Paging Lafcadio Hearn

A wronged wife. A God with no worshippers. A cat monster haunting a family.

Three tales make up “Ayakashi: Samurai Horror Tales” which viewers of fansubs knew as “Ayakashi. Japanese Classic Horror Tales.” If you are a fan of old Japanese ghost stories, this 11-episode show just might be your cup of tea.

It actually reminds me of the Japanese tales of the supernatural collected and retold by writer Lafcadio Hearn. Try reading his “Kwaidan: Stories and Studies of Strange Things” or watch the movie of the same name and you’ll know what I mean.

This is the Japan found in folklore where samurais walked the dusty streets and fox spirits pretending to be beautiful women bewitch unwary men. The show re-tells the well-known play, “Yotsuya Kaidan”.

Oiwa gets dumped by her faithless husband Iemon for a younger woman. Not only that, she becomes disfigured when she drinks the “medicine” sent over by her next door neighbor who happens to be the grandfather of the young hussy eyeing Iemon.

Iemon is a masterless samurai who killed his father-in-law after the old man accused him of stealing from his former lord and demanded he stay away from his daughter, Oiwa. This scum in samurai form then pretended someone else killed Oiwa’s father and promised to help her find the killer. Duh. Look in the mirror, buddy. He tells himself he did it to remain with the woman he loves.

But he soon resents Oiwa when he ends up making umbrellas for a living. And when the granddaughter of a rich neighbor makes goo goo eyes at him, he decides to get rid of his current wife. He orders a servant to rape and kill her.

Now hideous and abandoned, Oiwa dies. In the show she accidentally cuts her throat on a sword Iemon gave the servant. Her faithless husband isn’t satisfied with this but has another servant killed. He has Oiwa and this man’s bodies nailed on both sides of a door which is then flung into the river.

Oiwa comes back from the grave to haunt Iemon which leads him to kill his new wife and father-in-law. This version also has lots of hungry rodents a la that ’70s horror flick, “Ben.”
I didn’t much care for “Tenshu Monogatari” which features a fallen God’s love affair with a human and the fallout from such a relationship. They’re a doomed couple. He has a wife. Her species eats people in order to survive.
No one else supports their love. You know how that is going to end.

The final tale is apparently an original story. “Bake Neko” is about a monster cat killing a family with more than its share of skeletons in the closet. A mysterious medicine seller with an unusual sword unravels the secret. But the family pays a heavy price for a sin committed in the past.

Each of the story is told in a different style. I liked the animation used for “Bake Neko” the most because it appealed to my artsy snooty side. Hey, at least I’m honest about being a pretentious twit now and then.

Apparently, I’m not the only one who enjoyed “Bake Neko.” The unnamed medicine seller got his own show this season called, “Mononoke.” I’m currently watching that and so far, I’m enjoying it. No fanservice here folks.

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