Folklore Mondays: Yamishibai

This weekend I discovered Yamishibai (via Spiraphobia), a brilliant Japanese series of animated shorts. According to the Wiki, Yamishibai is made to resemble a storytelling tradition called kamishibai, which was new to me prior to coming across this series. Having watched the show, I’d love to see a kamishibai performance, especially of a ghost story.

The series is only thirteen episodes, each one about five minutes long. These are super-short tales that usually include a rapid setup and a quick, scary payoff. It’s sort of semi-animated, I guess you’d say, with the characters made to resemble paper cutouts and moving across mostly static backgrounds. This is an extremely effective technique for scary stories, as it cuts out unnecessary distraction. Somehow the sparseness of the style just lends itself to ghostly tales.

Naturally some are better than others, but it’s worthwhile to watch the whole series, which really manages to evoke the storytelling tradition (I imagine, anyway) through its use, in each episode, of framing formula by which the kamishibai storyteller announces the start of the tale. My personal favorites are the first and last episodes.

If you can track it down, I suggest you watch it in one go, with headphones. Maybe in the dark. Probably without anything breakable nearby.

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