The past week or so hasn’t been particularly spooky here on the West Coast, so I went through some of the anime I’ve seen to come up with a list of mainly “oldies but goodies” that can help you get in the mood for Fright Night. Some are spooky, some are comic, but they all get that good ol’ ghosty spirit going. To mix things up a little, I’ve avoided some of the classics that you might expect to see on this sort of list – no Blood: The Last Vampire, no Hellsing, no Vampire Hunter D… You might notice that these are all vampire series. I thought it might get a bit boring to see vampire after vampire after vampire on this list. I might do a vampires-only list at some point. For now, here are some of the less-known (albeit still pretty popular) works out there:
This was licensed awhile back, though I think it has since lapsed. It’s hard to find, but hilarious if you can. Set in an unusually-haunted high school, this 12-episode series follows the members of the Holy Student Council, who manage the school’s plethora of ghosts and other spirits. Naturally, the members of the HSC themselves have their own magical “blessings” – one has the ability to be possessed (and frequently is), one can exorcise spirits (usually by beating up the person who was possessed) and though the third can summon spirits, he would really prefer to lead a quiet life in a normal school. My favorite part of this series is its incorporation of Japanese urban legends set in schools. Our heroes’ school is haunted by a set of benign spirits who are straight out of these tales: toilet Hanako, the buxom girl who haunts the boys’ restroom to assist with whatever they might be doing there; Red Mantle, the dashing young man in a red cape and mask who exists for the girls at the school; the skeleton in the science lab who moves on his own; and so on.
A collection of investigations by a psychic research center, this series is seriously spooky by the end. The center’s staff is composed of experts in a variety of paranormal fields, ranging from a shrine maiden to a priest to an onmyōji. One of my favorite aspects of this series is that it has a character type that I hate – the girl who is depicted as the only one in the whoooole group who feels for people, who consequently always argues against what other people are trying to do because someone might feel hurt – but it, unlike many other series with this character, highlights that other characters are often just as caring as her, and even more thoughtful. In other words, people lay the smackdown on the brat. I like. This anime is based on a series of light novels by Fuyumi Ono, the author of the Twelve Kingdoms series, another excellent set of books and anime.
About a standard of Japanese death folklore, the shinigami, Yami no Matsuei organizes the underworld as a giant bureaucracy, but one whose workers have superpowers. You’re already interested, right? The anime follows two shinigami, people who died with so much weighing on their minds that they couldn’t pass on and so became staff for the underworld bureaucracy. Tsuzuki and his new partner Hisoka as they try to clear up mysteries surrounding people’s deaths. The half-season (13 episode) anime gives us four mysteries which slowly tie together to reveal Tsuzuki’s secrets, Hisoka’s past and a horrifying serial killer who is obsessed with Tsuzuki. Beautiful and twisted, this is a great series to enter into the Halloween spirit with. Incidentally, the manga was put on hiatus some years back and some chapters that were never published in tankōbon or book form are finally scheduled to publish in January. Perhaps the mangaka will begin drawing the series again soon?
These two are OVA’s, or Original Video Animations (which is to say, direct to video) based on a short manga series by Rumiko Takahashi, the famous artist behind Ranma 1/2, Inu Yasha and loads more. Featuring among her darker works, the Mermaid set proposes that mermaids do exist, and that by eating their flesh some humans may gain immortality. The rest turn into horrible monsters. Of course, mermaids aren’t merely victims here. They also capture and eat immortal human flesh to maintain their youth. Into this setup are delivered Yuta, a fisherman who ate part of a mermaid captured by his fellow fishermen five hundred years ago, and Mana, a young girl who was raised by mermaids to serve as their anti-aging snack. The two travel around Japan looking for a cure for immortality and helping others caught in the mermaid snare.
How could we have Halloween without witches? Robin is a young woman working in a secret organization like those we’ve seen in La Femme Nikita and Alias. Setting this series apart is the purpose of its secret organization: the tracking of those who may manifest witch powers, and their capture and containment should they so manifest. Many of the organization’s workers have powers themselves, including Robin, a pyrokinetic. As Robin learns more about witches and delves further into her organization the question of who can be trusted arises. One season long, this series has been lauded by basically every anime critic out there as a fantastic example of the medium. Watch it… if you dare.