Welcome to my brand-new Anime Rant series that will be releasing every weekend from now on. The goal of this series is basically to vent about random stuff, and to gather opinions from you guys, the readers. While this series is designed to inspire conversation, please remember to be civil as we chat about stuff. So, without further ado, let’s jump in and see what we’re up against.
This has been nagging at me for years, pretty much ever since i started watching Anime, actually, and it’s the fact that Anime cannot do Horror properly. It really can’t! At least for me, I have yet to discover an anime that really hits the “horror” vibe for me like, for example, the Alien series. It seems that Anime just cannot capture a sense of dread and foreboding, and i’m really not sure why that is. So let’s take a deeper look at things, shall we?
First we need to establish what makes a good horror show. In my opinion, a good horror show is a show that sets a delightfully creepy atmosphere, combining music and visual direction to create a setting that grabs your spine with icy hands from the beginning and never lets go until the end. Let’s look at the original Aliens movie. It was old and cheesy, yeah, but it established a threat that was genuinely scary for viewers, as well as an atmosphere that made you watch it clenched up, curled into a ball to protect yourself. You never knew when the alien was going to pop out and when it did, it was shocking every time. Horror is so much more than mindless blood, gore, etc, when you really get down to it. Video games like Until Dawn have managed to nail a different aspect of fear, not even revealing the actual threat until very very late in the story. What keeps you frightened is the idea that something is there, the belief. And I think that’s very very important in a Horror show, to keep the viewers believing in a threat to the very end.
There’s quite a few anime out there that claim to be “horror,” but none of them really hit that sweet spot for me. Another, a 2012 anime by P.A. works really captured my attention when I first started watching it. It set a wonderfully dark atmosphere, had some genuinely creepy visuals and some very nice plot hooks. When I started watching Another, I thought to myself “Finally! Can this be the horror anime we were waiting for?” … Nope. Halfway through the show it devolves into something I mentioned before, mindless violence and bloodshed. We lose our belief in the real threat. I would say that Another makes an extremely good MYSTERY show, but not really a horror.
Another “horror” anime that confused me was Shiki. The issue i had with Shiki is, believe it or not, it did the same exact thing that Another did. It sold out the atmosphere, the horror setting, for mindless violence and a mystery. Now that’s not to say that I didn’t enjoy Shiki. The music and the art blend together to create an engaging atmosphere that, at the beginning, is rather promising. The other problem with Shiki, however, is that the threat did not actually feel threatening. In Alien, a single Xenomorph is unbelievably powerful, able to wipe out an entire ship’s crew on its own. In Until Dawn, the Wendigos are terrifying, a nigh-immortal threat the protagonists can’t possibly hope to beat. In Another, the enemy can’t even be seen, it’s like a force of nature. But in Shiki, the Shiki don’t even seem that powerful. They have so many weaknesses and so few strengths, they felt almost sadly pathetic.
Ergo Proxy is a show I’ve watched just recently, and it fell prey to the same ideas. It started out so beautifully, the dark atmosphere combined with the dystopian theme work so well. The mystery that the show sets up is wonderful, and for a moment I was hopeful. Ergo Proxy turned out to be a great Mystery show, as they uncover the secrets of society and the Proxy. But I never felt threatened, I never really felt scared.
This really makes me wonder. Because Anime is such a wide medium, it can do so many things better than any live-action film can. But why can Anime not do Horror? Is it because it’s animated? Is it because the Japanese don’t know what real horror is? I can list off so many Anime that promised horror yet failed to deliver: Blood-C, Tokyo Ghoul, HellsingAttack on Titan, Deadman Wonderland… None of them really struck any significant note for me as far as horror is concerned. Another, Future Diary, Corpse Party and Elfen Lied were a bit better but still felt so underwhelming compared to things like Alien, Paranormal Activity, Resident Evil, etc etc that I still don’t know if I can actually call them Horror.
What do you guys think about Horror anime? Have you seen any shows that legitimately gave you the skin crawlies? Please let me know in the comments below, and please feel free to discuss the topic I brought up in this rant, or suggest new topics for me to cover next week! Thank you guys so much for reading! If you like this, please follow my blog for more of the same!