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Tales of Terror from Tokyo: Volume 1 - Kaidan Shin Mimi Bukuro (Tsuruta Norio 2004)


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Tales of Terror from Tokyo - Volume 1
[Kaidan Shin Mimi Bukuro: Night 1]

Genre: Collection of 15 Terrifyingly Unscary Tales

review in one breath

Culled from the long-running TV series of Kaidan Shinmimi Bukuro, this collection of 15 short tales from various directors sets a new standard for anti-climactic "horror" stories ranging from the unscary to the utterly dull.

intro

Boy, what a mediocre snooze-fest this is!

First off, this collection is NOT to be confused with the much more impressive Kaidan Shinmimi Bukuro [Tales of Terror], despite the similar Japanese title. What we are reviewing here is a collection of tales from the TV series, while the other is a theatrical release.

Here's a little background on the title "Kaidan Shinmimi Bukuro":

During the Edo Period, a high ranking samurai named Negishi Shizue began collecting the local ghost stories told amongst the prisoners under his guard. Writing each tale down, he collected the stories into a large bag (bukuro), a collection eventually comprised of more than 1000 ghostly tales. Negishi went on to publish this huge anthology in ten volumes entitled Mimi Bukuro, meaning "Bag of Ears". ("Ears" here, of course, imply tales heard.) The Mimi Bukuro tales ranged widely in genre from the historic to the purely supernatural.

In 2003 an increasingly popular TV series entitled Kaidan Shin Mimi Bukuro began airing in Japan on BS-i (satellite) stations. The series consists of dramatized short films directed by some of the best and newest directors in Japanese horror. Like the original Mimi Bukuro the ghost stories, now approaching 100 in number, have been collected from folk throughout the country by writers Kihara Hirokatsu and Nakayama Ichiro. Each tale is assigned to a director under whose creative vision the horror and nuance of the story is given palpable expression.

In September 2004 a theatrical release (also) entitled Kaidan Shin Mimi Bukuro was produced consisting of "eight of the best" short films from the series, re-made for theatrical release. The eight stories are directed by seven different directors and comprise a "showcase" of some of the latest directorial accomplishments in Japan's ever-evolving horror genre. Each tale differs significantly from the others in terms of approach, style and content and the collection runs the gamut from comedic to gravely sorrowful to really spooky.

For a summary overview of the ENTIRE (and I mean ENTIRE!) "Kaidan Shin Mimi" phenomenon you can look here.

Thus what we are looking at here is a collection of 15 tales from the 2003 TV series. Each tale has a running time of approximately 6 minutes. (Yes, they are startlingly brief.)

I've recently reviewed several decent "collections" of Japanese ghost tales from similar TV series and was expecting this collection to at least be of the same caliber (probably because I had enjoyed the theatrical release from this series). But Tales of Terror from Tokyo barely treads water. I dare say this doesn't even compete with the notoriously bad collections put out by Broadway Productions. (such as Honto ni Atta! Noroi Bideo or Ju-Lei [呪霊], etc.) At least Broadway's stuff is campy bad and laughable. The series here, however, isn't even that.

Out of the fifteen tales, I enjoyed two (the inexplicably named Spilt Water and Backward Suit) neither of which can be rightly deemed "horror" or even "ghost tales". Their appeal was due wholly to the humanitarianism they conveyed.

There is a second collection, Tales of Terror from Tokyo - Volume 2, which I will likely also review in the near future, but only out of my desire for thoroughness. If it were merely for the sake of entertainment, I would not waste the time watching this second collection. (There are too many GOOD Japanese films to see!)

stories

I won't give summaries of the stories since it would be hard to write a single sentence on many of these without completely divulging the entire tale's plot. (!!) Below are the titles (in order) and their directors. And YES, you will recognize some of the director's names (such as JU-ON director Shimizu Takashi or Tsuruta Norio of Ringu 0 and Kakashi fame). But even Michaelangelo undoubtedly painted a real stinker at some point in his career. Believe me.

  1. The Elevator [dir. Shimizu Takashi]

  2. The School Excursion [dir. Miyake Ryuta]

  3. Kengo Nishioka [dir. Tsuruta Norio]

  4. The Visitor [dir. Toyoshima Keisuke]

  5. Covering the 100 Tales [Nakayama Ichiro]

  6. Cassette Tape [dir. Sano Shiro]

  7. Spilt Water [dir. Tsuruta Norio]

  8. The Backward Suit [dir. Miyake Ryuta]

  9. Examination Room #3 - Part One [dir. Yoshida Akio]

  10. Examination Room #3 - Part Two [dir. Yoshida Akimi]

  11. Forgotten Item [dir. Nanba Ryo]

  12. Video [dir. Kihara Hirokatsu]

  13. A Drop of Blood [dir. Arakawa Eiji]

  14. Enlightenment [dir. Shimizu Takashi]

  15. Waiting Time [dir. Shimizu Takashi]

verdict

Well, if you've been reading very carefully you'll have noted that I am less than impressed with this collection of tales. In fact I will go so far as to suggest that unless you are a truly avid fan of Japanese films to the extent that you are willing to watch anything posing as a ghost or horror genre piece (and somehow I have fallen into this category), you can spare yourself the time and expense of seeing this. Believe me, you will not have missed much.

Version reviewed: Region 1 subtitled DVD available via mainstream US venues.

cultural interest violence sex strangeness
Only due to its relation to the much more entertaining theatrical release and as exemplars of a couple major directors' less serious work. Exactly ONE drop of blood. What exactly was the ghostly item being inserted into that writhing naked girl in examination room #3??? Nothing remotely strange here. Simply riding Chicago's public transportation will provide far more scary moments than will these "terror" tales.

3 Comments


Really? You really didn't like this? Each to their own, but I for one prefer tales of the unnerving and bizarre and find them scarier than Western so-called "horror" flicks, of which there are extremely few from the last couple of decades.
Maybe Mondo-style films like Faces of Death and A Serbian Film are more up your alley, hmmm?


Thanks for the critique darkdriver. I personally love the fact that you love/prefer this collection. In a small sense, you could could say I love it too, and for that reason I review it for you. My critique (for better or worse) is always relative to similar films in the series/genre. In this instance, everything has to do with the quality of the theatrical "Kaidan Sin Mimi Bukuro" film and other superior TV-made collections.

That said, I certainly do not have anything to do with anything like the "faces of death" series. I intentionally do not watch that stuff and as you can see from SaruDama, I do not review anything similar. I do not avoid Serbian films. I think there are plenty of thought-provoking examples. Serbian film as a whole should not be aligned with "faces of death". That's just my opinion. You're free to comment here otherwise.

I just don't want to be misunderstood as a gore hound. I am not into gore. And there are far, far, far too many other reasons to guffaw at this collection. But of course, maybe I am jaded by seeing the others.

More power to you darkdriver, and for god's sake, avoid those serbian films you are talking about.

-sdf


aww, thank you so much for reviewing all these films. i got
interested when i knew my favorite vocalist (Isshi ex-Kagrra,)
loved them so much, so i braved myself to watch.
and apparently, thought at the and i cursed myself for watching
it, i pretty like it.

tah, thank a lot ^^d

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