Fall is upon us, and the leaves are beginning to change from a rich green to an explosion of reds, oranges, and yellows. With each passing day, Halloween draws ever closer. Soon, the streets will be flooded with costumed crusaders for candy, and ghoulish get-togethers will rage into the wee hours of the morning. People will take in countless horror flicks, and haunted houses will be filled with thousands looking for a night filled with fun frights.
With a little know-how, anime fans can host their own evening of spooks, frights and freaks. There are dozens of incredible horror (or horror-themed) shows that would make for a truly spectacular Halloween night. We’ve pored through countless shows and films to compile this list of seven Halloween must-sees for all of the guys and ghouls looking for some spooky anime fun.
Yamishibai: Japanese Ghost Stories
Yamishibai is the newest title on this list, but that doesn’t mean that it should be ignored. The show is a series of three-minute episodes, which adapt popular ghost stories and urban legends. Tales about murderous umbrella goddesses, workplace poltergeists, and other things that go bump in the night are presented as kamishibai-styled skits. Landscapes are presented as watercolor paintings, and characters are presented as paper cut-outs, which gives the show a surreal, nightmarish aesthetic. The show makes fabulous use of its format, and manages to fill each short episode with plenty of skin-crawling creepiness.
Ghost Sweeper Mikami
Ghost Sweeper Mikami is a supernatural comedy starring set in a world where the over-development of Japan led to countless spirits being displaced. As one would expect, many spirits grew wrathful and began to lash out at those in the land of the living. Powerful exorcists for hire known as Ghost Sweepers began to arise to fight back against the growing spiritual menace. The services of Ghost Sweepers never came cheap, but they were often the only chance of banishing the most dangerous spirits to the afterlife.
The series revolves around Reiko Mikami, one of Japan’s premier ghost sweepers. She’s known throughout Japan for her beauty, as well as her unmatched talent with dispelling the paranormal. Her reputation attracts the most dangerous of jobs, which she completes with her two assistants in hopes of raking in the big bucks.
During its heyday, Ghost Sweeper Mikami was a darling of the fansub tape trade. The show’s episodic format provided a number of entry points for new viewers, and instalments moved quickly enough to keep the attention of existing fans. Tales of cursed dolls, ghostly wolf-like apparitions, and even beach-faring monsters were brought to life by a charming cast, and a quirky sense of humor that sold the series and created a loyal cult following.
Boogiepop Phantom is a low-key horror series set in an unnamed Japanese city. The series is set one month after a mysterious pillar of light descended appeared in the night sky, killing the killing the electricity and making all computers essentially useless. The phenomenon coincided with a great misfortune that befell the city just five years prior, when a string of grisly serial murders claimed the lives of many innocent people. Boogiepop Phantom tells the tales of twelve individuals, and their connection to the two incidents. As their tales are explored, misfortune once again rears its ugly head. High school students are vanishing once again. Rumors are beginning to arise that Boogiepop, a mysterious spirit of death, is the one responsible for the latest string of disappearances.
Boogiepop Phantom is, by all definitions of the word, a masterpiece. The show blends elements of horror and psychological drama into a plot that could have easily fit into the world of The X-Files. It’s a bleak show in many regards, as each episode focuses on members of the cast, and how their worlds are torn asunder by the events that unfold in the past and present.
The show itself is presented almost as a puzzle. the show may seem nonsensical at first, as events in an episode may occur without logic initially, such as strange character appearances or time skips. However, as the series progresses the elements begin to weave together into a rich, disturbing tapestry of events. The pacing is handled incredibly, and the writing is simply superb.
Haunted Junction is a supernatural comedy set in Saito High, a high school and epicenter of spiritual activity. Within its walls, spirits roam free, and popular urban myths become reality. To protect the students from rogue spirits, the school’s principal assembled the Holy Student Council: a trio of students who come from spiritual backgrounds. The three bring their own special talents to the table, but at the same time, have their own problems to deal with, from summoner Haruo’s desire to live a normal life, to exorcist extraordinaire Asahina’s strange appetites.
Unfortunately for Saito High, these three are the individuals charged with keeping the school safe. And, as they’re led from one wacky predicament to another, everyone can only hope that they won’t screw up and doom all of mankind.
Haunted Junction is a rare treat that blends the comedic antics of shows like Ranma 1/2 with the appeal of high school ghost stories. Popular tales, like Hanako of the Toilet and the walking anatomical model are brought to life as larger-than-life caricatures. Whether the student council is saving the school from the drawings of a deceased manga artist, or hosting a popularity contest between two bathroom spirits, the series carries itself with a playful sense of humor and a carefree demeanor. From start to finish, it’s a show that can tickle the viewer’s funny bone, while having just enough of the spooky stuff to keep viewers guessing.
Hellsing Ultimate is an action-horror series set in Great Britain. In this world, vampires exist, and feast on the blood of the innocent. Hellsing is a secret organization, created to combat undead threats, while ensuring that the world remains happily oblivious to their existence. While the organization’s high-tech army is a force to be reckoned with, the organization has a truly terrifying secret weapon for dealing with the extra-difficult cases.
Alucard, a powerful vampire that serves Hellsing’s leader, is a mysterious figure. One can never pin down his motivations, though he appears to take great pride in his work as a hunter. Seras Victoria is a former police officer who was in the wrong place at the wrong time. Her misfortune led to her being turned into a vampire, a role that she’s reluctant to settle into. However, she takes pride in her new job at Hellsing, and does her best to help protect the nation.
Both Alucard’s and Seras’s talents will be put to the test, as an organization that was thought to be dead begins to make its move. The remnants of the Third Reich, known as the Millenium Organization, have discovered how to make their own vampires, which they plan to use to wage war upon the world, starting with England.
Hellsing Ultimate is a series that revels its own sheer insanity. The show’s plot, which begins with the concept of vampires hunting vampires, quickly begins to escalate. Secret vampire-hunting divisions of the Catholic church are made known, and Nazi forces explode onto the scene complete with zeppelins and MP-40s. Vampire troops descend upon London, and one psychopath after the next pushes into the spotlight. At the same time, the major protagonists like Alucard, Seras, and Integra are given their own time to shine. They prove to be fearless, vicious, and sometimes outright nuts, but at the same time able to show a sense of humor when absolutely needed.
The action scenes are the icing on this already delectable cake. When the gloves come off, the show explodes into beautifully grotesque gunfights. Bullets fly, and blows are traded in impeccably choreographed scenes that will leave viewers in awe. These scenes are flashy, they’re over-the-top, and they’re incredible.
Pet Shop of Horrors
Pet Shop of Horrors is a four-episode series that revolves around a most unusual shop. In the depths of Chinatown, Count D runs a store that sells the rarest, most unusual pets to people seeking a loving companion. Each pet sold comes with a contract attached. If one follows the rules, then things go as one would expect, and both the pet and its new owner are best friends forever. If one breaks the contract, though, then the shop can’t be held liable for what occurs.
Leon Orcot is a homicide detective that linked a series of strange deaths to one common characteristic. Every victim was a customer at Count D’s pet shop, and Leon intends to figure out what his involvement is.
Pet Shop of Horrors is an interesting show, that blends the tone and pacing of Tales From the Crypt with the sheer brand of crazy that only late-night anime can provide. The show is comprised of four tales, each of which serves as a play on the morality and weakness of humanity. These plays provide glimpses and looks into the lives of the customers at Count D’s shop, and often veer into the realm of the bizarre. For example, the first episode focuses on a couple that lost their daughter. The Count sells the two a rabbit that looks much like their deceased little girl, but stipulates that it cannot, under any circumstances, have sweets. The couple can’t help but break the rule when they see their replacement daughter reach for a piece of candy. What results is so incredibly bizarre, so disturbing that words fail to describe it accurately. The build-up is slow, and the tension builds beautifully up to this point, creating a horror story that just works.
The show is deliberate in its pacing, and allows viewers to really get to know the cast, and build tension before the true frights begin. While it’s not as adrenaline-fueled as some of the selections on this list, Pet Shop of Horrors is a fantastic experience, that will leave viewers riveted until the final credits roll.
Ayakashi: Samurai Horror Tales
Ayakashi is a horror anthology series set in Feudal Japan that adapts three classic Japanese ghost stories to animation. Yotsuya Ghost Story tells the tale of the wife of a ronin samurai who was betrayed by her husband, only to seek vengeance from beyond the grave. Goddess of the Dark Tower is an adaptation of Kyoka Izumi’s Tenshu Monogatari. It tells the tale of a forbidden love affair between man and god. The final story, Goblin Cat, is the tale of a family plagued by the wrath of a strange cat demon.
Much like Yamishibai, Ayakashi is a low-key horror series, that emphasizes story telling over gore and body counts. The series does a wonderful job of building each tale up, and creating a fabulous atmosphere that can be creepy, unsettling, or even touching when needed. It’s smartly written, and does an incredible job of weaving the tales and characters of each story.
At the same time, it’s an attractive series, which uses three different, distinct animation styles: one for each story. Each of the three styles is fabulous, and really breathe life into the tales that they represent.