The Yami Shibai series took horror back to its roots. A simple scary story late in the evening about what goes bump in the night used be considered the height of horror a while back. Now however, the bulk of the horror genre is populated with shows that overuse blood, guts, grotesque figures, and jump scares. The shows that tactfully implement those elements along with their own decent horror story are few and far between. The first season of Yami Shibai did this and did it well. Sadly, somewhere along its 3 seasons thereafter it devolved from what I originally praised it for and became
the picture drama version of a B-grade horror show filled solely with grotesque creatures and more jump scares then your average amusement park haunted house. Each season I found myself more and more disappointed with the way the series was heading and kept wondering why I was still bothering to waste my time on something that was lost. But like an abusive relationship, I found myself coming back only to be more disappointed with each subsequent season. The question here is does the 5th season of Yami Shibai break this downward spiral of mediocrity? To my surprise, yes. It created something I enjoyed even more so than the first season and here's why.
Remember when you were a kid and you found yourself oddly attracted and fearful to that that was different around you? Like an odd acting person you see around town from time to time, or a rundown abandoned building somewhere near the outskirts? You were scared to investigate any further then just looking because just maybe that odd acting person was a witch in disguise or that abandoned house was a den for ghost and ghouls. Even when you grew up and replaced these childish delusions with logic and reasoning you still couldn't help but think that just maybe that scratching behind the wall late at night was the work of a ghost and not just some rodent. That's what the 5th season of Yami Shibai did. They animated and twisted our childlike fears putting them behind a screen for our viewing pleasure.
To say my exceptions to get even a passable 5th installment after the horrendous 4th season were low is an understatement. I went into this expecting to hate it and was shocked through and through to find something that was actually better then just "passable". I found myself getting chills like I once did and for the first time I was actually looking froward to the next story that would air. The fifth season of Yami Shibai rekindled the child in me, the one that was scared of the dark. It reminded me of how fun experiencing a simple ghost story can be.
The fifth season of Yami Shibai is not without it's faults either and would be wrong of me not to talk about its most glaring ones. The inconsistency between each story in the terms of quality is extremely apparent. Some episodes the art is good enough to stand up to its seasonal counterparts and at other times it looks like it was drawn by a 15 year old with a pastel and pencil crayon fetish. The exact same could be said for the voice acting. sometimes the quality of it is once again, up to par with its seasonal counterparts and at other times was so vexing that it actually made me wonder whether or not they casted random people off the street to voice some parts.
In conclusion, even though the fifth season of Yami Shibai has its share of episodes that were mediocre at best it was still a pleasure to watch. This is what a sequel to Yami Shibai should look like. These are Japanese Ghost Stories.
I'm not sure if it's fair to say that season 5 was a true "return to form" for Yami Shibai, or that the show had simply beat down my expectations so thoroughly that anything would seem impressive, but as a whole I have to say that I like season 5 a lot more than I thought I would. I hope that people who have basically given up on the show after 3 lackluster seasons might be persuaded to give season 5 a try. If you don't feel like reading the rest of this review: "Best season of the show since season 1."
I was feeling a
craving for some horror, and I'd taken notice of Yami Shibai across several years in my time watching anime, and so I finally decided to give it a try recently - and ended up marathoning just about the entire run in one night. Reading the reviews on this site also served to make me extremely curious; would I agree with everyone's gradually decreasing enthusiasm, or were they overreacting? Could the show really get that bad with each new season? Well, without going off-topic too much and reviewing the other seasons here.... It's true. Season 1 was pretty damn good, and even scared me so much that I stopped certain episodes before the end to collect myself. The atmosphere was perfect for what you could realistically expect from 4 minutes. A short-form horror show! So cool!
But seasons 2 through 4 just felt worse and worse each time in a way that's difficult to describe. If you simply watch an episode from each season in sequence, it should be immediately apparent. Everything about the quality just seems like they cared less and less. Many of the episodes made me throw my arms up at the end as I was filled with a sense of "What the hell was that!?" That's not to say there aren't episodes worth watching in each one, but they're definitely less good. I was amazed to find season 3 made me think "Well, maybe season 2 wasn't so bad," and how season 4 made me feel the same about season 3. Geez.
That's why I feel that it's hard to judge season 5 after so much disappointment, but I think that it's turned around quite significantly.
STORY- The stories are creepy again, with a proper sense of build up. They got rid of the monster of the week, they got rid of the narration, and focused again on just filling each minute with the good stuff. It wasn't as dark as season 1, and none of the episodes made me feel so scared I wanted to stop, but they were unsettling or creepy enough to feel like they had a place in this show. I especially liked episodes 2 and 7, while I think episodes 6 and 11 left the least impression on me.
ART & SOUND- The presentation of this show is, for many people, the reason they watched in the first place. Back in season 1 it had an utterly unique, grungy, shadowy look to it, alongside excellent sound design and audio cues. Even in season 2 it hadn't sunk too much worse (the sfx in "Ominie-san" make it one of the best episodes in the whole series). I'm happy to say that season 5 is most reminiscent of those two. What's interesting is that the overall art style changes from episode to episode, and although you might not love all of the styles equally, I think they show a high standard of quality and look great. Episodes 2, 4, and 10 had some of my favorite art. Also, the ending theme is cool again.
CHARACTER- I'm not certain this one's necessary for Yami Shibai, but with the removal of the narration from season 4 it went back to having more character dialogue, which is good! And even the masked kamishibaiya in the intro has his old voice back. Yahoo!
ENJOYMENT & OVERALL- As I've said plenty already, this season was the most enjoyable one since season 1. It also had the most episodes that creeped me out since then, which is the whole appeal. I truly hope this indicates that, should they continue the show into a season 6, that they plan to do so with a renewed standard of quality. I give Yami Shibai season 5 a 7/10.