Yamishibai: Japanese Ghost Stories is a series of anime shorts produced by ILCA and directed by Tomoya Takashima. The shorts began airing on Japanese television on July 14, 2013.
Each of the shorts opens with an old man who shows up every week at a children’s playground at 5:00 p.m. to tell Japanese ghost stories. The shorts are animated in such a way that it mimics kamishibai, which is a traditional Japanese method of storytelling.
There are a total of 13 shorts for the first season of Yamishibai: Japanese Ghost Stories. Each short is about five minutes in length, and each short tells the story of someone who experiences some kind of horror.
Over the course of the series, a man is terrorized by a woman who keeps putting talismans in his apartment, a man who lost consciousness and awakens in the hospital with no memory of how he got there, a boy whose family is being haunted by the ghost of the boy’s great-great grandfather, an elementary school teacher who is being haunted while she stays late to work one night, a man who is haunted in an elevator at a department store, a man who is haunted on a train, a young woman whose two friends become possessed, a boy who visits his friend in the country and he sees something he shouldn’t, a girl who is inflicted with a curse, a high school boy who is terrorized by a bathroom monster while he’s at a baseball training camp, middle school boys who watch a video that ends badly, a high school girl who is haunted by a shadow of a child, and a boy whose friend becomes possessed.
When I first started watching the Yamishibai: Japanese Ghost Stories shorts, the series felt kind of fresh and unique. Unfortunately, when I reached Episode Six, I picked up on the fact that there was a bit of a formula being used for writing the stories. I know that the writers can be a little limited in what they can do with a roughly five-minute runtime, so it’s probably easier to start relying on a formula. This didn’t bother me during the previous five shorts, because I hadn’t entirely picked up on the formula. But after I realized what the formula for the storytelling was, it started to dampen my enjoyment and enthusiasm for Yamishibai: Japanese Ghost Stories.
My favorite short in this series would have to be the ninth one, which is titled, “Cursed.” Of the shorts in the series, I felt this particular one relied a lot less on the formula than most of the others.
While I thought Yamishibai: Japanese Ghost Stories was an OK series, I’m really not sure I’d continue watching again if new shorts were ever produced for it. To me, while the shorts were kind of interesting at first, I became less and less interested as the series went on.
Then again, I admit that I’m not a huge fan of the horror genre. Perhaps Yamishibai: Japanese Ghost Stories would hold a stronger appeal to viewers who enjoy horror stories.
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Japanese ghost stories actually are like that much of the time. The ‘formula’ as you call it is just how it goes in the cultural context.