Though in Western cultures Autumn is the season for all things spooky, in Japan and a few other Asian cultures the time for ghosts and all things scary is the dead of Summer! In Japan during the Summer many people participate in the Obon festival, which often includes dancing, music, lighting candles, floating little lit up paper boats on rivers, or releasing paper lanterns into the sky . Much like Mexico’s Days of the Dead, Obon is a holiday to celebrate the return of deceased loved ones to the world of the living. And like the Mexican celebration, Obon traditions tend to be related to leaving offerings at shrines or graves and cleaning graves too. Not surprising with all these spectral visitors; hunted houses, bravery challenges, and spooky stories are also popular this time of year. So if you’ve ever been enjoying a cheerful Summer story arc in an anime and wondered why there was a random scary episode, this might be the reason why it’s there! Want to get into the spirit of this spooky Summer celebration? Check out these anime that are frightfully good!
The anime Shiki is a chillingly creepy series that would pair perfectly with quite a few Stephen King movies. It’s about a small town in Japan called Sotoba. The town is so rural it’s nearly cut off from the rest of civilization, having only one road in or out. It’s a story about an epidemic of strange deaths in the closed community that seemed to spread like wildfire one summer. It started with a family of strange foreigners moving into a huge mansion just outside of town and the death of the high school girl named Megumi Shimizu. One by one the neighbors of the small town begin to die. Yet, strangely enough the deceased are spotted walking around long after they have passed away. There is a lot of mystery in this series so I won’t tell you much more, but if you like Stephen King’s Salem’s Lot or the movie 30 days of Night, you’ll probably like this one.
Watanuki has a problem, he can see ghosts and they won’t leave him alone. If they aren’t chasing after him then they’re hanging onto him or otherwise making his life hard. One day when his spectral stalkers were harassing him particularly badly, looking for someplace to get away from them, Watanuki stumbles into what the shop owner calls a “wish granting shop”. This old, run down, mildly creepy and definitely smokey little boutique is owned by the hard drinking and swindling Yuko the trans-dimensional witch. In a matter of moments poor Watanuki gets talked into working part-time at this strange shop, in return Yuko vows to solve his little ghost problem. Little did Watanuki know that having overly friendly spirits follow him around was the least of his problems. With Yuko’s moody and manic ways, voracious appetite for snacks and drinks, and her habit of getting poor Watanuki into more yokai trouble than he can handle, working for the trans-dimensional witch is one hell of a part time job. Not to mention, he also has to do all the cooking and cleaning!
Morose Mononokean is an anime about a high school boy that desperately wants to start his high school career as normally and happily as possible. There’s just one little problem. No matter how hard he tries, he never lasts long enough to actually get to his classroom before his health fails and he is dragged to the nurse’s office! Hanae’s poor health and poor luck started the day before the beginning of his school year. He just happened upon what he thought was a abandoned plushy left on the sidewalk. Hanae, being a nice person, picked it up so it wouldn’t get dirty. And that’s when the furry little monster latched onto him and wouldn’t let go! As the days passed, the clinging fuzzball kept getting bigger and bigger, and poor Hanae kept getting weaker and weaker. Just as Hanae had enough of his new fluffy friend, he spotted a flyer for a exorcism service. The person running the exorcism service is a very grumpy high school boy named Abeno, who isn’t very interested in helping Hanae, but begrudgingly agrees for a price. Unfortunately, it’s only after Hanae is freed from his furry fan that he finds out exactly how expensive Abeno’s services are. Having no way to pay off his debt, Hanae is swindled into working as an assistant to Abeno as they solve paranormal problems and help yokai and spirits get back to the underworld.
Spirited Away is an anime movie about a grumpy little girl named Chihiro, who is moving from her home town and all her friends to the countryside, something that she is not a big fan of. On the drive to their new home, her parents make a wrong turn and end up driving down an overgrown abandoned road. The road suddenly ends at a huge building. After a moment Chihiro’s parents realized that the building is an old abandoned amusement park and they decide to look around. Chihiro (who’s a bit of a scaredy cat) doesn’t like this idea, but follows her parents into the park anyway. One thing leads to another and Chihiro’s parents end up being turned into pigs and taken captive by the witch Yubaba. When night falls the park is suddenly filled with spirits and Chihiro is swept away into the fantastical world of spirits. The old witch is the owner of a bathhouse in the center of the park, and Chihiro gets a job at the bathhouse so she doesn’t also get turned into a pig. In the end, through Chihiro’s hard work and kindness, she and her parents manage to return to the human world.