, the boy spots another snow hut across the yard. Oddly, this hut has no entrance, but it seems like there’s a small flickering light inside. The boy is curious to see if someone is in there, but some things are better left alone.

Breakdown: I wanna say this one works, but it kinda doesn’t because it’s one of those stories that I find sadder than scary.

The idea is fairly unique and the scene with the other snow hut is creepy, but it’s not creepy or scary enough for me to ignore the fact that I feel sadder for the fate of the boy above all else.

The live-action shot this time around was of the candle in the snow hut, and it’s pretty effective given that you see it from the hole in the snow hut, which does obviously lend itself to an easy jump scare.

The story is also one I can’t wrap my head around. Why is there some sort of snow hut prison out there? Who is in it, and why does it seem to need to have someone in it? The family seems to have no choice but to do what they seem to be intending on doing, but I don’t get it.

The art style this time around is a very scratchy almost sketchy or storyboard type of art style that I….think works in its favor? I can’t really decide.

Episode 13 – Underground Walkway

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Someone should’ve told him he’s in a horror anthology.

Plot: A college student gets caught in the rain and decides to take a creepy, unfamiliar underground walkway to the station. He learns that you don’t do that.

Breakdown: Really? After the awesome ending season three gave us, you end the fourth season with this? It’s not a particularly stupid or bad entry, it’s just very predictable and meh. Not to mention, you want to clock out the instant he enters the walkway.

Gee, an unfamiliar, dark, dank, creepy underground walkway with flickering lights and no one else but a freaky worker around who’s trying to direct you down an even creepier and darker walkway and keeps chanting ‘it’s only dark at first.’? I’d sure nope out of there probably before I even got beyond the entrance. Dude, it’s rain. Just deal with it. Go into a shop until it passes. Get on a bus. If the alternative is ‘creepy, dark, dank underground walkway I could swear wasn’t here before’ exhaust every other option first….and still don’t do that.

The art style is basically identical to Snow Hut here, which is fine, and the live-action shots may be some shots of the tunnel (it’s really hard to tell) and the shot of the footprints, which add nothing to the creepy factor.

Like I said, not the worst entry, but certainly a disappointing one, and definitely a disappointment as a season finale. They didn’t even do anything clever with the narrators this time around outside of change them out every episode, which would be more impacting if the opening showed them in a different area with different kids every time, but it doesn’t. They don’t even alter the end credits. Pfft.

I’ll be releasing the full Yami Shibai 4 review soon enough, but first, I just realized that they released Yami Shibai 5 this year. Yay!

Animating Halloween: Yami Shibai Episodes 9 and 10 Review

Episode 9: Grinding Teeth

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Plot: An office worker and her girl friend are out on a trip to a foreign area. They explore many tourist spots, including one odd cave filled with Jizou statues that the locals seemed to avoid. That night, the woman developed a severe pain in her tooth and was forced to seek out a local dentist in the middle of the night to get it checked out. When she arrives, she finds that her toothache is much worse than anything she could’ve imagined.

Breakdown: This had much more potential than what it became. The setup doesn’t make a lot of sense, but it’s one of those instances where I wouldn’t care much if the scares paid off. They pretty much didn’t.

Teeth is one of the richest wells of easy creepy content. For some reason, a lot of people are creeped out when thinking about teeth or seeing detailed images of teeth or even thinking about going to the dentist. The sound of teeth grinding is also one most people cannot stand. It’s not particularly creepy, but it is one of those sounds that makes you cringe. These topics together can easily make for at least a creepy story.

Instead it basically falls flat and even seems kinda silly. The ending shot was unnerving due to the sounds and cliffhanger, but that was about it.

The live-action shot of the episode was of the dentist holding a pair of pliers as she was about to pull the woman’s tooth. That shot worked very well and added more elements of creepiness to it, but you quickly realize that the dentist is not the bad guy here. Though, honestly, she should’ve told the woman what was going on in order to prevent her from leaving.

All in all, another middle of the road entry.

Episode 10 – Calling Crane

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These two episodes side by side really highlight how this season’s art shifts drastically between stories.

Plot: Bored of mobile phone games, a group of three girls decide to play a creepy game they heard about at school called Calling Crane. You put a razor blade and a red string into a glass of water then write the name of a deceased person on a paper 49 times and turn it into a paper crane. Once you swallow the crane, you’ll be able to talk to the person whose name you’ve written on the paper. It’s all harmless. After all, it’s just a game….right?

Breakdown: Now this is a nice mixture between a classic setup (teenage girls playing a spooky game to talk to the dead) and some interesting and creepy elements that are new and original, for the most part.

Who the hell even thought up this game premise? Even for Japanese horror games, that’s weird. You have to swallow the paper crane? That’s gross and dangerous.

This episode doesn’t really take any turns you don’t really expect it to, but it is still some creepy fun made all the better by the visuals. The lines are much more detailed and made to look fairly realistic. The colors are also done in a very obvious watercolor method.

There are three live-action shots this time around. The first is a shot of the glass with a razor in it, the second is a shot of a broken glass with the razor and string sitting in the water, and the third was a shot of the paper crane. I won’t go into more details on the circumstances of these shots, but they definitely add to the creepiness factor, and I like that they amped up the amount of live-action shots for this one. Given the art style of the regular animation, it fits quite well.

I very much enjoyed this entry and hope to see at least one more like it before the season ends.

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 childhood 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.

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 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?

Animating Halloween: Yami Shibai 4 Episodes 3 and 4

Episode 3: Sewing Shears

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Plot: A woman moves into a cheap new apartment and finds a talisman with sewing shears stabbed through them underneath the floor boards. She discards them, but everything has a purpose.

Breakdown: This one was completely cliché from start to finish. Find a creepy artifact in an old house and throw it away. Gee I wonder if that won’t piss off some spirit and get her killed.

They even throw in the fakeout dream for good measure. It’s here where the live action shots really start seeming silly. The shot of the talisman and shears were enough, but when she picks them up, it’s on the side of comically juxtaposed besides the regular art and animation, which does seem much less animated than it usually is. Considering this is basically an animated paper puppet show, supposedly animated using Powerpoint, that’s pretty damn bad.

I will say the spirit is a little creepy, but nothing too fantastical in design. Like many times over the course of this whole franchise, I’m really left wondering what the backstory is behind this whole thing.

Episode 4: Red High Heel

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Plot: A businessman has gotten out of work late and nearly ends up having to walk home when he’s able to hail a taxi. He finds a bright red high heel in the back and asks the driver if one of his last customers dropped it. The driver quickly tells him to throw it out the window. The man is confused at the driver’s request until he hears footsteps outside of the door.

Breakdown: This one was a little clever but disappointing. The twist surprised me a bit, but the ending was out of nowhere and the narrator’s laugh at the end was out of place and seemed awkward. What about that was funny? Or so scary you’d laugh at the audience for being scared? You literally tossed a dead body at our faces then laughed.

I think it would’ve been more clever if the driver was the bad guy. Say the woman was his last victim come back to haunt him because he’s really a serial killer. Or have her try to warn the businessman about the driver, then have the big end-of-story twist be the driver killing him or turning out to be a demon or something. What we got was a ‘twist’ that was really just a sad random circumstance that I guess the narrator thinks is funny. *shrug*

Animating Halloween: Yami Shibai 4 Episodes 1 and 2

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I want eyeballs, I want liver, Meow Mix, Meow Mix please deliver

Episode 1 – Tongue

Plot: A man takes pity upon a dead cat in the road and moves it onto the sidewalk. He and some nearby boys decide to bury it and make it a proper grave. However, things tend to follow those who show them kindness.

Breakdown: First and foremost, holy shit people hate this season. I was pleasantly surprised to see this as a recommended anime on a streaming site and lo and behold the first page was tons of people saying what complete and utter garbage it was. I thought they trashed YS3 badly. There was nary a kind word about this season on that page.

But, hey, I pretty much liked YS3, so maybe I’ll like this season too.

Second, we’re back to having proper intros and the narrator. However, this narrator seems like a different guy and he has a different voice. This voice is deeper and more menacing, which I guess sets a better tone, but I think I have to get used to it.

He also narrates each and every bit of the story, which didn’t happen much in the first three seasons. I don’t know how many times he’ll do this and I’m not sure if I like it.

Finally, before the episode review anyway, the ED is somewhat bland but catchy. It’s a happy-go-lucky forgettable song that would fit in nearly any other anime and it contrasts a lot with the ED’s of the past three seasons. Hopefully they’ll do something creative with it over time.

New this season also is that, apparently, each short also has at least one clip in live-action. It serves no purpose; not even horror-wise.

Now onto the episode. I was kinda torn emotionally as the episode went on. I didn’t want this guy to end up dead because he did something nice for a poor dead cat. I was also disappointed that an episode titled ‘Tongue’ wasn’t creepier. However, I think the twist at the end was unexpected, albeit a bit confusing.

He is indeed being stalked by the spirit of the cat, but it turns out that it’s merely being used as a puppet by another spirit that is actually malicious. From what I could gather from the conversations, this was apparently the ghost of someone who died nearby where the dead cat was. Her spirit watched the cat get found and given a proper burial, but he didn’t find her and lay her to rest, so she got jealous and upset and attacked him for it.

It is clever, and I wish we could get a Side B to this story to get her view, but uh, if you were really murdered or left for dead or what have you, wouldn’t you have bigger bones to pick with whomever is responsible for your death rather than someone who merely buried a run over cat? Oh, hey, if can communicate with him, why not tell him where your body is and ask him to give you a proper burial?

Episode 2 – Fish Tank

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No. The answer is always no.

Plot: A boy and his friends break into an abandoned house and one of them finds a weird fish tank filled with murky water and plants. The house is abandoned, but is the tank?

Breakdown: So I guess the narrator is going to keep telling the whole story now. Still not sure if I like it or not. It both adds tension yet takes it away. They’re taking away the silent tension but replacing it with creepy story-teller tension. Also, this is more like what a real kamishibai would be like.

As for this story, it’s meh. Everything you expect to happen happens. Starting off with the ‘teenagers breaking into a creepy abandoned house’ trope is never a good sign, but the instant you see that tank you know that there’s some monster in there and you know it’s going to take/eat him.

They also sorta ruin the initial kill by having one of his friends go into the room (with the stool the boy used to look into the tank mysteriously back in the corner of the room) with him about to investigate a sound coming from the tank, indicating that he’ll be eaten then the other boy will be eaten too.

The creature isn’t even creative. It’s just creepified human arms.