Yami Shibai is a pretty decently sized horror franchise with nine series and a special. All from ILCA, the studio behind the unimpressive Kowabon. I have reviewed the first series. So, I thought it might be interesting to look at the second for this year’s horror anime month.
This series follows the same pattern as the first. We open with an old narrator calling on nearby children to join him for the show. Then there’s a horror short for about four minutes and the ending credits.
The biggest issue remains the same. The stories largely don’t have much in terms of subversion. There are maybe two or three where you can’t readily figure out where the episode is going a half a minute in. Which does significantly waken the impact.
That being said, I do appreciate the rapid fire format. I do think it works well for horror and the stories themselves feel like sitting around a campfire and telling ghost stories. Maybe they aren’t the best stories but if you’re in the right mood for it and the ambience is good, it’s an enjoyable time. The pacing is also well executed. ILCA is good at utilising their time well and using build up to make that final moment before the ending credits roll pop.
I maintain that the narrator is pointless. I get that they’re going for a “this old man is telling the stories” thing, but all he does is say “step up, this is the story of a college student” or some such thing. He doesn’t provide any useful narration or really add anything. You could literally have the same impact without him.
In general, the characters are fine. They don’t have much depth but they serve their purpose well enough. You can’t reasonably expect much more than that given the very limited time each episode has.
I have to admit, the children’s paper puppet aesthetic is kind of growing on me. It might not be an ideal look for a horror series, but it does work with the overall idea of the series as a street performance.
The acting is decent enough. It’s hard to tell if the actors would be really good if they had more depth to their characters or not, simply because every character is only there for one episode. They kind of sound like they’re doing the bare minimum though. The music is fine, nothing spectacular.
There isn’t any to be seen.
Areas of Improvement:
- Stop wasting time with the narrator.
- Break away from expectations. Yes, this is a horror series for younger audiences. But if you think younger audiences can’t figure out where you’re going with a formulaic story I would say you’re under-estimating them. I think those youngsters who are a bit sharper and are somewhat familiar with the genre will see the scares coming most of the time.
- Give the Actors some stronger direction. Even with the low characterisation, the performances could be stronger.
Like the first instalment in the series, this is okay. If you want some rapid fire horror that isn’t much of a time investment, you may enjoy it. If you want subversion, complex characters or a story with some meat to it, you’ll be better off with something else. I’m giving it a 6/10.