Updated: Oct 29, 2019
I’ve been following my annual tradition of watching scary movies throughout the month of October. Now, with Halloween just a few days away, I wanted to share a few anime films with you that will give you the chills.
More of a psychological thriller than an outright horror, Perfect Blue is one of the best films of the genre, and the debut feature film from one of the all time great directors, the late Satoshi Kon.
Released in 1997 when the internet was just becoming ubiquitous, Perfect Blue tells the story of Mima Kirigoe, a 21-year-old pop idol who dumps the pink, squeaky clean life as lead singer in a bubblegum pop trio to forge an edgy new career as an actor. Much to the displeasure of some of her creepily passionate fans, she begins to feel reality slip away from her and descends into a world of dangerous delusion, menaced by the apparent ghost of her former self.
Satoshi Kon grounds Perfect Blue in reality compared to the myriad of ultraviolent or futuristic anime released around the same time. The realness of the characters, the emotions conveyed by their expressions, and the detail paid to the settings, such as Mima’s apartment, are second to none. The use of colour and saturation also adds to the depth of the medium. The head-twisting transitions and edits, along with the creepy soundtrack, all add up to fill you with a sense of dread.
A brutal and haunting glimpse into the world of the Japanese idol, mixed with disturbing and uncomfortable scenes that resonate perhaps even more strongly today than they did at the time. Satoshi Kon’s work has since been referenced by Darren Aronofsky in Requiem for a Dream and formed the inspiration for his Oscar winning film, Black Swan. If you’ve seen Perfect Blue already then perhaps Halloween is a good time to partake again as it gets better with each viewing, and if you haven’t, then sit back and enjoy watching a true masterpiece.
And when you’ve watched the film, check out the brilliant analysis video by our good friend Beyondghibli:
Gyo: Tokyo Fish Attack
From the sublime to the absurd, Gyo is much more of a ‘traditional’ horror film, though I use the word traditional loosely as this is surely one of the most original horror films you’re likely to see. Adapted from a manga by another true master of his genre, Junji Ito is without doubt one of the greatest horror Manga artists of all time. He has released countless short stories in the genre: dark, twisted, macabre tales such as Tomie, Army of One, and Uzumaki. Told in black and white and often with a shocking page-turn reveal, the medium of manga to tell these stories is truly apt, along with the breadth of detail that Ito puts into each image. Unfortunately, it has been rather more difficult to translate these manga successfully into anime. The Crunchyroll broadcasted 'Junji Ito Collection', animated by Studio Deen and released last year, demonstrated this problem. Gyo suffers a similar fate, though it is still worth a watch if you’re interested in seeing a surprisingly original horror film. Even if it does begin like an American teen movie with three female students on a graduation trip.
As you may have guessed from the title, this film is about fish attacking Tokyo. How, I hear you ask? Well...the fish have grown mysterious appendages that allow them to...walk. That’s right, this film is about walking fish that attack Japan! It doesn’t take a degree in psychology to work out that this is perhaps a revenge scenario that is truly terrifying to the Japanese. The human tale to the story is lead by our determined heroine, Kaori, who simply must get back to her fiancé Tadashi in Tokyo. Meanwhile, the friends she leaves behind in Okinawa, the promiscuous Erika and the bookworm Aki, show a much darker side to the human story.
The walking fish are much scarier than you would expect, with a creepy and grotesque design, and the film begins to take on a darker, more twisted tone as the plot thickens. Perhaps the thought of fish growing legs and taking their revenge is more terrifying to the Japanese than most, but the short run time makes this a snappy ride, if not a truly horrifying tale worthy of Ito’s manga. If you get a chance to read the manga, it comes with a bonus short story called The Enigma of Amigara Fault, perhaps one of Ito’s most enduring works.
A Korean anime film as the title would suggest, Seoul Station is an animated prequel to the incredibly successful Train to Busan by the same Director, Sang-ho Yeon. If you haven’t seen Train to Busan, then don’t worry, you can definitely still enjoy Seoul Station without having seen it. But if you haven’t seen Train to Busan, then I highly recommend that you watch it - it’s an excellent film, one of the best of the zombie horror genre, which even has an interesting social commentary about it.
Released just a few months after Train to Busan as a companion piece for all of the fans wanting more of the same, this film actually shares no similar characters or storylines, and has quite a different, more downbeat tone to it. Sang-ho Yeon actually created this film first, but waited to release it until after the success of Train to Busan, thinking that it would have more of an impact as a follow-on piece. Whereas Train to Busan is focussed on everyday citizens of Seoul, this film centres around those on society’s margins. Lead character Hye-Soon has run away from her former life in a brothel, and spends most of the film running away from the men trying to control her life, as well as the infected. The police and authorities are cruel and callous, and the city is soon overrun.
While not terrifying, Seoul Station is an enjoyable watch, especially if you’re a big fan of Train to Busan. It’s one of a limited number of anime films coming out of Korea, and with support we can only hope that there will be a few more that follow the path set by Sang-ho Yeon. One of his earlier anime films, The King of Pigs, is also excellent and worth seeking out if you find yourself enjoying Seoul Station.
Leave a comment below, or tweet us @animefilmfestuk to let us know what you think of my spooky suggestions.