Greetings and Salutations.
What is it about Asian horror that just keeps me coming back for more? Is it the creepy blue tinged children under sinks and hiding in cupboards? Yes. Is it the evil mother in laws that curse a household resulting in generations of said blue tinged children? Yes. Or could it be the unlikely pearls of wisdom that come from the soundtracks that form a inspirational accompaniment to my open windows of joy awaiting the blossoms of freedom and love to bestow greatness on the garden? Yes.
My love for Asian horror having now been established… I have to get my hands on a copy of Nobuhiko Obayahshi’s 1977 horror film Hasu or House. It has everything I love in horror, black hair tentacles weaving their way out of a hot bath up the ivory back of an unsuspecting damsel. Piano’s that play themselves… hang on… no, there are ghosts fingers thumping out that tune! Floating heads come to take their vengeance and naked ladies being eaten by said piano. Thanks to FearNet for bringing this jewel of the orient to my attention, it has filled my weekend with a sense of love sent from your warm lips through a bell of happiness! Enjoy the trailer below.
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Lets start the weekend off in the correct fashion shall we? With a discussion about the glorious offerings that horror Anime can provide. I have always had an interest in Anime, more specifically within the horror genre but I am also a fan of the work of Hayao Miyzaki. The genius behind such Studio Ghibli classics as: ‘My Neighbour Totoro‘, ‘Spirited Away‘, ‘Howl’s Moving Castle‘ and who could forget ‘Porco Rosso‘. But I digress, I have been watching some new horror Anime of late as you have read I was in rapture with ‘Hell Girl‘ and am now becoming intoxicated with ‘XXX Holic‘.
‘XXX Holic’ is described as follows on IMDB:
“Kimihiro Watanuki, a high-schooler, is troubled by monsters and spirits who are magically attracted to him. However, nobody else can see them but him. One day, Watanuki stumbles into a shop that grants wishes, and encounters Yuko Ichihara, a beautiful, seemingly all-knowing witch. Yuko doesn’t waste time, she offers to grant Watanuki’s wish to not be able to see those bothersome monsters and spirits any longer, however, there is a price. Yuko soon sees that Watanuki is a hard worker and would be useful for housework and other chores Yuko wishes for him to do until he works off enough to pay for the amount of power that needs to be used to grant his wish.”
There is some stunning imagery in this Anime and the stories attached to the lurking spirits and lessons that must be learned are very similar to that in Hell girl. However this macabre animation employs what I have become to know as Ms Harker’s ‘Crimson Rules of Horror Anime’:
1: Blossoms: The symbol of the flowering cherry blossom appears often and through different transitions in the story and provides an opportunity for us westerners to say ‘Ahhh pretty’. Now listen up kids and get you some learning! The Cherry Blossom also represents the fleeting nature of life and was sometimes used to symbolise the suicides of young people in honour of an emperor. However they also have been used to symbolise extreme beauty or quick death. Which is how they are often employed within horror Anime.
2: Butterflies: Whilst being a symbol for metamorphosis, or the change one has made to their evil ways. Butterflies also carry the souls of the dead, or provides answers to the living to solve mysteries.
3: Food: Rice, sushi, noodles, Beer and Sake. Characters eat, they eat often and they eat with gusto, leaving Ms Harker craving Gyoza and Edamame beans! However we also often see spirits eating the souls of the wicked, or chomping down on entire villages, creating a dichotomous relationship with food for comfort or greed.
4: Breasts: There must always be a busty, raven haired woman, dressed mostly in traditional garb, however sporting large eyes and unusually large breasts for someone of Asian descent…
So there you have it, a wild ride through Ms Harker’s ‘Crimson Rules of Horror Anime’. If you are looking to indulge in some Blossoms, Butterflies and Breasts I highly recommend ‘Hell Girl’, ‘XXX Holic’ and for those of you who do not cringe away from a little vagina dentata ‘Wicked City’.
Over the years I have copped a little bit of flak from friends who do not understand my love for Anime. ‘Why do you watch cartoons?’ they ask, well its because ‘insert explanation of Anime’s artistry and in depth story telling’, this discussion is usually pointless, however if drunk may end in a ’suck my balls’ comment from yours truly! Today I want to introduce you to a wicked little lass who I have been watching intently for the past week, her name is Ai Enma aka Hell Girl!
Hell Girl is an Anime which first aired in Japan in 2005 and from her web presence has a large following of fansites, merchandise and Cosplay look a likes.
Hell Girl is called upon via an internet page called the ‘Hell Correspondence’ to wreak vengeance for those who have been wronged. The victims can only find the web page at midnight, whereby they then type in the name of their oppressor. If their cause is just, Hell Girl presents them with a straw doll which has scarlet thread around its neck. If the victim chooses to pull the thread then their enemy is carted off to the depths of hell by Hell Girl and her team (which includes a spunky young man, a wise old sage who chain smokes and a busty raven haired woman dressed in an extremely loose kimono) in a nightmare fashion in order to try and teach them the error of their ways. However there is a price, there must always be a price. If you choose to pull the scarlet thread when you die, your soul will also go to Hell, so the choice is yours, would you pull the thread?
The season I watched was 26 episodes long, now I don’t know how many of you out there are Anime fans? So lets be honest, sometimes when these series go on for more than 12-15 episodes they can go a bit loopy, lets say tangential. All of a sudden there is a fifth dimension, a doppelganger or a giant robot that enters the fray and you are as confused as all crap left wondering what happened. This is not the case with Hell Girl. Even though at some points the whole carrying souls off to hell bit got repetitive (see below for clip), about halfway through not only did the methods of teaching the condemned souls a lesson become more horrific (my favourites are in the episodes ‘Island Woman‘, ‘The Night Among Traveling Entertainers’ and ‘Bride Doll’) we start to see the story unravel as to how Ai Enma came to be Hell Girl.
The use of traditional Japanese imagery such as cherry blossoms, strong red and brown Autumn leaves, Japanese costuming; juxtaposed with the frenetic city dwellers is striking both visually and is reflected in the narrative throughout the series. The tension characters feel between their duty, their sorrow and the traditional versus the present is constantly conveyed in the stories of each victim and eventually Hell Girl herself.
This is not hard core Anime horror, like ‘Wicked City‘ there are no women with teeth in their vagina’s who turn into giant spiders (I’ll review that some other time, the spider chick rocks!). Hell Girl is a more subtle, haunting style of horror, playing on people’s desire for vengeance and exposing the evil’s that human kind perpetrate on each other, delivering the unique yet eternal cost that hell provides.