It's the finale of our look at Yamishibai's Season Three monster gallery! Check out the first part and the second part if you haven't yet!
YAMISHIBAI'S YOKAI GALLERY...PART THREE!
Additional and corrected translations by Rev Storm!
"If a beckoning cat statue seems to claw at something with strange movements, you must not bring it into your home. It may beckon all sorts of things."
DEATH AS AN INVITING CAT
It's a lucky cat, something that's supposed to beckon for wealth to come your way... but the wavy paw is a GIANT MONSTER ARM! OH NO! And instead of a coin, it has a person's SKULL!! Not much more to it, but I love it anyway. I even love how its eyes are going off in different directions. It took until the remake of IT for American audiences to realize how menacing that can actually look in a monster; a thing that stares you in the face while it kills you may be threatening too, but it's threatening in such a normal and relatable fashion. When its eyes aren't even trained on its own victim, there's a more "inhuman" disconnect.
"Reigns over all kappa from up top. Said to be very good-natured."
Yes, the KAPPA MASTER is a tiny man bathing in a Kappa's head...or maybe he's a normal sized man and this particular Kappa is enormous? Are Kappa alright with having a human master, let alone one who apparently lounges naked in one of their bodily cavities?
"He always wears sunglasses, but rumor has it that his entire sunglasses are actually big eyes...."
TV HOST OF DARKNESS
Literally just a guy whose eyes are in his sunglasses? Not terribly remarkable, though it does fall in line with a lot of classical yokai; it's that old tradition of "the figure turned around...and they had NO FACE! Or like an upside-down face! Or a huge mouth!" I feel like this kind of "unexpectedly weird face" yokai deserves focus for a media series of its own some day.
"The number of tofu in a tub on one side of the balance increases. Coincidentally, the day after the town's children went missing...."
TOFU SELLER FROM BEYOND
A guy who sells tofu that used to be children is a rather conventional horror concept, but I'm loving that this being just has a little shiitake mushroom for a head. It doesn't even have any facial features on it. From a distance if you saw this guy you might just think he has a wide hat, but the silhouette of his head would be just a little too skinny to make sense.
"After having relations with several servants, both men and women, this woman was beheaded by her husband. It's said that even today you can hear the sound of the area under her nose stretching as she wanders the ruins of the old estate...."
We've all seen the yokai women with long, stretching necks, or Rokurobi, but this one twists the concept into a new pun: "Rokurokubi" means "Lathe Neck," but "Rokurobika" means "Lathe Upper Lip," and in Japan, "to stretch your upper lip" means to ogle someone. , but this is a rather novel case of a long, stretching face, with only the space between her mouth and her nose extending into a long tube.
"In the middle of the night, the sound of a shamisen is heard from the house of an old man who lives alone. However, it is clearly not a sound that he can play alone."
THE OCTOPUS SINK
This is a great one, because the design is an octopus with a pretty ghoulish, menacing looking monster-person face, but it's just playing a shamisen (that three-stringed Japanese instrument you've definitely heard the sound of, even if you didn't know its name) and apparently plays alongside a lonely old man. I suppose it could still be something malevolent, if it's one of those "play for your soul" kind of entities, but I'd really rather believe they're just friends.
"If you put this umbrella up, it will wrap and fold all over you."
FOLDING UMBRELLA BOY
Your typical kasa-obake with a long tongue and a single eye, except it's one of those more modern umbrellas that can fold up into a little cylinder...and the face is upside-down compared to other umbrella ghosts, too, so its mouth would be above the eye if it were held up by its handle!
"They live by hanging their long whiskers and sticking them into human heads and sucking their brains out."
Oh yeah, I'm liking everything I'm seeing and hearing here. A giant catfish in the sky that sucks brains through its whiskers?! That's plumb bonkers! It's another one with too-human eyes, even if they're still bulging out the sides of its head where a catfish is supposed to have eyes anyway. Why do I even feel that they're too human? Is it really just because they have lids? Is it because the eyeballs are just rotated down in their sockets, which a fish can't really do?
"In this world, there are certain cat's cradles you must never make. If you do, the "kill cradle" will appear, and you'll never make that cradle again..."
We call this "cat's cradle" in the states, and this spirit apparently arrives when a certain, specific, unusual configuration is made. That's such a clever premise!
"Even if you see the red thread of destiny, don't follow it."
THE RED THREAD OF DESTINY
You may have seen other Japanese media reference a "red thread" to be followed as a representation of destiny or fate. The implication of this yokai, then, is a literal red thread that presumably kills or preys on people dumb enough to follow it for real! The most unpleasant part is that it's not just wrapped around this victim's face...it's also weaving in and out of his mouth, nose and eye sockets.
"He has molted and rejuvenated himself many times, but he has no memory of what he was before he molted. Perhaps you too...."
This is just a man who sheds his skin, but apparently he's a whole new person every time and doesn't even know anything is up!
"What roots could these bamboo shoots sprout from..."
A BAMBOO SHOOT
That's it, huh? Bamboo shoots with scrambled human facial features? Well, alright. I like them, but it would have been nice to get a little hint more story.
""Pick a door" he'll say, and when you open one: "A shame, there's nothing there. So, if you don't mind..." And with that, he will take that face part from you."
OLD MAN SLIDING DOOR
See, we know exactly what we're getting with this goof! All his facial features are doors and if you open one of them, he steals your equivalent facial feature. Perfect! Creepy as heck! As with many Japanese ghosts you would have to be pretty foolish to comply with their requests, but then again, a lot of them kill you for not doing what they say...and some of them, like the legendary Slit-Mouthed Woman, are said to kill you no matter how you respond.
"et me cut that body up for you," he'll say. If you say "Okay" he'll slice you up, and if you say "no way" he'll cut you in half. Hates saltwater."
Here's an example right now! Crayfish man cuts you apart one way or another. His head is also an entire crayfish with a human face on the back, and are those the claws he actually uses to mutilate people? The ones hanging off his goofy head? I hope so. At least your death is going to make him look ridiculous in the process. He's going to cut you in half with crayfish claws that he has for ears.
"A mysterious, uninhabited amusement park. A ride that moves in the darkness of the minds of those who have wandered into it. People who have become only emotions of pleasure will play forever."
THIS IS AN AMUSEMENT PARK
Another complete mini-story! The noseless, googly-eyed, smiling monster face on this giant, plush panda is lovably freakish indeed, and then you've got the businessman just riding on its back and drooling, a victim of the evil, addictive fun of this soul-devouring park!
"A man with a crumpled head appears in the street at night. When he gets angry, he crumples people's heads."
This guy just had a glowing, paper lantern for a head, with only a faint human face shining through. Not bad, but not one of the better ones.
"A shoe made of the skin of a person who died with a grudge. They manipulate the feet of those who wear them and take them to rivers and cliffs."
Another solid horror concept that feels like an authentic yokai. The illustration with the yawning, human mouth for the opening of the shoe is decent, certainly gets the idea across, but I feel like both shoes ought to be present here, maybe with facial features divided up between them.
"Rumor has it that only the head of the warrior who was beheaded and thrown into the swamp is still wandering around the swamp...."
If you just read the description, the head floating around in a swamp sounds pretty terrifying, but then the illustration is this goofball cranium whose hairdo looks like the Loch Ness Monster's famous silhouette, and that's just hilarious.
"If a man with an ulterior motive approaches, she'll ask "Did you see?" If he says "yes," she'll a make a meal out of him."
Japan loves that image of Marilyn Monroe's skirt flying up. Yeah, it's an iconic photo in American Hollywood culture as well, but they still reference the heck out of it in anime to this day, and here we have a monster that looks like Marilyn only until the skirt flies up, and then you find out it's a giant face with legs, and I guess the Marilyn Monroe part is like an anglerfish's lure. You probably should have already been tipped off by her glowing red eyes. Her name is written with kanji for "anguish" and "exposed," and to emphasize that this monster is foreign, they use the English word for "meal."
"No matter what he says, he snaps his neck and laughs. But I can hear him mumbling something through the cracks in his neck."
In Japan, "head" and "neck" are used a little interchangeably in certain contexts, and "crying" is a term also used both for a bell ringing and a neck cracking, so there's a lot of puns here. The design is like a guy wearing a full-head mask of a different guy, which I guess he rattles like a big bell!
"They are playing with it by pulling up only the skin of the person they have grabbed."
I love this! Apparently these weird little bean-shaped headless guys live in subway cars and dangle false handholds, then if you actually grab one it somehow steals your entire skin! Do they eat it?? The text implies they do it mainly for fun. I like that their only facial features are big, happy mouths in their chests. I guess the sharp teeth imply they must eat the skin, right? There's a pun in their name, in that "skin" and "river" are pronounced similarly, though these little fellas apparently consider the subway to be a river, I guess!
"During the day, some people don't get hungry even if they don't eat anything. If that's the case, at night they might be possessed by "Pitcher Plant Face," and eat anything from bugs to things that are not bugs."
PITCHER PLANT FACE
This is positively wonderful. We've got a guy whose lower lip and chin have flared out into a pitcher plant trap made of skin, complete with insects buzzing around! It's made more disturbing by his mindless, walleyed stare, demonstrating that he isn't even aware he's getting up to catch bugs in his sleep. It could even happen to you! And you could also be eating "something else" besides insects...uh-oh!
The Japanese name, "Utsubo Kamen," technically means "Moray Eel Mask," but that's because the Japanese term for a Nepenthese pitcher plant is basically "Moray Eel Vine!"
"They say that if you let this phone eat hair, nails, or other body parts, you will receive a call and hear the person's true feelings through the receiver."
A BRIGHT RED PHONE
Another supernatural phone, but subtler and actually a bit grodier than the full-blown telephone monster man we've previously seen. This one is a red phone with a subtle fleshiness to it and a set of puckered lips in one corner. The idea that you feed this thing hair, nails or "other body parts" from a person to hear their true feelings has a very old-school witchcraft sort of feel to it.
"If you force yourself to laugh all the time, your mouth will split open and a "miserable laugh" will appear."
This is a really fun yokai idea! All that laughter has caused this guy's mouth to wrap all the way around his head, and now there's a little dude inside that lifts it up to let out, presumably, his "miserable" laugh. I like how the upper half of the original head now looks like a fake, staring dummy or model now, too.
"It was once somebody's lunch, but once it was taken to the world beyond it somehow escaped. Now it wanders, trying to find a way into someone's body."
Oh. Oh no. This spirit is literally food that was already eaten and wants to be eaten again. That's the most revolting yokai I have ever heard of.
"When you talk to them, they will respond with a variety of emotions. However, you should never talk to him when he has anger on his face."
MR. ANGER, JOY, GRIEF & PLEASURE
A man whose exceedingly tall head displays four different mouths and four sets of eyes, displaying multiple emotions at once. I guess the description indicates that not every emotion is always present...the angry eyes and mouth are only there some of the time, apparently.
"A mosquito lodged in my arm, sucking at my blood, but not leaving me. If you look closely, you can see a thin thread extending from the end of the mosquito's tail, and if you follow the tip of the thread..."
LOVING this freaky spirit whose long hairs apparently end in entire mosquitoes! What an inventive way for a monster to gather blood! This has the vibe of East Asian vampire legends, but I know it's an entirely original one. The Japanese name, Yububao, is a pun on "Yabu" (thicket) which can also refer to a female shaman, and maybe also a joke on "yabuke," the command form of ripping, tearing, or getting frustrated!
"He walks around beating the skull of a man who was walking around smoking."
A big head with arms and legs, hilariously bashing two businessmen together like a child roughly playing with its dolls. Walking while smoking is indeed considered extremely rude in Japan, but not something Americans even seem to think twice about. There's also a joke here because yojimbo is a term associated with samurai, but technically refers to bogyguards and bouncers. His Japanese name "Hi no Youjin" means "Fire Caution," so basically, he's like a bouncer that beats you up for not practicing proper fire safety.
"They say that when you talk to Mr. Yamaori, you will be brought happiness. But make sure it's really Mr. Yamaori."
CRYPTIC. With his strangely angular, almost papercraft-like head, I really don't know if this is supposed to be the real Mr. Yamaori or the dangerous imposter they're warning us about. This is because "yamaori" is a type of origami fold, the "mountain fold," but there's also a "valley fold," and the two are only very subtly different.
"He raises and lowers his note-shaped eyeballs and plays the future music of the people he meets. If you get a white eye...."
OLD MAN MELODY
Ooh, I don't think I've ever seen a monster with rows of eyeballs representing music before, every pupil shaped like a musical note! The oblong shape of the eyes makes him look even more cartoonish, along with his lack of a nose and big, exceedingly joyful looking mouth. It's a quite fascinating concept that he plays music representing your future, and we can assume the blank white eye must indicate the moment that your future will end. I wonder how you're supposed to know when that will be, though? Everybody dies. How far ahead does Uncle Melody play your tune? What length of time does each note represent? These are IMPORTANT DETAILS, Old Man Melody!!
"If you lie all the time, your tongue will start moving on its own and your brain will pop out."
Another person turned into a cuckoo clock? Not nearly as interesting as the one that gets a horrible bird fetus for a mouth, but, I do like the idea of their brain becoming the cuckoo.
What's more horrific is the name. Furiko just means "pendulum," but it's written with characters that mean "rotten diarrhea spirit."
"He's crouched in the street at night, fitting disparate parts of his face together. 'Not enough, not enough,' He says, coming up to me."
I've seen a lot of character and monster designs where the eyes, nose, ears and mouth are swapped around in different ways like this, but it's the description here that really sells it as a particularly disturbing entity. "Fukawari" means "lucky smile," and refers to a game similar to pin the tail on the donkey, but with facial features!
"If you keep tricking people, you'll end up with a hump on your neck in the shape of all the people you've tricked, and you'll turn into a human lizard."
THE HUMAN FRILL LIZARD
The verb for tricking here means "to lure someone into a difficult situation," which this certainly is! But mostly it's all just building to one awful pun--"hitomaki," which at face value means "one roll," but here has a connotation of meaning "a roll of people." Hitomaki tokage. People roll lizard.
This is SUCH a clever monster concept in general, too. I'm not seeing a downside to this, either; you become a cool lizard AND you get to show off how good you are at duping losers?!
The Japanese word for frill-necked lizard, by the way, is erimaki tokage, "scarf lizard"!
"At the human factory, parts of Hitoyaki-kun get mixed into the hitoyaki that he bakes. Each one thinks they're human, but after getting knocked around at work day in and day out, eventually they all return to being hitoyaki."
"Human yaki!" But it doesn't sound like this miserable-looking being turns you into the yaki. Rather, it sounds more like he's somehow making the yaki out of himself, though the yaki looks like relatively normal-proportioned little men and he looks like a messed-up, withered and positively miserable figure. Perhaps he loses mass for each one he creates.
"When you kiss her, she cupped the entire contents of your body."
Kisses you and sucks all your guts out, huh? The fact that a big, black plunger sprouts out of her little puckered mouth should probably tip you off, unless she only sprouts it at the very last second. Her Japanese bio specifies she "kyuppons" her victims, which is the sound a plunger makes: kyu for the "suck," pon for the "pop!"
"Even though no one is fanning it this old fan moves of its own accord, don't get close...."
COME ON, COME ON, COME ON...
As with several of these thus far, I'm going to paste Rev's exact explanation for this one:
This is a very obtuse pun. "Oide, oide" is like "come hither" or "come to me" and what an omen of death would say when beckoning you--and indeed, you can see the fan looks like it has skeletal fingers. Specifically, a figure could say "Aa, oide," which would be "Oh, come to me!"
The word for fanning something is "aoigu." Conjugated like at the beginning of the description or as a command, it is "aoide."
"Aa, oide." "Oh, come to me."
"Aoide." "Fan me." And don't worry, there's another layer--especially with how hand-like the fan is drawn, you could also read this as saying "blue hand" (which is also deathly).
This is the last monster in the official gallery, but not the last monster to talk about from this monster-packed season!
In the thirteenth and final episode of Yamishibai Series III, a schoolteacher notices that one of her students is extremely cold and distant, and always feverishly drawing in the same sketchbook. At first, she simply wants to reach out to him and get to know him, especially in case he's simply very troubled, and asks if he'd like to draw her...but he only tells her that she's too boring.
An entire episode of Yamishibai is under five minutes in length, so this story unfortunately has to rush along quite a bit; before we know it, the teacher is already suspecting something strange about the boy's presence when a couple of her other students mysteriously disappeared one day, and soon, she begins to find the boy all around town, furiously sketching an assortment of monsters that she's now able to perceive.
I feel like the final reveal is a bit too spoiled by what both the audience and the teacher have already seen, as she picks up the boy's sketchbook and sees the monster responsible for the vanishing children. She didn't put that together already? Really?
In the very last shot, the boy appears behind her, already sketching madly, and compliments how "interesting" she really is after all. As monsters close in around her, his face dissolves away into the same creepy mask as Yamishibai's series mascot, a traveling storyteller.
I guess we're not supposed to think too hard on it; Yamishibai is simply an excuse for an assortment of writers and artists to turn out quick, freaky little scary stories for Japanese kids, and while many of the stories are sort of scraping the barrel for ideas, the result is almost always pretty charming in some way, and I'm especially delighted that the official website cared enough to show us almost an entire hundred "bit" monsters like this!
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