Yamishibai: Japanese Ghost Stories

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Vaniltea's avatar By Vaniltea on 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
8.5/10 characters
8.2/10 overall
Pratisalva's avatar By Pratisalva on 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
Juura99's avatar By Juura99 on 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
Kari5's avatar By Kari5 on Oct 4, 2013

Yamishibai, in theory, is the perfect show for me. Currently, I'm going through a horror phase and I can't get enough of creepy movies and shows. However, I also don't have a lot of time to sit though long series, so the short episodes are perfect for me. As soon as I found out about this show, I was pretty excited!

Story/Characters

Yamishibai is episodical; each episode is a stand-alone story based on a Japanese legend. None of the stories or characters are complex due to the length of the episodes, which has both good points and bad: Even with their short lengths, the stories are simple easy to follow without needing a bunch of background info, but I think the short length has the most effect on the endings, which are usually cliffhangers. The biggest problem with this show is too many episodes follow the same type of plot, which makes the story a bit predictable. However, predictable plots aside, I enjoyed most of the stories and was always looking forward to the next episode.

Animation

Although a bit cheap looking at first, I really enjoyed the animation used. It is suposed to mimic "kamishibai", a form of storytelling using pictures in Japan. It really seemed to fit the whole "urban legends" feel to the show.

Sound

Like in most horror shows/movies, sound is very important for making the viewer feel uneasy or scared. Although not amazing, the music was pretty good at making scenes creepy, or to make a "jump scare" even more effective.

Scary?

Overall, was it scary? I'd say yes. None of the stories made me screen in terror but most were extremely creepy, without having to use blood and gore. They would make perfect camp-fire stories! Repetative narratives were the biggest problem, but even if you did have an idea of what was going to happen, the endings were still spooky.

Although I know many won't agree with this high of a rating, I personally enjoyed Yamishibai enough to give it a 7/10.

5/10 story
8/10 animation
6/10 sound
4/10 characters
7/10 overall