IT IS COLD! The weather out side is more than just frightful, it’s down right traumatizing. Jagged icicles are clinging to every horizontal surface like vampire teeth, making every window sill and door-frame look like a hungry maw. The sidewalks, streets, and driveways are encrusted with a thick layer of ice as smooth as polished glass. The snow that lingers everywhere has frozen and refrozen into cement blocks of white. The sky on these empty Winter nights is a dark void leading to space. There are no clouds or moon, only the tiniest sparks of light from uncaring stars fill this darkness. No warmth comes from those distant pin pricks. They shine as cold and unmovable as the ice and snow all around.
In case you hadn’t noticed, the cold weather is starting to get to me. The days are too short, I don’t want to go outside when it’s so cold out, but I also don’t want to be cooped up in the house all day long either. At least I can be re-assured that I’m not the only one that feels like Winter is a dark and scary time of year. In ye old Europe, Winter and around the holidays wasn’t a time of glittering lights and cheer, rather it was the time of death and fear. This was the time of year when a group of family or friends would gather around a roaring fire and tell each other ghost stories. There’s a reason The Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens featured three terrifying ghosts rather than sugar plum fairies. And what better time than when you are trapped in an icy prison to watch some equally creepy Winter anime? I know, I know, my answer to everything seems to be anime, but it really is a great way to spend a cold Winter night!
As I’ve mentioned many times before Natsume Yujincho is one of my favorite anime series. Mostly because of it’s beautiful countryside scenery, and it’s slow slice-of-life feel. In case you haven’t seen it yet, Natsume Yujincho is about a high school boy that can see spirits and monsters. His life has been rather hard because his parents passed away and the family members that he as been passed between didn’t really understand his abilities and were kind of afraid of his weirdness. Eventually he is sent to live with his kind elderly cousins and the anime picks up when he is trying to build a quiet life in the countryside with them. And is just adorable!
But there’s another reason I can watch this anime again and again, it’s the series’ spooky side. Beyond the talking cat bodyguard (Nyanko Sensei) and the loving elderly people in this anime, there is definitely a darker side. A shadowy element where creepy crawly monsters lurk and some less than good-natured exorcists practice. And to add an oddly bleak feel to this not so light hearted part of the anime, is the Winter story arc. The once lush countryside is dead and withered, and the playful episodes have a rather cold tint to them. Even the opening and closing credits include a scene where Natsume is trudging through snow all alone. Watching these bleak episodes, I can’t help but think that the writer had to last through a long dark Winter at least once.
Kemon Jihen is a anime about a middle school boy (Kabane Kusaka) that was an abandoned with his relatives and then is later picked up by a detective from the big city and taken from a small village in the countryside to Tokyo. The Kabane agreed to join the detective agency because the head detective said that he would help to find the Kabane’s parents, if they were still alive. The thing is the Kabane is not all that human and neither is the detective agency. This is a detective agency run by yokai (Japanese folk lore monsters) for helping other yokai.
Kabane is joined by two other young yokai (Shiki Tademaru and Akira) that the detective is also helping, and they solve a variety of cases most of which also happen to highlight the backgrounds of each of the members of the group. The one that is most wintry is the story arc about the boy yuki-onna (snow woman) named Akira. This character is not much of a fighter but has some pretty impressive freezing skills when he isn’t fainting.
But the most show stopping icy skills come from Akira’s slightly evil twin brother when the two are finally reunited.
Mushishi, like Natsume Yujincho is a slower anime that has an almost slice-of-life feel to it. Though Mushishi definitely has a darker leaning and is considerably less light-hearted. This anime is about a traveler named Ginko that journeys across Japan from village to village solving the locals problems with the supernatural. This might sound a bit like the anime Tactics, but the two series similarities are pretty superficial. Mushishi is much more grim and Ginko rarely takes the yokai’s side of things.
More often than not Ginko is there to exterminate the spirit causing problems than to just try to make everyone get along. Likewise the monsters in this series aren’t really interested in being friends with humans, they are much more interested in eating them. What puts an extra dark twist to these already creepy episodes is the Winter arc. Once again the scenery is withered, rotting, and dead, the shadows are a little more sharp and the things that lurk in those shadows are a little more fatal.
Do you have any spooky anime you love watching in the dead of Winter? Leave a comment below!