Genre: Supernatural Ghost Stories
review in one breath
Juusan Yoru was a brief yet popular TV series appearing for thirteen episodes. The series revolves around a popular radio show hosted by DJ Endo Kumiko (who appeared the same year in Tomie: Rebirth), dedicated to "paranormal spiritual research". Throughout each of the 30 minute episodes, the guest commentator is Tsunoda Jirou, a well-known author and director specializing in the supernatural. The entire TV series is now available on 4 sequential videos, Juusan Yoru 1: Reikai Kara Shoutaijo (Thirteen Nights: Written Invitation from the Spirit World), Juusan Yoru 2, Juusan Yoru 3: Jitsuroku Kyoufu Shoutaijo (Thirteen Nights: True Accounts of Terror), and (you guessed it) Juusan Yoru 4. I haven't yet found a copy of either the second or fourth video and thus cannot provide you with the subtitles or reviews of those. (Sorry.)
Juusan Yoru 1 contains four episodes, each quite creepy in presentation and definitely worthy of ghost story fans' attention. The episodes, however, consist of effectively dramatized portions followed by an analysis by Tsunoda Jirou. The latter consists of a simple dialogue between Tsunado and Endo as they sit at a radio broadcast studio. This dialogue, though substantial and effective, comes across as truly ad hoc and blurs the line between acting and reality. The scant details on this production still has me wondering whether Tsunoda is actually offering his own insight here.
Though each episode is quite brief, the depiction of horror is rather effective. This series is aimed at adult audiences and thus consistently delivers creepy manifestations. Through the discussions following each story, there is a notable amount of traditional information shared regarding similar ghost stories or manifestations. Thus the commentary often conveyed as much ghost tale as the dramatization itself.
First Night: Reikai kara no Shoutaijou (Written Invitation from the Spirit World)
Radio DJ welcomes her guest, Tsunoda Jirou, and commences to read a letter received from listener Hiroko. From childhood, Hiroko has sensed the ability to perceive spirits, but this ability has never terrified her until, that is, the following situation. Passing along the same overpass each morning and evening on her way to and from work, Hiroko sees the ghostly presence of a young man sadly looking down upon the busy road below. Though no one else seems to notice the eerily colored man, Hiroko perceives him clearly. As days go by, she looks more closely at the ghostly figure, wondering whether she might somehow aid his passing into the next world. When evening has come and he is no longer visible, she quietly lays out flowers and incense, saying a quick prayer for his serenity.
This act of kindness, however, has the unfortunate consequence of directing the ghost's attention squarely upon Hiroko. The next time she walks along the overpass, she sees the ghostly man looking straight at her. Through his demonically contorted face she senses that he is somehow trying to say something, yet no sound emanates from the figure. She then notices his blood-filled mouth and, looking to the ground, sees a blood-drenched flopping tongue. Screaming, she flees, but not before seeing the ghostly man's gaze following her every step.
One night in particular, when Hiroko is returning home later than usual, the ghostly man directly approaches her as she tries to cross the overpass. In fear she doubles back and seeks a different route home. The only alternative, however, is through a large tunnel (underpass) which is both deserted and dark. Half way through, Hiroko senses someone following her and soon sees blood flowing along the floor. She is suddenly grabbed from behind, and as she tries to fend of the grip of her attacker, his hand breaks apart like rotten meat and she finds herself holding onto three decomposing fingers. As the ghostly figure now approaches her, having followed her from the overpass, he bloodily screams into her ear in an intelligible voice. As abruptly as it started, the horrendous vision ends, leaving Hiroko alone in the tunnel.
Second Night: Kokkuri-san
The traditional Japanese version of the Ouijia board is called Kokkuri-san. The "san" portion of the name refers to the departed spirit manipulating the responses. The "kokkuri" references one of several traditional interpretations. One tradition suggests that the name "kokkuri" comes from the rather ancient divination practice of placing three intersecting chopsticks in a large bowl of rice. The bowl of rice is offered to the dead in the same manner in which smaller bowls of rice are offered during the national holiday of Obon. By holding one's hands over the intersecting chopsticks and invoking the name of the dead, the bowl is said to tremble back and forth under the dead spirit's influence. In the Japanese language, such trembling motion is described as "gokkuri gokkuri", and thus the practice eventally came to be known as "kokkuri-san".
The letter read in this episode is from a high school student named Inumiya Mayumi. One of Mayumi's better friends was Yoshimi, a young girl who had a natural ability to perceive spirits. With the help of Yoshimi, Mayumi often engaged in rather impressive demonstrations of Kokkuri-san. After being interrupted one afternoon in the midst of their kokkuri-san session by her skeptical friend Aiko, Mayumi sets out to demonstrate both the reality of the kokkuri-san and the intuitive ability of Yoshimi.
When all three girls finally sit down in front of the kokkuri-san sheet, consisting of numbers and letters, they invite the doubting Aiko to ask the first question. After declaring her disbelief, Aiko asks the spirit the rather defiant question of how Yoshimi will die. With all three girls' index fingers on a coin upon the lettered sheet, the spirit slowly spells out the answer: Yoshimi will die by falling from a great height. Frightened by the revelation, one by one the girls pull their finger from the coin, only to see the coin more hurriedly spelling out the same declaration by itself. In a panic, Yoshimi hurls the kokkuri-san sheet to the floor with a look of terror on her face.
After Mayumi and Aiko have left, Yoshimi sits alone in the classroom. Slowly walking to the window to investigate a sound, she slowly fades from sight. The following day, her classmates find that Yoshimi has fatally leapt from the classroom window. A small flower vase is placed on her desk. Soon thereafter, as Mayumi and Aiko walk home on an evening after school, Aiko relaizes she has left something at school. Walking the entire way back and entering her classroom, she suddenly hears the doors lock behind her as the lights go out.
Before her stands the bloodily grinning Yoshimi, who can only laugh as Aiko is overcome in fear. As if in a nightmare, the classroom curtains aggressively entwine Aiko's legs and torso as the ghost of Yoshimi laughingly approves. When Mayumi finally arrives in search of Aiko, to her horror she finds the violently twisted body of Aiko hung upside down from the classroom curtains.
Third Night: Mitsugi Ryou (Free Rent)
Nozomi and Tama both share an apartment by night and work as hostesses in the same club by night. For those of you unfamiliar with the notion of Japanese "hosts" and "hostesses", simply allow me to tell you that there is an entire nocturnal industry specializing in high-end clubs which provide you with your own fawning groupee, if your price is right. These "host clubs" rake in huge yen as devoted clients pour more and more money into pleasing their demanding "host/hostess'" entertainment.
Though Nozomi and Tama have almost alternating work schedules, they both begin experiencing the same creepy phenomena, including mysteriously running baths/showers and appliances suddenly turning on by themselves. These, of course, prove to be only the appetizers of the horror to come when they both find themselves face to face with an incredibly creepy female ghost, blood dripping fro both her mouth and wrists.
After the initial terror, both Nozomi and Tama investigate deaths in their building and discover that several years prior, as hostess committed suicide in their very apartment. Despite the shock of the initial encounter, upon learning that this spirit was in fact a "co-worker", both girls decide to endure and appreciate the haunting spirit's presence.
Fourth Night: Ningyo (Doll)
Masumi is an adult, fully pregnant with her first child. While cleaning house, she has the chance to look closely at one of the dolls her husband purchased for their future child. The doll immediately causes Masumi to recall a similar doll which she held so dearly throughout her entire childhood. She suddenly realizes that for she, for some reason, had completely forgotten about the utterly dear childhood doll which she named mima-chan. But as soon as Masumi mutters the long-lost doll's name, and intense pain strikes her fetus/stomach.
After her renewed memories of the doll Mima-chan, strange occurrences surround Masumi. On one occasion, while drying laundry on her balcony, she recalls hearing a familiar child's voice scream "mama!" Peering over the edge of the several-story high balcony to locate the source of the cry, Masumi suddenly feels herself pushed by tiny hands over the railing. Catching herself just in time, she looks back to find only a flower. Later, while dozing on the sofa, Masumi finds herself trapped in a dream state wherein a demonic doll angrily trounces on her unborn child.
With her mother's help, her childhood doll is eventually returned to Masumi. The reacquaintance is palpable and presumably corrects all the evil malice exhibited by the doll thus far. We are told that Masumi has bathed the doll regularly and has taken it to the Shinto shrine for purification. It now lives as an integral part of their family's life.
There is a lot of cultural nuance in this video. The prime example of this is the presence of Tsunoda Jirou which every member of Japanese audiences will recognize, but which NO ONE in Western audiences would think twice about. This discrepancy, of course, results in viewers' estimated devaluation of approximately 50% once we pass from Japanese audiences to non-Japanese audiences.
The presentation of ghoulies here is undoubtedly creepy and can certainly generate adult nightmares. Several of these stories could easily be expanded into larger scenarios, but as they sit, each presents a rather succinct scenario of hand-picked recollection of horror.
Version review: Unsubtitled VHS
|First of four videos capturing the popular TV series dedicated to ghost stories and traditional superstitions. Tsunoda Jirou appears as himself to (insightfully) comment on creepy phenomena||Rather benign displays of violence, though the disturbing state of the undead is readily apparent.||schwing = 0||Despite the heavy emphasis on commentary, these four episodes contain some excellently disturbing ghouls. Wonderfully creepy nuances.|