31 Shinbi's Apartment Ghosts!
DAY THIRTEEN: SLENDERMAN
Written by Jonathan Wojcik
SEASON 02, EPISODE 08: Pretty much every episode of Season 2 knocks it out of the park, but we're skipping ahead to the eighth on this spOoOOky Wednesday the 13th for the series debut of internet meme sensation, Slenderman. He's a monster few people find all that scary or exciting anymore, but already feels like a "classic" character, and it's certainly unexpected to see him join the roster of a licensed monster anime.
In this episode, Hari and Doori's father begins acting strangely, waking up from strange nightmares in a terrified panic, just when local children start to go mysteriously missing.
Rumors begin to circulate of a strange, tall figure in a dark suit, and when it matches an entity in dad's dreams, the kids' geekiest friend is delighted to infodump to them about the Slenderman Legend, even showing them alleged photographs of the being hanging out at playgrounds, which is of course how the whole Slenderman meme got its start.
With their father increasingly tormented by horrible dreams and vague memories, the kids actually bring him along to investigate the ongoing phenomena, finding an abandoned house in the woods with walls and walls of photographs - every single one depicting a horrified child. But once brought to this location, dad proceeds to have some kind of breakdown, and almost instantaneously, something else is standing in his place.
Quick flashbacks reveal that dad has been shifting into Slenderman and back again the whole time, and now fully transformed, he threatens to take the children's souls and reveals a massive camera lens in his throat! This Slenderman MAKES creepy pictures!
That's not all it can do, though, and what it does next is terribly, terribly unpleasant...
SO, this hasn't been relevant yet to one of our reviews, but Shinbi the "goblin" can cast a single magic spell per day, and he goes through the same stock animation every time in which he conjures up a ball of solid magic and launches it with a swing of his weird traffic-light club. You know this kind of sequence well; countless anime have one, and it's just a symbolic visual they recycle to fill a few extra seconds of airtime, right?
Not on Slenderman's watch. With one tentacle, the monster actually interrupts what had always been a copy-pasted animation and knocks Shinbi out before he can strike. This unexpected subversion is both funny and impressive, underlining that Slenderman is a more hardcore menace than the usual ghosts and demons of the series.
Through some brief flashbacks, the nature of the entity is finally clarified: the Slenderman is a parasite not of this reality, and can only prolong its Earthly existence by taking the body of a human host. With the energy of children's souls, it can produce its egg-like stones, and once its current host body finally dies for any reason, anyone carrying one of its stones into their adulthood can become its next host, repeating the horrifying cycle all over again.
FINAL REVIEW:I've always respected the modern cultural importance of Slenderman, but I hadn't found anything really intriguing about the character since almost its early years, and I thought that was because it didn't have enough mystery anymore. You would think, then, that I'd be underwhelmed by the degree of explanation it's been given here, especially since I've seen practically more parasitic egg-planting monsters than I can count anymore.
But, it turns out I find this version of Slenderman both more interesting and scarier than ever before. The fact that it painlessly slides an egg down a victim's throat is worse than any monster that gruesomely injects its spawn into a host's flesh. The fact that it turns the host into a stalker and kidnapper of children is worse still than any chest-bursting parasitoid body horror. The fact that photographing children is how it "eats" them is ingeniously weirder and eerier than it has any business being, and then there's the fact that it takes those photographs with its own anatomy, that Slenderman apparently IS a camera complete with a giant modern zoom lens in its body. Which even came first? Did we get the concept of photography from Slenderman? Did the invention of photography allow Slenderman to exist in its current form? Is photography just the closest our minds can come to interpreting what it's actually doing?!
This Korean children's cartoon and app game, I daresay, has perfected Slenderman. This is it, sorry. This is the new canon I accept for the entity.