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 group of three elementary school boys are watching a house near their neighborhood with binoculars; the boy with the binoculars is named Shouta. Legend has it that the Tormentor lives there; according to one of the boys, the Tormentor caused his grandmother’s childhood friend to mysteriously disappear. This boy says he needs to go to cram school and leaves.
Taichi, the other boy, sneers about the other boy being a wimp after he leaves. Just them, Shouta says he sees people coming out the house wearing blindfolds and with one of the people looking like he’s dancing. Before Shouta can really see anything else, Taichi snatches the binoculars away to see for himself. As Taichi looks, he becomes scared and then suddenly begins doing the dancing motion of the other people and leaves.
The next day, Shouta goes to Taichi’s house to return the binoculars. Taichi’s father tells Shouta that Taichi will be transferring to a school in Tokyo and that Shouta can keep the binoculars. After Shouta leaves, he turns around and uses the binoculars to look back at Taichi’s house. Taichi’s father points at something, but before Shouta can take in his surroundings, he is attacked.
Unfortunately, this short has a similar basic premise to a couple of the other shorts in the series (“The Umbrella Goddess” and “The Family Rule”); because someone saw something they weren’t supposed to, something bad happens to them. While the execution of these stories is very different, it still boils down to that same idea. So that in respect, it did end up falling into a formula. However, I will admit that even though this basic premise wasn’t new to me as a viewer, the very end of this short did almost cause me to jump out of my chair.
“Tormentor” is currently the last short for the Yamishibai: Japanese Ghost Stories series. While I thought this 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. Around the halfway point I picked up on a formula that was being used to write most of the shorts, so it started to make the series feel a little more predictable and I generally wasn’t as scared at the end of the shorts as I would have thought I would have been.
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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