Yamishibai: Japanese Ghost Stories

Yamishibai: Japanese Ghost Stories (闇芝居 Yami Shibai?) also known as Theater of Darkness is a 2013 Japanese television series. The show is organized into a series of shorts with each episode being only a few minutes in length. Each episode features a different tale based on urban legends and myths of Japanese origin and is animated in such a way so as to mimic the kamishibai method of story-telling. The series premiered on TV Tokyo on July 14, 2013.

Every week at 5 p.m. an old man shows up at a children’s playground and tells them ghost stories based on myths and urban legendsof Japanese origin. The man tells the stories on the back of his bicycle using a traditional kamishibai (paper scroll) method and features a new tale each week.

The series is produced by ILCA and directed by Tomoya Takashima along with script writing by Hiromu Kumamoto and narrated byKanji Tsuda. The series is animated in such a way as to mimic a traditional Japanese method of storytelling known as kamishibai. The anime premiered on July 14, 2013 on TV Tokyo[1] and was later aired on AT-X.[2] The series was obtained by Crunchyroll for online streaming in select parts of the world with English subtitles.[3] The ending theme is “Kai People Picture Scroll” (怪々絵巻?) and was arranged by AVTechNO! using the Vocaloid singing synthesizer: Hatsune Miku.

No. Title Original air date[4]
01 “The Talisman Woman”
“Ofuda Onna” (お札女(おふだおんな))
July 14, 2013
A young man moves into an apartment building and notices a talisman stuck to the ceiling of his room. He removes it and notices a mysterious woman eerily staring at him from another apartment across the street. Upon returning from work the next day, he finds his apartment door strangely unlocked and another talisman stuck to the ceiling. Upon trying to remove it, the mysterious woman suddenly appears behind him. Afterwards, the woman is arrested for breaking and entering and as the police take her away, she appears to tell the man something, although he doesn’t hear what she says. When the man returns to his apartment, he shockingly finds hundreds more talismans stuck beneath his dining table and upon removing them horrifically finds his room filled with a swarm of ghosts.
02 “Zanbai”
“Zanbai” (惨拝(ざんばい))
July 21, 2013
A man wakes up in a hospital with no memory of how he got there and tries to question three men dressed as patients who whisper amongst themselves in a corner but they ignore him. The doctor explains what had happened to the man and that he would be able to leave the next day. That night unable to sleep, the three men seem to stand outside the curtains of the man’s hospital bed, frightening him. The next day, as the man is released, he notices the three men on the hospital roof, seemingly performing thebanzai cheer for him, which he relates to his cab driver. The driver notices the men in the rear view mirror and horrifically realizes they are doing a ritual called “Zanbai” to which he suddenly urges the man to get out of the car since he would not be able to leave the village alive, at which point the cab is struck by an oncoming truck.
03 “The Family Rule”
“Kakun” (家訓(かくん))
July 21, 2013
A young boy called Toshiharu and his parents move back to the countryside home of his mother’s parents. As Toshiharu waits outside, his grandfather has a meeting with the main family explaining a ritual called “Calm Through Laughter” during which the adults must stay indoors and pretend to laugh and be merry all night long so that the evil ghost Toshiharu’s great-great grandfather who feeds on negative emotions would not come near. That night Toshiharu wakes up to use the bathroom and curiously peers into the room filled with all the laughing adults, horrifically finding them wearing hideous masks. As Toshiharu terrifyingly backs away, the main door to the garden outside slides open and the group watches in horror as a figure approaches from the shadows and lunges at them.
04 “Hair”
“Kami” (かみ)
August 4, 2013
One night a lone elementary school teacher had remained in the faculty office a bit late to finish working on the school newspaper. When she starts making copies using thephotocopier, the school bells eerily start ringing whilst the first test page comes out with strange hair-like lines. Upon investigating the scanner, she finds the head of a girl inside the machine, but upon double checking, sees nothing and deduces that she is just fatigued. The photocopier then starts behaving erratically and makes copies with each copy becoming more and more obstructed by the hair, forcing the teacher to pull the plug. Upon checking the scanner again, she sees a length of messy black hair being sucked into the paper loading tray and upon looking inside, finds nothing. However a ghostly pale white child appears upon closing the scanner’s lid.
05 “The Next Floor”
“Ikai” (異階)
August 11, 2013
A family of three visits a shopping mall to buy their son’s birthday present, until the father has to leave after getting a call from work. After some patronizing from his wife, the man steps into the elevator and wishes to be left alone. Upon noticing the elevator’s rather gloomy-looking occupants, the elevator attendant stops at an unlisted Floor B4, where all but the man get off on the completely dark floor. The attendant then makes another stop at Floor B13 and the man witnesses a bloodied person hurriedly running towards the elevator which suddenly departs. Scared, the man demands that the attendant take him back to his original floor but horrifically finds that it is only a dummy. Arriving at his original floor, the man steps into the deserted mall, with the power being cut. As the elevator leaves, the dummy, strangely upright, wishes the man enjoyment of his solitude.
06 “The Overhead Rack”
“Amidana” (網棚)
August 18, 2013
workaholic man rides the train home after a day spent working. Suffering from obvious fatigue and discomfort he starts growing annoyed at his fellow passengers’ chatter. Just then he notices a grotesque flesh-like mass on the overhead rack to which he attributes as a hallucination. Suddenly, the train makes an abrupt emergency stop and the conductor announces that an accident had befallen a passenger, at which point the train’s electricity is cut for the safety of the rescue workers. The strange flesh-like mass then reappears and starts enveloping the man while two passengers chatter about how that exact area had been the spot of recent deaths. The man starts panicking and goes through his options when all of a sudden he looses the strength to reject the monstrous creature, who remarks that the man would feel better soon.
07 “Contradiction”
“Mujun” (矛盾)
August 25, 2013
A woman called Yuuko is awakened in the middle of the night by a phone call from her frightened friend, Mayumi. Mayumi explains that she and their other friend, Tooru visited an abandoned and supposedly haunted hospital on the outskirts of town as part of a test of courage. However Tooru started venturing deeper into the building despite her pleas and eventually broke into a locked room where his personality seemed to change. Mayumi then fled in fright and phoned Yuuko, asking to come over before mumbling the strange phrase, “I can leave?” At that moment, Yuuko is startled by a knock on her door from which Tooru starts explaining the same story as Mayumi with their roles reversed, further adding that it looked as through Mayumi’s face had been replaced. As Yuuko opens the door however, Tooru appears with a grotesque face repeating the same phrase.
08 “The Umbrella Goddess”
“Kasa Kamisama” (傘神様)
September 1, 2013
A boy called Kenji goes to the countryside to visit his friend Takeru. After some catching up, Kenji is left alone at the front of the house and notices a woman abnormally holding holding an open umbrella with her mouth. After relating this to Takeru’s father, the man becomes horror struck and to the woman as the “Umbrella Goddess”. That night, Takeru’s father has Kenji sleep in a shed and warns him not to open its door for anyone until morning. Some time later, Takeru brings Kenji some snacks and apologizes for his father’s measures before leaving. Just then, Takeru strangely reappears and asks Kenji to open the door, which the latter refuses and instead locks it in fear just as the Takeru-figure starts rocking the shed. Later that morning, unbeknownst to Kenji as he exits the shed in a sigh of relief, the Umbrella Goddess appears behind him.
09 “Cursed”
“Tatarare” (祟られ)
September 1, 2013
A woman informs her teenaged daughter, Kotone that she had tracked down someone who may be able to help them remove a curse which befell Kotone’s body. After a bit of hesitation due to the past failures of others who sought to help her, Kotone agrees. The following day, they visit a Shinto shrine where the priestess deduces that enemies of their ancestors had brought the curse upon their family and proceeds to evoke a ritual that night which seemingly cures Kotone. The next day, as Kotone and her mother breathe a sigh of relief, the priestess’ aide informs them via a phone call that the priestess was killed as the curse was passed on to her and relates her finals words which lament her failure to help them. As the mother receives these words, the curse mark simultaneously appears on Kotone’s neck on her way to school and kills her.
10 “The Moon”
“Tsuki” (月)
September 8, 2013
While spending the night at a lodge, a high school boys’ baseball team discuss their current training camp and recall how their teammate, a boy named Daisuke, fell into one of the lodge’s pit toilets during a little league training camp back when they were in first grade, although he fails to recall the event. As Daisuke uses the restroom later that night, he recalls the event while staring at the moon through the window, and remembers that there was some type of figure stalking him while trapped in the pit. In the present, Daisuke notices a figure staring at him from the pit before suddenly vanishing. Startled, he attributes the figure to his imagination and while finishing up in the bathroom, the door suddenly creaks open and Daisuke watches in horror from the mirror’s reflection as some type of creature climbs out of the pit toilet.
11 “Video”
“Bideo” (ビデオ)
September 15, 2013
While trying to complete a huge amount of unfinished homework, three middle school friends decide to take a break and watch a recorded videotape, which supposedly shows things that the recorder didn’t remember shooting. When the video starts playing the friends notice something which resembles a human face next to a gravestone and assume that was the scary footage. However Takaaki also notices a strange humanoid figure in the background, which his friends fail to see, and upon rewinding the tape, finds that the figure somehow moves to the foreground and starts staring directly at him. Now thoroughly spooked, Takaaki notices two more humanoid faces reflecting in the screen and turns around to find that his friends had morphed into strange humanoid creatures who continue to question him about what he had seen.
12 “Tomonari-kun”
“Tomonari-kun” (トモナリクン)
September 22, 2013
A high school girl returns to her apartment complex and notices five small boys sitting around a black, shadow-like mass in the courtyard, whom they personify as their friend, “Tomonari-kun.” They claim that “Tomonari” invites her to play with them, but she declines and promises to play with “Tomonari” soon. The next day, they invite her again, but she uses her part-time job as an excuse. When she returns home, the girl finds the boys knocking at her door, who claim that “Tomonari” spoke of visiting her and point to a black shadow on her ceiling, claiming it to be “Tomonari”. Spooked, the girl throws the boys out and watches in fear as the black shadow manifests eyes and speaks of her promise, before it pulls the girl into itself. Finally the boys look on and seem to be happy for “Tomonari” before sitting around two shadows in the courtyard.
13 “Tormentor”
“Uzuki” (疼憑き)
September 29, 2013
A trio of elementary students are expectantly observing a house in the vicinity of their neighborhood using a pair of binoculars, hoping to see the Tormentor, an entity that according to one of the students caused his granmother’s childhood friend too dissapear mysteriously following its appearance. The student, visibly unnerved, leaves on false claims. The remaining two, Shouta and Taichi, spot the occupants of the residence stumbling around wearing blindfolds, with an eery apparition seemingly contorting its limbs barely visible behind one of the residents. As it is about to appear in the surveiling Shouta’s field of vision, taichi snatches the binoculars impatientantly and goes into shock upon seeing the entity, abrubtly leaving in a similar ‘dancing’ manner. Shouta meekly arrives at his friend’s house the following day to return his binoculars, but is sternly told off by Taichi’s father, who claims his son will not be playing with him anymore as he is trasnferring to a school in Tokyo. The student briefly glimpses past the father to see a group of people cautiously observing and attempting to handle a writhing Taichi, his mother weeping desperately nearby. Upon leaving Shouta notices who he believes is Taichi watching him from a window. Using his binoculars he views the window but no one is there. He suddenly spots the father, aghast, pointing alarmingly at something in his direction. Before he has a chance to check his surroundings, a possessed Taichi falls upon him.


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