Yamishibai: Japanese Ghost Stories is a series of anime shorts, and the shorts run for about five minutes each. They feature an old man who shows up every week at a children’s playground at 5:00 p.m. to tell Japanese ghost stories.
A boy named Kenji goes to visit his friend Takeru, who has just moved to a house out in the country. After Takeru is called into the house to help his mother with carrying in a watermelon, Kenji sees a woman at a bus stop across the street holding an umbrella in her mouth, but she is gone by the time Takeru comes back. When Kenji tells Takeru and his father about the woman, the father panics and says that Kenji saw the umbrella goddess. The father makes a phone call, and learns he needs to lock Kenji in a shed and to leave salt by the door.
That night, Takeru’s father tells Kenji that no matter what happens or who comes to the door, Kenji must not open it until the next morning. Later, Kenji hears Takeru calling for him, and Kenji opens the door. Takeru feels his father is overreacting, and he has brought some snacks for Kenji. After Kenji closes the door, Takeru comes back but sounds different. When Kenji refuses to unlock and open the door again, Takeru starts shaking the shed.
When Kenji wakes up the next morning, he thinks everything is fine… but the audience sees an umbrella pop up behind him with an ominous narration to accompany this final scene.
When I watched this short, I couldn’t help but feel like it was a little derivative once I reached the part about Kenji needing to be kept separate in a shed and being told that he couldn’t open the door until the next morning. This setup made me think too much of the third short, “The Family Rule.” In both, a boy has to be kept separated from other people one night and both are told they are not to do anything that night. While of the elements between the two shorts are different, “The Umbrella Goddess” still feels like it’s trying to retread ground that was seen earlier in the series.
After liking the seventh short, “Contradiction,” this one is kind of a letdown. Fortunately, there aren’t too many shorts left for Yamishibai: Japanese Ghost Stories, so I’m hoping that they won’t feel like retreads of earlier shorts or falling victim to some of the formulaic writing I’ve seen in this shorts.
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