Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Ayakashi: Samurai Horror Tales Review (English)


Happy Halloween everyone! Are you ready for some chilling tales? I hope so.

 Ayakashi: Japanese Classic Horror  (Also known as Ayakashi: Samurai Horror Tales) is an eleven episode Horror anime from Toei Animation with Hidehiko Kadota (Goddess of the Dark Tower), Kouzou Nagayama (Goddess of the Dark Tower), Tetsuo Imazawa (Yotsuya Kaiden), and Kenji Nakamura (Bake Neko) as the series Directors. It originally ran in January 2006, then Geneon took up the rights. Since Geneon went down the tubes, no one has claimed the series. So, like Paranoia Agent, it’s in Licensing Limbo (Yes, I am coining the term now). A spin off of the third tale, Bake Neko, called Mononoke was release the following year in the summer.

"Feel my wrath, Iemon!"
A collection of three classic Japanese horror stories: "Yotsuya Kaidan," the story of a wife betrayed by her husband who seeks vengeance even in death, "Goddess of the Dark Tower," the story of forbidden love between a goddess and a human, and "Bake Neko," the story of a mysterious cat monster with a vendetta against a certain family. (Anime News Network)

Each story has a distinct animation style. No story uses the exact same animation, giving a certain uniqueness to each tale. Though, some of the animation choices can be rather jarring and hard to get used to. For instance, some of the animation choices for the Forgotten Gods in Goddess of the Dark Tower can take some time to get used to. My theory is Toei used different decades of animation for some of these tales. Goddess of the Dark Tower has a distinct late 90’s style, while Yotsuya Kaidan has some 2000s to it. As for Bake Neko...... It’s like Gankutusuou all over again. The real question is, do these style choices work really well? It depends on which story you’re watching. Two out of the three stories it works well for what it’s trying to tell. The third story, Bake Neko, decides to blow the animation out of the water, by taking on the most unique style out of the three, therefore, making it the best animated of the three. All three are good, don’t get me wrong, but Bake Neko just did it best.

Must. Watch. MONONOKE!!!
Story wise, two out of the three stories can really only count as Horror tales. Goddess of the Dark Tower is more of a Romeo and Juliet type love story then an actual horror story. Goddess of the Dark Tower is a good story, but the title of the entire anime series has the word “Horror” in the title, making Goddess of the Dark Tower a little misleading in that department. As for Yotsuya and Bake Neko, having a Ghost story and a Demon story makes the series more Horror like. Now, oddly enough, my favorite story of the three is Bake Neko because of it’s story and amazing animation. Interestingly enough, Bake Neko is the only original story written for this series. Yotsuya and the Dark Tower are both based on plays and the series just has retellings of them. Bake Neko is a goblin cat based in Japanese Folklore, but the story in the series, written by Michiko Yokote, is an original work. It can be hard, sometimes, to make an adaptation of a play or novel into an anime series, and, for the most part, Dark Tower and Yotsuya work pretty well. Again, Goddess of the Dark Tower is the weakest of these stories for me. I just feel like, as a whole, there was more to the story that we didn’t get to see.

Our star crossed lovers, Ladies and Gentlemen!
It’s hard to talk characters when you don’t see them for the entire run of the show. But I’ll do my best to talk about them. For what it’s worth, the characters of Ayakashi are well developed in their own story with what little time each story is given (Dark Tower had 4 episodes, Yotsuya had 4 episodes, and Bake Neko had 3 episodes). We focus our attention on the characters that matter, and the series does it’s best to develop those characters. Here is where Goddess of the Dark Tower actually shines because of this. With this story, our two lovers actually do develop as pretty good characters by the end of the story. Tomihime, specifically, grows as a person and, not only learns about humans, but learns about love. With Bake Neko and Yotsuya, there isn’t much growth, character wise. Yotsuya kinda has an excuse because it’s a retelling of a play (it literally has a narrator and everything), while Bake Neko eventually shows the true nature of some of it’s characters instead of developing them very well.

The dub is an interesting subject to talk about here. It’s a fairly old Genon dub, with a ton of unknown voice actors in the mix. And it took me a while to figure out some of the voice actors based on voice alone. In the end, I only picked up on four voice actors from only two out of the three stories. First up, from Goddess of the Dark Tower, we have Kirby Morrow (Inuyasha) and Willow Johnson (Inuyasha). They play our star crossed lovers Himekawa and Tomihime, and they do rather well..... Except for the sometimes wooden lines from Johnson. Those can drive a girl nuts. As for the other two actors I noticed, we have Andrew Francis (Nana) and Kelly Sheridan (Inuyasha) from Bake Neko. As the Medicine Peddler and Kaya, these two were a nice fit into the story. Francis especially, because.... Well..... I can’t imagine anyone else in the role, to be honest. The Medicine Peddler is a fairly young man and very knowledgeable about demons, so it makes sense to have an actor who not only sounds young, but seems more mature for his age. As for Sheridan, I was just simply confused because she sounded exactly like Kari Whalgren, hence the mention.

By the end of out ghost story, Ayakashi: Japanese Classic Horror is an interesting take on Japanese tales and folklore. Each story stands out in it’s own way, with Bake Neko being the top dog, in my opinion. There are some weaknesses in each tale, but they can be overlooked for just some pure enjoyment. If you’re looking for a horror tale but want to learn more about Japanese culture, then give Ayakashi a try. But I suggest following the Genon DVD release order rather then the Japanese original release order. Get the not-so-horror story out of the way first.

Next time, we journey into the world of CLAMP and then into space for some wacky adventures. Until then, otaku on my friends!

2 comments:

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  2. Bakeneko is amazing out of the entire series. To me, the episodes really sucked me in unlike "Dark Tower" and "Yotsuya Kaidan", I guess its because I already know what was gonna happen with those two, but with Bakeneko, I was always guessing, wondering to myself what was going to happen next. I was literally on the edge of my seat the whole time, and when the REAL truth about Yoshiyuki and what happened to Tamaki, I was hoping that he would die in the end, but he didn't, but thank goodness that bastard Yoshikuni did, asshole! However, Yoshiyuki must suffer for all the wrongdoings he caused to poor Tamaki and her cat, and the deep dark secret that caused him, his family.
    In the end, I am happy that Tamaki and the cat were able to leave that treacherous household, and happily go into the afterlife together, now that Yoshiyuki's secret is revealed to the survivors of the household.

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