First, apologies to you few but faithful readers. Work stress and a broken modem prevented these two reviews, so I’m combining them into one post. A silly shocker and a gothic ghost story. A cursed object and a surreal town. Episodes 6 and 7 run the gamut of Ito stories.
In “The Window Next Door,” Hiroshi moves in to a new neighborhood. The new neighbors seem pleasant enough, but no one ever answers when he knocks next door. That old house only has one window … and it points straight to his room! Late at night, he starts to hear its grotesque inhabitant talking to him and trying to get in his room.
Short and sweet and shocking. This story is a pretty near adaptation of the “page-turn shock” for which Ito is so famous. My only complaint here is the character art on the neighbor. She is shown almost entirely in still frames – not even her mouth moves when she speaks, but if the animators were going in that direction, why not put a lot more detail into the design? The last shot of episode 1 showed us that the anime was capable of a highly detailed gross-out, so why only a couple warts and a texture-fill for the neighbor?
The second story, “Gentle Goodbye” or “Lingering Farewell” is an Ito story that I’d never read before. It’s from a newer anthology, Fragments of Horror. And wow. This one had me in tears by the end. The music, the voice work, the script, the mood. Just… wow.
In this gothic ghost story, Riko has always feared her father’s death ever since she was a little girl. Now grown, she has married into a rich family and moved into their home, as is the custom with aristocratic types. They treat her well, but, aside from her new little sister-in-law, her husband’s family treats her coldly. Older relatives lurk in the many rooms of the old house but don’t seem to interact much.
As it turns out, Riko’s new family has the supernatural power to summon apparitions of dead loved ones using their collective will and memories. As the living’s grief and memories fade over the decades, so do the specters until they are gone for good. Riko begs them to promise to do the same for her father when he eventually passes on, but they coldly deny her the closure she knows she will need, leaving her to find it for herself.
On to episode 7!
“Second Hand Record” is a tale right at home with the horror flicks of the 2000s J-horror boom. All the hallmarks are there: a cursed item from beyond the grave, an idea that infects people like a virus, obsession, rumor, and murder.
The unnamed protagonist hears a haunting melody on an old record at her friend’s house. She immediately knows she must have it for herself and steals it. Her friend gives chase, and she fights back, striking her with a rock. Cut to opening credits. A first for this series. Does that mean we’re in for something special this week?
Our protagonist wanders around town, looking for a turn table so she can hear the record again. The record shop owner recognizes it as the recently stolen piece of his personal collection, and gives chase. She ducks into a jazz café and asks to use their stereo to play the coveted vinyl. A patron recognizes it as the fabled “Paula Bell’s Scat,” an impromptu recording made shortly after the singer’s death. Yes, I said after.
Now, this is where I expected this episode to fall short. The singing is meant to be an otherworldly melody from beyond the grave that drives all who listen to mad obsession. That’s a concept that works great on the written page when left for the reader to imagine. But it’s a concept that will usually fall short when brought to an audio media. (Think Tenacious D’s “The Best Song In The World.”) Not here. The song is gorgeous and haunting. Together with the directorial choice to play it over loving pans of the singer’s beautiful corpse to wordlessly fill in the backstory, it actually works. Bravo. The art in this segment is also great. I’m a huge sucker for animation that uses a combination of thin and thick line work.
When you’re a teenager, it often feels like the one thing you want from your family but can’t get is privacy. “The Town Without Streets” is one of those longer Ito tales that starts out like one kind of story and then veers off into Lynchian Lovecraftian crazytown. It starts with an idea from Aristotle: if you whisper into the ear of a sleeping person long enough, they will begin to dream about you. This adaptation is unclear on this point, but a local boy has been sneaking into Saiko’s room at night to whisper in her ear, and, as a result , she starts to fall for him. One night, he confesses to her in her dreams, but he is killed by Jack the Ripper, and his promise ring is stolen. Saiko awakens to find that the boy really was killed and an empty ring box by her bed.
This is where I think Ito realized the story was too mundane and decided to take a different turn. Also not explained in the anime is that Saiko’s family had been hearing the boy’s voice in her room and thought she was purposefully sneaking boys in, leading them to start spying on her. It’s gotten so bad that they have been poking and ripping holes in her walls. (Also not explained is that Saiko had already run away to stay at various friends’ houses, but they were all sick of her.) She can’t stand it anymore, so she decides to go live with her aunt. However, something Very Wrong has happened to her aunt’s town and the people in it.
As good as this adaptation was mood-wise, I think this story needed its own episode to fully capture the extreme 180 from the dream killer plot to the labyrinthine town without shame plot. Let the viewer settle in to the high school supernatural mystery before bringing us into Uzumaki territory. Lots of censorship here, too, with conspicuous black shadows over the gore and underwear on the obviously topless aunt. So far, the anime has softened some of the more extreme elements to make them palatable to a TV audience, but with this choice of story, overt censorship is the only option. They had better go all out for the Tomie OVAs.
Next episode: No. 088 and 024. No. 084 was “Long Dream,” so I guess 088 will be “Blood Sickness of White Sands Village.” No. 024 will be an older story from about the 3rd volume or so, therefore my guess is “Dying Young” or “Headless Statues.”