Samurai Horror Tales is a collection of three classic Japanese horror stories brought to life in animation by three different directors. The stories they picked for this series are: Yotsuya Ghost Story, Goddess Of The Dark Tower, and Goblin Cat. The show is structured like a anthology horror show like you would see in sonething like Showtime's “Masters Of Horror”. I'm going to do something a little different with this review as I'm going to talk about each feature individually as if each feature were its own thing. So let's dig deeper into this dark hole of a review (ghost sounds). (Click "Read More" for the rest of the review).
Yotsuya Ghost Story (Directed by Tetsuo Imazawa)
Our first tale is about the horror of Oiwa's Curse and the origin of how it came to be. This part of the trilogy is hosted and narrated by the ghost of Nanboku Tsuruya the fourth (who wrote the original play) not actual ghosts however as we have no way of resurrecting the dead...yet (I hope you have a zombie plan). I really enjoyed them adding in these host segments as it added a nice touch of charm that you would've seen in HBO's “Tales From The Crypt”.
The main feature tells a sad story of a wonderful relationship gone sour when a ronin named Tamiya falls in love with the beautiful Oiwa. The first tragedy happens before they are wed when Tamiya murders Oiwa's father in the middle of an open field but he isn't the only one doing a bit of midnight slashing. Naosuke is a man obsessed with Oiwa's prostitute sister Osode who keeps rejecting him no matter if he pays for her services or not (the selfish bitch). Naosuke just happens to kill a man that he thinks was Osode's fiance only a few feet away from where Tamiya was murdering Oiwa's father. The two of them notice each-other and have a friendly chat about the people they killed and exchanging advice on how to dispose of a corpse. Oiwa and Osode turn up in shock to see their loved ones sliced up into unrecognizable piles of meat. Tamiya and Naosuke turn up to comfort them saying they will avenge their deaths even though they were the murderers. Oiwa and Osede don't suspect anything from the two and rely on Tamiya to do the task. They refuse any help from Naosuke as he is no relation but Naosuke takes advantage of this and proposes marriage to Osode so he can qualify to avenge their deaths but this is a mere excuse to have Osode all for himself. Osode accepts and then the story flashes forward to when Tamiya and Oiwa are married but even though they seem happy the worse is yet to come for the couple.
|I have money!|
Oiwa gives birth to a beautiful baby and Tamiya feels very irate about it so he goes to a bar to drink. Oiwa then receives a gift from the very rich Ito Kihei which turns out to be medicine for post-natal depression. Tamiya returns home and Oiwa shows him the gift she got and sends Tamiya out to give Ito their thanks. When Tamiya shows up to Ito's place he is offered a fair amount of gold to marry his granddaughter which Tamiya accepts (what a dog). It cuts back to Oiwa as she is drinking her medicine but something terrible happens as she drinks it as the medicine ended up being a poison that horrible disfigures faces. Tamiya returns to see Oiwa one last time only to abandon her and their child which sends Oiwa into madness and she runs around the room only to trip and decapitate her head on a displayed sword. Tamiya nails her lifeless body to a door and throws her into a river and proceeds to live life with his second wife but as soon as he is about to make love to his new love, the ghost of Oiwa shows up and curses him forever. Tamiya is scared out of his mind and starts slashing at her with his sword but as the ghost fades he sees something very shocking as he ended up murdering his new family. Tamiya now wanders around trying his best not to let the curse beat him but will he succeed?
Out of the trilogy of tales this one was the weakest one. The story wasn't too bad but it was a little hard to sit through as the scenes just dragged out longer than what I would like. The final act of this story ends with the host giving creepy facts about weird coincidences about the play and boy do they creep me right the pluck out making it even scarier than the main features and will mess with your psyche for the rest of the night.
The animation and art style for this feature was very beautiful but there were some inconsistency like when Oiwa clearly got her head sliced off by the sword but then the next scene shows her with her head attached like the sword had never touched her when you could clearly see her head rolling in the previous scene. The English dub was OK but there were some very laughably bad lines like “Tamiya: I'm single. Random Lady: But aren't you married?” no joke they have lines that are completely backwards like something you would see out a classic film like “The Room”. OK maybe not that bad but they were still pretty laughable. I can barely just recommend watching this part of the trilogy just because of the host bits but other than that I wouldn't recommend it as a stand alone so thank goodness we got this as part of a trilogy. Moving on to the good stuff we have...
Goddess Of The Dark Tower (Directed by Kouzou Nagayama)
...Goddess of the Dark Tower is about bird keeper Zushonosuke Himekawa who is entrusted by the misogynistic Lord Harima to retrieve a white falcon (that flew away from them during a storm) in hopes to bring peace between the surrounding towns. Zushonosuke sees that the bird has flown to an abandoned castle that rumor say there are demons taking residence in. On his way to inspect the surroundings of castle he sees a beautiful naked woman bathing in a pool of water and just stares at her admiring her beauty. The woman sees him and doesn't seem to mind him watching. Zushonosuke then returns home after and can't seem to get her out of his head and this worries his wife to the point she gets jealous and refuses to let her man go back to inspect the castle. Zushonosuke journeys to the castle anyway and meets up with the beautiful woman and she chats to him about how the castle isn't haunted by demons but by forgotten gods. After the story they get attacked by actual demons and our hero ends up beating them. The beautiful woman leaves and as soon as Zushonosuke tries to continue his mission but the two demons regenerate and tell him how they were only saving him from the beautiful woman as she is a forgotten god and forgotten gods like to eat human flesh. Zushonosuke is shocked and refuses to believe it and tries to continue his mission but the demons interrupt again and offer helping him get there in which he accepts.
|The role of the demons are played by Bulk and Skull.|
Our gang then enter the castle but end up getting captured but get lucky as the beautiful woman (which we find out her name is Tomihime) lets them go. The other gods are not pleased and warns her if she falls in love with a human it would mean the end for them all. Zushonosuke ends up not leaving and tries to get the bird but Tomihime refuses to give him the bird (insert middle finger pun). Zushonosuke ends up confessing his love to her and Tomihime admits he has the same feelings for him and they end up in bed together. Zushonosuke's wife is worried about his safety and ends up going to the castle herself but she wishes she never did when she sees her husband with the beautiful goddess and runs off. Zushonosuke asks Tomihime to run away with him but she refuses as her family needs her as they are dying from lack of eating human flesh. Lord Harima gets fed up with having the forgotten gods living in the castle and decides to attack them and burn down the castle. How will this final battle end?
Despite my crudely done description of the story this one was very good and the strongest of the trilogy. The format for this feature is pure supernatural romance unlike a “Tales From The Crypt” like show the previous feature was. The romance between the bird keeper and the goddess was very well done and very strong making me give a huge damn about the relationship all the way to the very end. The animation and artwork complimented the story very well adding to its strong bind of a story. The dub (like Yotsuya Ghost Story) is average and there are some laughable lines but not nearly as bad as the previous feature. I recommend watching this one the most out of the three.
Goblin Cat (Directed by Kenji Nakamuru)
Our third and final feature of the trilogy is a original tale done exclusively for this series and takes more of a hybrid form of mystery, martial arts, and the TV show “Supernatural”. Our hero of the story is a traveling medicine merchant (that is nameless but for the sake of this review we shall call him “Medicine Merchant”) who is trying to sell his goods to a servant that just happens to wants to check out some sex toys and indeed our hero has some in stock. The Medicine Merchant later gets told off as there is a wedding about to take place then suddenly the bride gets murdered with everyone suspecting our hero of the crime so they tie him up.
While Medicine Merchant is tied up more deaths happen and they all hear some strange cat noises outside. He breaks free and determines the deaths are being caused by a demonic spirit called Goblin Cat. Everyone just laughs and think he is full of nonsense but our hero continues to research this demon despite being laughed at. He finds out that in order to kill this unholy beast he will have to kill it with his magic sword that has the ability to kill demons but the catch is that he needs to figure out why the Goblin Cat is attacking people before the sword can be sheathed. Will he succeed or will he become cat nip?
|It's a good thing I can read brail ransom letters.|
I really enjoyed watching this one but the story does suffer from having a mixture of anime and modern monster hunting movie cliches. This doesn't ruin it by any means but it did hold it back from being amazing. The Goblin Cat was a very terrifying thing to see but it could have had more of an impact if they didn't spoil what the monster looked like right on the DVD cover. The animation and artwork in this one has a very modern shonen look and it worked very well with it's modern storytelling. I did have an issue with some of the lip-syncing in some scenes as it looked very stiff like I was watching a play performed by people who have half-paralyzed faces from having a stroke. The English dub in this one is just as average as the other two but I liked the lines of dialogue better in this one as the goofiness worked with what I was seeing happen on screen. This one was the second best one of the trilogy and it was way better than “Yotsuya Ghost Story” but it was also far from being way better than “Goddess of the Dark Tower”. I'm going to give this collection a “yes” rating but mainly for the last two features as the first one was pretty average.
Title: Samurai Horror Tales
Animation Studio: Toei Animation
Genre: Animation/Anime, Horror
Running Time: 273 Minutes (11 Episodes)
Distributor: Siren Visual
Rating: M15+ (Animated Violence)