Welcome, my Beauties, to the first review of horror anime month. Last year, one of the things I looked at was Corpse Party: Missing Footage, a short OVA about a bunch of one-dimensional characters being dull. We saw a bit of blood and carved up children at the beginning, but nothing else to connect it to horror. This year, I’m going to look at the follow up that, supposedly, moves into straight up horror. Corpse Party: Tortured Souls.
A group of eight kids is staying at school late after an event and telling ghost stories. Before leaving they, along with their teacher, decide to do a charm that will supposedly make them stay friends forever. This naturally results in them being separated & transported into a dilapidated school where blood and gore are everywhere. Now, they have to find a way to rendezvous and escape before a group of vengeful spirits can add their bodies to the décor.
In theory, this is a good premise for a horror piece. It’s relatable with characters who are separated through no fault of their own as opposed to the old cliché of them just splitting up because they lack sense. It could also give the audience a real air of mystery and intrigue. In theory, this is a great set up. But this is reality and theory only gets you so far. With that in mind, let’s discuss the execution, shall we?
Any potential this OVA may have had for horror is quickly ruined by the execution. It’s over the top, ridiculous and very similar to a Hollywood B-movie. As a result, the scares end up being a bit humorous and not even remotely frightening. The pacing is also an issue. The OVA skips over a lot of plot details, I’m guessing because the game is longer. Even with that in mind, this has the unfortunate consequence of making several plot details come across as vague and poorly explicated upon. It doesn’t help that the narrative itself is uninspired and trite.
When I reviewed Missing Footage, I talked about seeing snippets of the everyday lives of a bunch of bland non-characters. But that was barely over ten minutes long. Surely, an OVA that runs for nearly two hours total would have to have better developed characters, right? If you answered in the affirmative, prepare for disappointment. The cast remains a group of caricatures of stilted stereotypes with no chance of connecting with any of them because they barely resemble a representation of human behaviour.
The worst is definitely Yuka. She’s a middle school kid who acts like she’s four, right down to asking her brother to take her to the potty while doing a stereotypical pee pee dance, and it’s excessively annoying. Compounding the annoyance factor is that all of the other characters treat her like she’s perfectly normal. Because telling your older sibling that you have to potty is totally an age appropriate thing for someone who’s fourteen. It doesn’t help that these people are all really stupid and inept. There’s also a plot element where, and this is a minor spoiler, the distorted space where they’re sent causes people to lose their minds and go psychotic. But there’s no consistency since we only see shades of it with a few characters and the rest seem to be immune for some reason. Maybe the game explains it, but in the OVA it makes no sense.
The character designs and such are really generic but what I really want to focus on, in this case, are the horror elements. Mainly because they are really funny and I’m not sure how Asread looked over what they’d done and thought it would be horrific. There’s a black shadowy monster that looks incredibly silly and instantly ruins any sense of tension when you see its face in the first episode and inevitably burst out laughing. There’s another monster based on an anatomical model that’s similarly goofy looking and just makes you laugh when you see him. This is supposed to be legitimate horror and not a parody, right?
Then we have the gory scenes, and there are quite a few. I’ll admit, that I’m the type of person who can get really grossed out by gore, particularly when it’s realistic. In this, the gore is so overblown that it quickly loses any impact. The death scenes are another big failure on Asread’s part. They’re so over the top and ridiculous that they end up having no impact or being unintentionally funny. I should not be laughing this often when a series is actively trying to scare me. There’s also the issue with class, or lack thereof in this case. There are several unintentionally funny scenes that decide it’s a great idea to give the audience a shot of a female character’s knickers, usually when she’s being menaced by something or murdered. And that’s just in bad taste, Corpse Party. It would seriously undermine the gravity of these scenes if they weren’t already unintentionally funny.
The vocal performances in this are really over the top and there’s a lot of over-acting. It adds nicely to the B-movie aesthetic that the OVA has going for it. Except that the series is trying to be taken seriously so it comes across as pretty damn incompetent. To be fair to the actors, they really have nothing to work with, given how underwritten their characters are. The music is passable, if a bit underwhelming.
One of the girls is pretty heavily implied to be the caricature of the stereotypical schoolgirl lesbian. She even gets to share a moment with her equally uninteresting friend in the infirmary. But the impact is diminished by them talking about her friend’s male love interest.
As a horror piece, Corpse Party: Tortured Souls is pretty abysmal. Its attempts at being scary are met with laughter or indifference, the characters are absolute garbage and you aren’t going to care what becomes of them, the performances are over the top and the art does not keep it classy. That being said, I do kind of recommend watching it. While it fails at what it’s trying to do, it does it in such an absurd way that it’s kind of amazing. It comes across more as a parody than a legitimate horror piece and, as a parody, it kind of works. If you’ve got a macabre sense of humour, this might just be what you’re looking for. Still, I have to give it a 2/10 for its many, many, major failings as a horror piece. Next week I’ll continue the month with Night Walker: Mayonaka no Tantei.