Yamishibai Review: Killer Clowns, Toilet Monsters, & Creepy Crawlies…

Is all Horror Horrible?

Would you take the shortcut down the foggy, overgrown road? How about a quaint picnic under the tree where they hung a witch? Up for digging treasure in an ancient burial ground?


The Anime that Changed My Mind

I am not a horror fan. Part of that stems from me being a chicken, but mainly it’s because I like to think I’m smarter than the protagonists of most horror flicks. Whether driven by the search for hidden artifacts or simply the most cobweb-covered place to make out, protagonists in the genre tend to make the crucial mistake of ignoring their basic flight instincts.

haunted house

We all have that one friend that would explore the basement of this place…

Admit it. They bring the consequences of curses and voodoo on themselves, and it’s too much for me to bear watching.

I even refuse to put a welcome mat on my door (just in case the Buffy lore was right about vampires).

I even refuse to put a welcome mat on my doorstep just in case the Buffy lore was right about vampires.

Seriously, in what world is going to the basement appealing? But despite my distaste for the genre, I have one weakness—I can’t resist is a good story, and so the masked narrator from Yamishibai: Japanese Ghost Stories hooked me from the start.

The Perfect Anime to Binge this Halloween

If you’ve never been exposed to Eastern ghost stories before, you’re in for a treat. Unlike most Western horror stories where the protagonist is kind of asking for it, the humans in Yamishibai are relatively responsible; the victims range from your standard meddling kids to law-abiding citizens just on their way home from work. No one is safe in the narrator’s nightmare tales. It’s why Yamishibai is at the top of the list for anime worlds I would never live in.

I should have guessed anime would suck me into a nightmarish world which now haunts the corners of my imagination.

I should have guessed that anime would be the one thing to suck me into a nightmarish world haunting the corners of my imagination.

If you’re already a fan of Japanese folklore and the culture in general, you’ll love seeing the familiar old stories revived. Yamishibai is not your typical horror story among even anime.  The episodes are short—only 4 minutes each, so they don’t waste any time bringing in the creepy plot. There is no shortage of demented artwork, either, and that really lends to the eerieness of this anime.


Some shows try too hard to scare you. Not this one.

Due to this short format, it’s not a hard to sell to my friends who think anime is weird. At times I put it on before they realize what’s happening and viola! They’re hooked! Each episode is a bite-sized creepy story that can be enjoyed by itself…or, if you’re like me with candy on Halloween, you devour it in all in one sitting. There are currently 3 seasons of the series, and the ending of the latest touched on a larger and more unsettling mystery about the narrator himself.

Antiquated Story-Telling: A Japanese Artform

Yamishibai stands apart in the antiquated feeling it brings. The show takes old Japanese folklore and renews it with a terrifying twist suited for modern-day Japan, which is one of the safest places on Earth, by the way. Ha ha! Not in this anime!

But what makes Yamishibai unique is its platform. The title of the anime comes from an old-fashioned method of Japanese street-corner art called Kamishibai(紙芝居), which translates to “paper theater”. When you swap “Yami” in place of “Kami”, you get Darkness Theater. Aren’t Japanese puns the best?

Kamishibai gained popularity during the 1930s and ’40s when it was used as a method of entertaining children. The street performer gave a narration using his hand-painted stills and a wooden stage to assist his tale.

A real-life Kamishibai performance in Tokyo! Thanks, Wikipedia! :D

Back in the olden days of Kamishibai, the narrator would make his money off of selling candy to the kids listening. Not creepy at all, right? 😀

The old art form explains the odd animation style of the series, where the characters are shuffled from scene to scene like the stills in Kamishibai. The show’s art is grainy and reminiscent old watercolor paintings. In season 3, there are more realistic textures and yellow tones to lend to the sickening feeling you’ll experience while watching.

Nothing quite like this artwork!

Satomi, I think you should stop using that brand of spray tan…

It’s Time for Yamishibai

The narrator is beckoning you to hear his story…So what are you waiting for? You can watch the whole series on Crunchyroll.com for FREE!  Just don’t watch it in the dark!

Come back after you watch and leave a comment about your favorite scary moment!


Written by: Darling Otaku

Moonie. Aspires to become a unicorn. Married to Mr. Dashing himself. YA Fantasy Writing Blog: https://sanbornsmith.wordpress.com/

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