If you are reading this review when it comes out (October 2021), Anime Hajime wishes you a Happy Halloween. If you are not, well, have a Happy Halloween nonetheless.
Regardless, welcome back to Yamishibai, and we couldn’t get through 2021 without getting TWO installments of the now long-running horror anime (season eight released during the 2021 winter season).
This show is a drug for me. No matter how often I return to this series, I can’t help getting excited. At this point, I have come to accept that there will be plenty of misses. But I’m not here for the stories that flop; I’m hoping for the one that knocks it out of the park.
Let’s see if season nine has what it takes.
It’s time to begin our ninth journey into the dark and the macabre, the strange and the creepy. Listen to the stories of the things that go bump in the night.
It’s once again time for Yamishibai.
A recent hire meets his new boss. After the workday, the new hire sees that some sort of festival is taking place. The boss explains that the town is celebrating a wedding. The thing is, though, in this community, no one can get married unless someone dies.
Oh no, this was a dud, and in the worst possible place, too.
Typically, Yamishibai starts strong. As you might expect, a horror series such as this should always begin bursting out of the gate. The first episodes in other installments haven’t always been the best of a given season, but they are usually quite good.
Rat’s Wedding did not follow this trend.
To put it bluntly, this story didn’t make much sense, and I have seen enough of this series to know that it had nothing to do with the time limit. This episode utterly failed to build up any tension or intrigue. As a result, the ultimate “scare” was underwhelming and dull.
The Man in the Rabbit Hutch
A young elementary school teacher is reading over her students’ stories. She thinks she should call it a night and decides to read one more. The story she chooses tells of her student’s experience with the man living in the school’s rabbit hutch.
There we go; this episode was much better. The Man in the Rabbit Hutch was pretty damn creepy.
Yamishibai has a decent track record of implementing children in its tales, and that makes sense. There doesn’t need to be sound logic in these episodes since kids don’t dwell on why something exists. All they care about is the fact that something DOES exist.
Therefore, why is there a “man” in the rabbit hutch? The answer doesn’t matter. The “man” is there, and “he” is freaking terrifying.
Also, it is clear what direction is heading in from the get-go. Nevertheless, the resulting “revelation” was fantastically unnerving.
The 44th Sheep
A college student checks on his friend. The friend says he hasn’t been sleeping well. When the college student off-handily suggests counting sheep, the friend goes into a rage. He says he cannot call upon the 44th sheep.
I have never been a fan of horror stories not telling characters why they shouldn’t do something. For instance, in this episode, the friend was clearly hysterical about the 44th sheep. I think anyone would want to know what the hell that could mean. But for the friend to brush it aside without an explanation, how could he not expect the fate he got?
Be that as it may, this episode was still quite fun. This story relied more on paranoia since we never actually learned what the 44th sheep was.
Plus, I can only imagine how terrifying it would be if you started hearing someone – or something – counting to a number you know should not be reached.
A rookie petsitter takes her first job out in the countryside. When she goes to visit her client, the petsitter notices how empty the area is. However, she eagerly accepts the job after meeting the pet she will be looking after, a small abandoned puppy.
Meh, this episode’s build-up was far better than its actual pay-off.
This story was an instance when Yamishibai employed sudden escalation. Seeing how each episode is a little under five minutes a pop, this series is not working with a lot of time. But that is why I keep coming back to this show; the best tales are the ones that can work with the limitations.
Lap Dog failed to do that.
Don’t get me wrong; I like the idea behind this story. I think it could have been much better under different circumstances. Sadly, it needed the kind of space that Yamishibai simply doesn’t have.
A man is mourning the loss of his son, who died in a traffic accident. All the man has left of his boy is the papier-mâché tiger he was holding that fateful day.
This was not my story to tell, so it would do us no good to say how I would have taken things. That said, Papier-mâché Tiger had the chance to do something Yamishibai has only done a handful of times – be sentimental. Instead, this was a fairly generic ghost story.
I guess what I am getting at is, this episode left me disappointed. It was scary when it didn’t need to be, and its ending wasn’t anything special.
We can’t have everything we want all the time. Still, it is hard to watch potential go down the train like this.
A man wakes up from a nap as his wife is making dinner with all his favorite foods. While enjoying his meal, the man sees his picture on an alter used for the dead. He then hears a knock at the door, and the next thing he knows, the man wakes up once again from a nap.
Well, I’ll be damned. I just finished talking about this series being sentimental. When it wants to Yamishibai can be touching.
For those unaware, Ox Spirit centers around the Obon celebration in Japan. Occurring in August – and at the risk of misrepresenting two cultures – it is the Japanese equivalent to Día de Los Muertos, where families come together to honor those who have passed.
Even though I have lived in Japan since 2015, I haven’t yet experienced the full nuance of Obon, so I am not entirely sure of its full details. However, this episode does have quite a soft touch, which is nice to see now and then.
A punk band has hired a new bassist, Mr. Rooster. One of the other bandmates can’t help but wonder at some of Mr. Rooster’s strange behaviors.
I am trying to remember, but I don’t recall the last time Yamishibai was this ambiguous. As a horror series, you would think that a few of the stories would leave themselves open for interpretation. But no, most of this show’s tales have been rather cut and dry.
If you can think of a segment as open-ended as Mr. Rooster was, please let me know in the comments.
The point is, though, I enjoyed this aspect. That lingering sense of was-that-real stuck out. It added a delightful degree of eerieness to the story. Usually, at least one episode in most seasons impresses me, and this Mr. Rooster certainly did.
A man’s sister sends over an old rocking horse he used to have as a kid. Filled with nostalgia, man has fond memories of playing with...who again?
When I use the word “ambiguous,” I mean there is room to interpret if something did or didn’t happen. But when a story straight-up doesn’t reveal information concerning an event that definitely occurred, that is a bit annoying.
What were you implying?
I’m not sure how dark Rocking Horse intends for me to go because, believe me, I have seen enough anime to go quite dark.
Answering the question, “What did the man do,” would have left this episode far more satisfying than it was. Had it not been for that, then I would have said this was a solid story. After all, it is unsettling when a child tells you details about something they should have no way of knowing.
A young newlywed is meeting her husband’s parents for the first time. Although everyone seems nice, something about how the parents look at their new daughter-in-law feels slightly off.
On so many levels, this episode was disappointing.
First, I have lost track of how many times Yamishibai has sent a newlywed (typically female) into the jaws of inlaws with dark secrets. Seeing how many times this series uses this trope, one might think Japan was against the idea of marriage or something.
Second, this episode reverted to a quality that once plagued this series – it revealed way too much. The best Yamishibai monster stories are the ones where you don’t get a good look at the creature or scary thing. The fear of the unseen can be powerful, and I always hate it when this show goes against it.
So, yeah, Snake Celebration was this season’s best attempt.
A young girl has moved to the countryside with her family. She has a hard time fitting in at school and hasn’t adjusted to her new surroundings. However, the girl meets a friend who is also a bit of an outcast.
Hey, look, my heart. This one stung.
Boar Meat was a great example of how a Yamishibai story can allow you to fill in the blanks without simply denying you details. As such, you will need to make several inferences with this tale.
Also, this episode could have left it sad, and that would have been enough. But did it have to turn messed up right at the end there? That last-second kick to the gut felt a tad unnecessary, not to mention traumatizing.
I don’t want to give anything away, but this episode’s title is a little on the nose, don’t you think?
A man accepts an invitation to do a spot of fishing with a senior from his company. The man goes off to buy drinks when he runs into an older gentleman talking about a wondrous place that sounds straight out of a dream.
This episode was just a darker retelling of the Japanese folk story Urashima Tarou. Then again, I have only ever heard the condensed telling of that tale, and even that much became bleak. Still, there is no doubt where Dragon Palace got its inspiration.
Accordingly, this episode was another middle-of-the-road affair. It was bad, but it wasn’t good either. I can’t say if any of the stories in season nine will stick with me for long. However, I can almost guarantee Dragon Palace will be among the first to go.
When it comes right down to it, it was this episode’s ending that soured things. It wasn’t anything too special or worthwhile.
A high schooler can shake the feeling that the new transfer student is constantly staring at her. Then one day, the transfer student tells the high schooler about a phenomenon known as “a monkey prayer.”
This episode wasn’t bad. The little “twist” at the end was surprisingly spooky. After all, how would you be if you saw what the main character saw out your window? Especially after hearing about prayers and death.
Additionally, Monkey Prayer had decent escalation, thus serving as proof that short-form horror can be amazingly effective when done well.
That notwithstanding, the last few moments of this episode came off as needlessly rushed. It was almost as if the story had hit some sort of time limit. I don’t know; it was like an awkward stumble that was impossible not to see right at the end.
Year of the Cat
Two designers are working late into the night. One of the designers asks the other if they knew some people were born in the year of the cat. But since God had kicked the cat out of the Zodiac, if God notices people born in the cat’s year, God erases them from existence.
And that is how we end Yamishibai 9; on a big, fat dud.
Maybe it’s because I only have casual knowledge of the Zodiac, but the concept of the titular year of the cat has no weight to me. After all, since there are only twelve years in the rotation, how can anyone be from a thirteenth.
Sure, this is a small thing to focus on, but it was the central point of this episode.
Also, was the ending suggesting the other designer was somehow God? That is a stretch if you ask me. But how else could this person see someone who no longer existed for anyone else?
I have seen this series when it’s been at its best. This season was not one of those times.
However, I have also seen this series at its worst. Number nine didn’t come anywhere close to that either.
No, this installment was smack dab in the middle. None of the segments in this season were atrocious, which was nice. Unfortunately, I doubt any will stick with me by the time season ten (because why the hell wouldn’t there be a tenth) arrives.
For what it was, Yamishibai Season 9 was serviceable.
But these were just my thoughts. What are yours? Have you seen this series? What were your impressions of Yamishibai Season 9? Leave a comment down below because I would love to hear what you have to say.
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