Yamishibai: Japanese Ghost Stories

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Vaniltea's avatar
Oct 4, 2014

We can all agree on the fact that horror anime often fail to actually be scary. Yet, it seems that Yami Shibai does a good job at it.

Story:

Each episode consists in a 4-minute short story, always following the same pattern and starting with the narration of a storyteller who briefly introduces us to the characters. We are then rapidly thrown into a seemingly ordinary situation, which progressively proves itself to not really be quite ordinary. The tension builds up until the climax is reached, signaling the end of the episode. Some people seem to consider short anime to be inherently bad, but I think this duration works well with the horror genre. The fact that the story ends really quickly prevents us from getting distracted, which would nullify all the tension-building.

The stories are very open to interpretation, as the reason why the events of the episode happened is never really explained. This can be unnerving, and even seem like a cheap way to write a story without having to think too much about it. It's probably true, but I think it also helps strenghtening the fear. The episodes start with an everyday situation that becomes abnormal because a supernatural being made its way into it, leaving the protagonist to wonder what exactly is happening and why. The fact that the threat's nature is unknown increases the sens of danger and the feeling of not knowing what to do. There are a few stories in which the side characters seem to understand the situation, but they never explain it to the protagonist, leaving them – and us – to face something we cannot comprehend.

Characters:

Each story has its own characters, the narrator being the only one who appears in every episode. As you can guess, we do not have much time to get to know them before the episode ends, but this is not really a problem because there simply is not much to learn about them. Those characters are not complex or remarkable in any way, acting like most people probably would if they were in their place. A lot of them are not even given a name and are simply introduced by the narrator as your average man, woman, little boy, ...

Is that a bad thing? Not really. Each story shows you how some people can suddenly find themselves in a terrible and horrifying situation, and the fact that those people are awfully normal only increases the feeling that those stories could be real. They are happening in our world, to people who are just like us, so how can we be sure that they really are just stories?

Visuals:

Let's directly get to the main point: the animation. It can be a major turn-on or turn-off depending on how you see it for the simple reason that... well, there is actually nothing that could really be called "animation" in Yami Shibai. The visuals are made to mimic the style of the kamishibai, which is a style of storytelling that uses paper characters moving in front of a background. The movements are therefore very limited – for example, when someone talks, their lips don't move – and illusory, as the characters simply jump from one pose to another. But when the time comes for real movement, you'll definitely feel uneasy.

The characters have a design that's quite realistic compared to most anime on the market which clearly helps setting a more serious mood. Most of the colours used are either dark and dull or reddish, contributing to the establishment of a eerie atmosphere.
However, the art style varies from one episode to another, some being much prettier than others.


I'll let you guess which one I like best.

Sound: 

The voice-acting is quite good, but also different from what you're probably used to. You won't hear your typical anime voice that no real japanese person has, but something closer to reality in the way the characters speak.

The musics are fine, but rather discreet. The sinister atmosphere is mainly set using sound effects or a sudden silence.

The ending is sung by Hatsune Miku, which is... very surprising. But – and it is maybe even more surprising – it actually fits the mood of the anime quite well, the robotic vocaloid voice giving the song some kind of strange tone.

Enjoyment: 

So, did Yami Shibai find the miracle recipe to make a scary anime? Not completely.
I found all the episodes – minus one – to be creepy, but the quality wasn't quite constant. While some stories were really nice and managed to frighten me, others were extremely weird, leaving me with a "What did I just watch?" feeling. Obviously, we are all very different when it comes to what we consider to be scary, and if some people will shiver in fear while watching this anime, others will just probably wait for the episode to end without batting an eye.

On a side note, I'd like to point out that most episodes contain a jumpscare. I admit that, well, I'm not a fan of those, as I don't consider that making me jump is making me afraid. However, jumpscares are something that's rarely used in anime and, for this reason, I think it is quite remarkable.

As a whole, I really liked Yami Shibai. It is different and, even though it isn't perfect, it is very interesting and entertaining. It will certainly not appeal to everyone, but I'd recommend it to anyone who likes horror stories.

7.5/10 story
7/10 animation
8.5/10 sound
8/10 characters
8/10 overall
tollie01's avatar
Apr 23, 2017

Right, it's confession time for me. If you have been reading my reviews than you may have noticed that I tend to rip the anime a new one. There is a reason for this though and it has to do with the fact that I can't turn my brain off when watching anime. I can't ignore the stupid shown in the anime and this is a problem as most anime are very stupid indeed.

In this case I'm not talking about a 90 pound girl catching a multi-ton cruise missile and throwing it back. Yes, it is stupid but it is a stupid that I'll allow. It's anime. Things like this are normal here and I'm pretty much fine with it. It annoys me to be sure but I will not rant about it.

So, having explained this lets rip into this anime shall we? Just a heads up: There will most probably be spoilers. The more I hate an anime the more spoilers there will be.

ART: Art is minimalistic, very minimalistic. This has its reasons though and I'll get back to this later.

SOUND: Again no complaints from me. Due to the minimalistic artwork there is more dependent on the voice actors and they deliver. Music is good and sets the tone quite nicely but I'm not a fan of the jump scares.

CHARACTERS: Main character is the Storyteller. At the start of each story he gives the barest minimum the story needs to set it up and then lets the characters go from there.

STORY: ....There is none. The anime consists of 13 short stories so telling about it here is pointless.

RANT: First thing to discuss is the art. As I said it is very minimalistic and closest I can come to describe it is that it looks like cartboard cutouts are being moved across the screen. There is actually a good reason for this.

The style of story telling is based on Kamishibai. This is a form of Japanese street theatre so using the art as they did is a nice touch. It does take some getting used to but once you do there is nothing wrong with it.

As for the stories themselves. They are very short with 4 minutes being the shortest and 5 the longest. It will be impossible to like them all but this is to be expected. Some are shit your pants scary, some are ok, some are meh and some are eh?

If you are a fan of Japanese horror then you'll probably like this.

8/10 story
6/10 animation
8/10 sound
6/10 characters
7.5/10 overall
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LitteRabbit's avatar
Jan 7, 2016

This anime's animation is made to look like it's being shot in a paper theatre, which only increases the creepiness of the stories. Each episode, about four minutes long, is a fairly simple tale, but that doesn't stop it from being scary. This series does a good job of creating a horror story around the camp fire vibe. I enjoyed most of the episodes, and I think it's worth watching. I found this show on crunchyroll with a quick google search.

?/10 story
?/10 animation
?/10 sound
?/10 characters
7.5/10 overall
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Pratisalva's avatar
Sep 23, 2014

Its very unique and interesting but it also has a downside. On the other hand, this is the only anime that provides you a good information about Japan's Horror Stories. You can see that each episode will surprise you and sometimes even scare you. It was made for us horror fanatic and who mostly wants to broaden their knowledge with paranormal.

The story is interesting, scary sometimes boring. Its a collection of Ghost Stories so they are no explanation about what's happening and why was it happening.

Animation. could've made it more better. I wasn't expecting that one frame consumes about a 3-4 seconds of the episode.

As for the audio, i couldn't get it off of my mind, specially the ending :)

Characters, i don't how to explain it. Jumbled.

Overal, its better than other horror story that i've watched in Anime.

10/10 story
7/10 animation
10/10 sound
7/10 characters
8.5/10 overall
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Juura99's avatar
Jan 22, 2014

In my personal opinion, Yami Shibai is fantastic. It's simple and straight to the point; it's Japanese Ghost Stories. Being a fan of horror, supernatural and generally most eerie things myself, I was delighted with Yami Shibai. It's true that, upon first glance at both the animation and the short episode length, you wouldn't expect much from it.

But I was pleasantly surprised. The animation was wonderful, I think, for the type of show it was. Having super-flashy or 'regular' animation wouldn't have suited the episodical style of the show. Styling the animation after the kamishibai was unique, and it actually added to the creepy factor.

Each episode was short, and while I would've been happy with longer episodes going into more detail about each story, I don't feel like I was missing out on anything either. It told the story in the exact same way one would tell it around a campfire at night with a group of friends, and that's why I loved it. It was the classic ghost-story-telling method and to see that in a show really made me happy.

I loved each story, some more than others of course. They all had their own element of spooky, and while one always sees a scare coming or notices predictability, it didn't take away from it at all.

To cut a long rant short, I recommend anyone who is a fan of horror, real horror and not just something that involves blood and guts and screaming and torture, then I recommend Yami Shibai. It sets just the right mood with its spooky themes, creepy animations and classic but unique stories.

8/10 story
8/10 animation
7/10 sound
7/10 characters
8/10 overall
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