31 Shinbi's Apartment Ghosts!
DAY TWENTY SEVEN: VILEWYRM
Written by Jonathan Wojcik
SEASON 03, EPISODE 26: unexplainable tremors begin to shudder through the school grounds, and with them, the arrival of three ghostly children who are, for once, already friendly. Many decades prior, the three of them had cast a spell together to seal a terrible evil beneath the school, and have watched over it ever since in the hopes that it would never rise again...
What actually arises from the depths of the Earth, however, is not quite the same thing that the children had sealed at all; it's a huge, fearsome and highly intelligent monster that was once nothing but an ordinary earthworm. Having fed upon the dark supernatural for generations, something has only now awakened it as the Vilewyrm.
Vilewyrm is capable of not only tunneling through solid stone, but can breathe supernatural fire, command a horde of smaller worm spawn, and even consume those spawn to sprout additional heads! Despite being a demonic monster and not a "ghost," however, there's still a dark origin going on, as the Vilewyrm itself gives a "humans are the real monsters" speech, and it's not wrong....
What was the original "evil power" the children had fought against? Simply the residual spiritual rage and hatred born of "the war," which from various cues would have specifically been Japan's violent invasions of Korea over the course of the 1590's. The school was eventually erected where thousands of victims had taken shelter, mourned their lost loved ones and in many cases died of their wounds, and we're also shown scenes of subsequent attacks and mass deaths up to what might have been World War II.
We never get the exact details of the Vilewyrm's birth, but it can be extrapolated that the land itself was corrupted by this enormous, collective grudge, and a humble little worm became a monster only capable of feeling that same fury.
Vilewyrm is actually the "final showdown" of Season 3, and the episode is largely a lot of battle action until the monster is defeated, and then at last the children are able to rest...but we are still left with the dire warning that what awakened the monster was, in fact, the increasing hate and violence of our modern world.
Who doesn't love worm monsters?? Actually called "Sandworm" in Korean (I think) the Vilewyrm is a homage to monstrous, giant vermiforms of every variety, but perhaps especially inspired by the Tremors film series, and maybe even a hint of Mongolian Death Worm? I like it all the more for having actual earthworm roots, and its design is quite nice, each head having a single round, glowing eye and a jaw design similar to the Predator. It's in the Cool Over Creepy category for me, and its story isn't complex, but it's also pretty bold of a Korean show to use the Japanese invasion as the catalyst for a monster like this; by far not the last time Japan would make problems for Koreans, and sadly, anti-Korean racism is still rampant in Japanese culture.
Vilewyrm is one big anti-war, anti-oppression symbol, but it certainly didn't ask to become what it is now. The idea of an entity born from and made from negative feelings always strikes me as sad; they're cast as entirely "evil" beings, but they never got that choice. At least Vilewyrm's chibi form enjoys an ongoing life as one of the most popular Shinbi characters with younger children. They just find that design exceptionally huggable...and are they wrong?