This is cruel, Iemon-dono!
Ayakashi is a beautiful anime series containing 3 classic Japanese ghost stories. The art is wonderfully done, sometimes you can actually see pain on a person’s face, and the voicing is equally good.
The first is a classic ghost story, Yotsuya Kaidan, and the strongest of the three. This is also a famous play. It follows 2 ronin and their wives. The ronin Iemon and his beautiful wife Oiwa are the more interesting group so I won’t really talk about the others. They are very poor and Oiwa has just given birth to their first son and she is ill. Iemon is very unhappy with her, their son, their poverty and life in general. The very spoiled granddaughter of a wealthy noble takes a liking to Iemon and the girl decides that she wants to marry him – Oiwa notwithstanding. The wealthy man summons Iemon and tells him that his granddaughter wants to marry him. With Iemon’s implied consent (silence), the wealthy man and the girl send poison to Oiwa, disguising it as medicine for her recovery from childbirth. The medicine actually hideously disfigures Oiwa and she is horrified. Iemon comes home, flush from his coming good fortune and rejects Oiwa and tells her they are divorcing because he has basically found something better than she could ever be. Iemon hatches a scheme with a servant to rape and murder Oiwa and frame her as an adulteress. It doesn’t work. The servant, in love with Oiwa, can’t do it and confesses the plan to her. The emotionally destroyed Oiwa decides to commit suicide to come back as a vengeful spirit. Iemon kills a debtor and decides to put out the story that Oiwa and the debtor were having an affair and ran off together. He nails their bodies to a door and has them thrown in the river. Great huh? Now he gets to go whistling off to his new teenage bride, free from his past. Except, having thrown the body of the suicide Oiwa into the river, she comes back as a vengeful spirit (the classic Asian female ghost in the white robe with the long black hair) with the power over water. What follows is her vengeance. Oiwa is terrifying as the spirit. She has two spirit aspects, one as the beautiful Oiwa and the other as the hideously disfigured Oiwa. It looks like half of her face is burned and black. She cries out how cruel her fate is and curses Iemon and his new in laws. The pain in her face and voice is just chilling.
The second, Tenshu Monogatari, is the weakest story of the three. It’s about a demon goddess who falls in love with a human boy. Except, her love weakens her powers and those of her handmaidens, leaving them prey to human warriors and weapons.
The third story is Bake Neko. I admit, this was heart wrenching and I cried. A young bride is preparing to repair her family’s fortune with her wedding, but she is killed by an unseen force. A wandering medicine peddler, who is some kind of demon hunter and a pretty awesome character, happens to be in the house and deduces that the killer is some kind of cat demon, a bakeneko. He sets up wards in the house to stop the demon and tries to figure out why this demon, extremely strong and vengeful, is targeting the family. The family turns out to be a bunch of dicks and you fully agree with the cat demon and why he is killing them all one by one. The story of how the cat demon was formed and who he is taking vengeance for made me cry, it was very sad and calls out to the crazy cat lady in me. The demon hunter, Kayo, is just a really cool character. I was left wanting to see him in his own adventures!
I loved this series and I’ve seen it quite a few times. It’s all in Japanese but you can find it with English subtitles (I hate dubbing).
6 chocolate brownie sundaes out of 5!