Image source: テレビ東京アニメ公式あにてれ on Twitter
As a horror enthusiast, I often seek out anime series that are purportedly terrifying. Sadly, I’m often disappointed by the supposed scares. The World YAMIZUKAN, however, lives up to the hype. I’m disturbed on a regular basis by this bizarre series of shorts, despite the fact that there is only the bare minimum of animation to be found.
The World YAMIZUKAN is comprised of four-minute shorts, featuring vignettes that wouldn’t be out of place in a Twilight Zone or Outer Limits plot, with detailed, stylized illustrations, a stark narrator, and happenings that are actually deeply disturbing. They don’t get to me on the same level as some of my favorite horror stories, but there’s something frightening about them that speaks to me much in the way old 60s science fiction and horror anthologies do.
There’s an otherworldly quality to them, and a layer of surrealism that feels like a story plucked from another time and place. It’s as if a classic comic chock-full of monsters, demons and aliens came to life while a creepy old narrator explains what’s going on.
In fact, you can barely call this series of shorts animation. It hardly looks like Japanese artwork either, instead resembling Western horror with clear classic influences from pulpy thriller comics and other 70s-80s compilations like Heavy Metal or the stories it influenced. YAMIZUKAN itself is more like a motion comic or a guided reading experience like what you might find in a comic reader app than anything else, and that works exceedingly well for its kind of horror.
The topics go a long way for it as well. There’s a vehicle that goes around consuming humans for sustenance, a killer yeti-like creature that poses as an innocent child’s snowman, and an alien abduction situation that at first looks like a wife cheating on her husband. All of these stories unfold within four-minute stories, and there is no dialogue beyond what the narrator provides for the characters.
Most of them have negative resolutions, and some of them have no real resolution at all. You’re left to wonder about the characters’ fates, whether or not they escaped the perils that had befallen them, or what the next move would be. In in the case of a quick story about the overtaking of society by intelligent robots, for example, we see an eventual future where everyone was turned into robots, with the focus of the story having been one all along.
It’s such a complete and total 180 from typical anime series that try their best to terrify but end up rigidly sticking to the tropes that work elsewhere, such as moe characters and censored gore and violence. Everything that’s here is raw, out in the open, and impeccably illustrated—save for a recent episode about an evil clown that was told via the magic of photographs of real people.
I’d much rather watch a hundred more episodes of YAMIZUKAN than something like Another or Higurashi when it comes to the horror quotient, because this series is much more efficient when it comes to nailing the music, atmosphere, and even the creepiest art style possible to scare me. There’s something special about the way everything comes together that makes me want to see more and more, especially when real-world horrors begin creeping out of YAMIZUKAN and into my everyday life. There were more than a few times when I dreamt about something I saw in the series, and that’s when I knew it was really clicking.
If you’re into horror, you’ve got to give the show a try, even if it means leaving your comfort zone and watching a short with a minimal amount of animation for a moment. You’ll be glad that you did.
The World YAMIZUKAN can be viewed with English subtitles on Crunchyroll.