Original Run: July 14, 2013 - September 29, 2016 Number of Episodes: 13 Genre: Horror, Supernatural
***Warning, the following may contain spoilers for Yamishibai. Reader discretion is advised.***
As a crowd gathers, a masked man steps on stage. With a soulless grin, he says:
“Step right up and have a look. It’s time for Yamishibai.”
- “The Talisman Woman”: A man moves into a new apartment and discovers a charm hanging from the ceiling.
- “Zanbai”: Waking up in a hospital with no memory, a man tries to get information from his fellow patients.
- “The Family Rule”: A young boy’s parents learn the rules of their new home.
- “Hair”: Staying late, a school teacher is alone in the office.
- “The Next Floor”: On a trip to the mall, a man gets a call from work asking him to come in.
- “The Overhead Rack”: A man grows annoyed as he observes the passengers on the subway.
- “Contradiction”: In the middle of the night, a young woman is awoken by a phone call.
- “The Umbrella Goddess”: A young boy pays a visit to his friend’s house in the countryside.
- “Cursed”: A mother tells her cursed child there may be someone who can help them.
- “The Moon”: A baseball team calls it a night at their summer training camp.
- “Video”: Three students take a short break from their summer homework.
- “Tomonari-kun”: A girl runs into a group of boys playing with their friend Tomonari-kun.
- “Tormentor”: Three kids spy on a neighboring house during a strange ritual.
How many of you remember the book series Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark? I don’t know about you, but I recall having a fair number of nightmares because of those damn things when I was a kid.
Yamishibai conjures up those sleepless nights.
These were the kind of tales you find around a campfire. While younger me would’ve been cowering in the corner, older me found this show to be a lot of fun.
The first thing you’ll notice about Yamishibai is its art style. This series took inspiration from the Japanese storytelling method of kamishibai, and it was beyond effective.
Some of these segments could have been told through their animation alone.
However, in combination with its outstanding camera work, this series’ style produced moments that were straight-up unnerving. There were a few episodes that made me regret watching this show alone.
And there was one that story that chilled down to the bone.
Episode four, “Hair,” was so good.
Keep in mind; these stories were only five minutes long. Nevertheless, I could only watch about a minute of “Hair.” I simply couldn’t bring myself to look at the screen.
This was a textbook example of how you build tension. I could not wait for this one to be over, and I mean that in the best possible way.
If I had been the teacher in this episode, there would be no episode. After the first strange noise, I would have noped the hell out of there faster than you can believe; I am not dealing with that sort of creep BS. It wouldn’t have mattered to me if I were to get murdered as I ran away; there would be no chance I’d be staying in that room.
I wish I could say Yamishibai produced thirteen tales that will leave you terrified. But we can’t always get what we want.
Although the number of good episodes outnumbered the bad, a few were quite awful.
The biggest issue with this series: the novelty of it dried up quickly.
I had no problem with each episode being five minutes. The quick burst of horror was quite addicting – at first. Unfortunately, there was a trade-off for this show being as short as it was.
Each story had a jump scare. In fact, the whole point of many of these episodes was to lead us to a jump scare. And while Yamishibai did this horror tactic well, it only did so once – in the first episode.
This series’ fear factor lessened the longer it went on.
The reason behind this is simple. Yamishibai kept reusing the same formula. It also didn’t help that once an episode started, it was soon going to be over. Thus, there were only so many places where a surprise could be. A story can have the best build-up in the world, but when you know a scare is at the end of the road, it’s difficult to put any power behind it.
Take “Hair” for example. It was pure build-up that knew what it was doing. And while the tension was thick and frightening. However, for the jump scare to work, you’ll have never had to have seen a horror movie in your life.
This series stood out. Each episode was its own standalone entity.
What we discussed in this review encompassed the bigger picture.
There was some fantastic stuff in this show. If you get a kick out of campfire horror stories, this series is for you.
Yamishibai has earned a recommendation.
But these were just my thoughts. What are yours? Have you seen this series? How would you advise Yamishibai? Leave a comment down below because I would love to hear what you have to say.
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For Anime Hajime, I’m Odyssey, and I’ll see you next time.