31 Shinbi's Apartment Ghosts!
DAY FIVE: WICKED DOLL GHOST
Written by Jonathan Wojcik
In the ninth episode of the first season, a mysterious crane machine resides in an abandoned alleyway. If a child tries to get a toy from this machine, it pulls them inside to a strange, desolate landscape where they are pursued by a bizarre, multi-eyed plush "arm" that, for some reason, transforms them into statues.
Thus far, I've only been reviewing things immediately relevant to the ghosts of each episode, but I'd also like to discuss the human side of this story because it's just so sweet, and I think it gives the ghost even stronger context. Hari's little brother Doori really, really wants a specific toy robot, but it's too expensive for the parents to afford. Their father promises to buy it if Doori gets 100% on his next test at school, but he doesn't actually expect this to happen, which is admittedly a bit low for a parent to pull.
Doori actually does try so hard that he aces the test, his dad is forced to admit that he couldn't have bought the robot anyway, and he tries to cheer his kid up by pretending to be a robot himself, which only makes Doori more upset.
He runs from home, and perhaps supernaturally drawn there, finds the alley with the crane machine and a particular toy robot on display. You've now seen what happens next, but why?
The owner of that weird, monstrous arm is soon revealed to be a pretty wretched-looking old teddy bear, the Wicked Doll Ghost, normal sized in the crane machine but gargantuan in its alternate dimension. It will manifest any desirable object to lure hapless children, and once it turns them into statues, it even offers these as new "prizes," capturing those who try to save their friends and siblings.
The wicked doll ghost was originally a living man, actually the first in the series if you don't count the adult male passengers of the bus. A hard-working single father, his little girl badly wanted a particular, wretched-looking teddy bear she spotted in a certain claw machine before it was ever supernaturally cursed. Hoping to surprise her with it for her birthday on his way home from work, he was unfortunately too distracted to notice a speeding vehicle...and awoke trapped in the body of the last thing on his mind.
Occupying the stuffed bear, the father couldn't move, speak or escape the machine, but he could still see and hear. Nobody ever came by to "win" him, but every year he saw his daughter return to the same spot. Her birthday had become her day to remember her father's death, and so, helpless behind a pane of glass, he could do nothing but wait to see her one day of the year, helplessly screaming for her to notice him as she steadily grew up and lived a life he couldn't be a part of.
One day, it would seem, the claw machine was finally moved from its original location, and eventually wound up discarded in the alley. Losing the only thing he had to look forward to, the man lost what little grip he had left, his rage and hatred overwhelmed his soul and he became a spirit that imprisons innocent children, no longer remembering who he was or why he was doing it.
To defeat this spirit, Hari operates the crane machine from the outside, which apparently manifests a luminous, giant claw in the doll's wasteland, while her friend trapped on the inside stops the spirit from evading the claw. Only upon pulling the bear from the machine is its curse seemingly lifted.
And then, a woman appears, having heard a big commotion as she passed by the alley...
She doesn't actually seem to have ever known that her father died attempting to get her the bear, but she remembers that it was the bear she wanted, and she still loves it.
Having been hugged by his little girl one last time and finally given her that birthday gift, the father's soul leaves the doll, thanks the children and apologizes for all the trouble. He also tells Doori that he knows their father loves them, even if he screwed up, and to value their time together on Earth.