A Crunchyroll Of The Dice QF: Flying Witch vs Yamishibai: Japanese Ghost Stories

And here we are with another edition of ‘A Crunchyroll of the Dice!’ As always, before we begin, I’ll give a quick reminder of the rules:

  1. The winners of round one has been paired up for battle, and I will now be watching episode two of each anime
  2. If the series has multiple seasons, Istick with season 1
  3. I have to at least try to watch the episode, no matter what show has made it through

After I watch both episodes, I will give a spoiler filled run-down of my thoughts on each and then compare them in several categories, giving points to the winner in each. This time around, we have Flying Witch, which is coming hot off a 12 – 0 victory over Danchigai, and Yamishibai: Japanese Ghost Stories, which defeated Orenchi no Furo Jijo 9 – 3. The question is, will the unique short horror stylings of Yamishibai take the victory, or will the laid back Flying Witch troll through to another victory? Let’s find out!

 

Flying Witch

flying witch 4We open with some beautifully drawn shots of a shrine, complete with water fountains. As a note, the water running out of the fountains looks a little more photo realistic to me, which is kinda jarring against the clearly drawn stationary statues. That said the wildlife is stunningly well done. Some guy levitates down and starts walking through the streets. I bet he’s heading for Makoto’s place. The opening theme is fairly upbeat and features plenty of the protagonist and some shots of the supporting cast. It’ll be interesting to see how many of them get introduced and how quickly, as it looks like there’s a fair few of them.

The episodes open proper with Makoto wandering along and unsure where to go. Judging by her uniform, she’s on her way to or from school, and her poor sense of direction is out in full force. Meanwhile, Chinatsu comes home, accompanied by some chilled out folksy music. She grabs a dessert, Mum appears and they share. Mum is heading out shopping, but Chinatsu wants to stay home to watch TV. She does request some more pudding though, this time for her brother Kei and, of course, Makoto. Makoto arrives home with big news: she came home by herself and didn’t get lost! Yay! Chinatsu panics a little because that means that her brother is still out, but Makoto explains that he had plans with their friend Nao. Makoto claims to be getting a sense of direction but, knowing that she’s exaggerating a little, decides to dash off and write in her diary before she forgets … but goes the wrong way up the hall and has to turn back immediately. It’s an obvious joke, but it works well with the general feel of the show.

Chito the cat is cleaning himself while Makoto writes, and we hear the doorbell. The man from before the opening credits is outside, his face covered by an owl mask. Oh, and he’s super tall. Chinatsu, being a good girl, shuts the door and locks it. I mean, if a random owl ninja appeared at your door, wouldn’t you do the same? And if not, why not? Owl Head calls to be let in but Chinatsu ignores him and wanders back to Makoto. Makoto asks who was at the door and Chinatsu says that she thinks it was someone who was selling a newspaper, then asks for the number for the police. Owl Head then appears at the back door and Chinatsu shuts the door on him again. He apologises for scaring her and says that he’s not trying to eat her, so she tries cracking the door open but immediately gets scared when she sees the mask again.

fw2Chinatsu rushes to Makoto and asks to call the police, but Makoto tells her to calm down. Smiling, she opens the door to Owl Head and asks if he’s a harbinger. He says that he is and apologises again for turning up unannounced. Makoto is fine with it as she’s never seen a harbinger before, but Chinatsu is stills cared. Makoto tries to mend bridges by introducing him as the Harbinger of Spring, a splendid person who bids farewell to winter and welcomes the spring. Harbinger of Spring is too long a title to type each time he’s on screen, and it would be rude to keep calling him Owl Head so I shall now refer to him as HoS. HoS claims to be nothing special despite Makoto calling him a fairy of Spring, and says that he’s done with his job in the area, and that he just wanted to say hi to the new witch in the area before he leaves. Also, if she has any, he would be happy to receive some medicine. Makoto trots off. I hope she’s grabbing the mandrake. Chinatsu is still a little scared of HoS and runs off.

Makoto comes back with a little piece of mandrake. Shame. I was hoping for the whole thing. Ah well. HoS is happy as mandrake is rare and valuable. He asks if Chinatsu is also a witch, and Makoto explains that she’s not, she’s just a relative. HoS wants to apologise for scaring her and pulls something out of the bag on his butt for her. Makoto comes back inside and Chinatsu says that she’s scared of his face. Makoto gives her a bowl of beautiful flowers, and tells her that they’re a gift from HoS and that he wants her to like him. Chinatsu seems to warm to him a little then, because kids plus gifts equals happy kids.

After the interlude, Makoto is on a bench in the park when Nao turns up. She’s back from Yokohama and is drenched. Like totally drenched. She apparently swam from Aomori, and using the breaststroke no less. She wanted Makoto to check a mark on her neck for her. Makoto asks if it’s a mole, then takes a closer look and finds that it’s kanji that means ‘super lucky’. Makoto then wakes up in class and passes a note to Nao that says ‘super lucky’. She explains herself on the way home, telling her that witches dreams are prophetic. I guess Nao is going to have some good fortune this episode. Or Makoto has botched it. Nao is exited though, so that’s good. Makoto bottles it though, and says that she may not be right. Way to cover yourself!

Kei stops and picks a plant called ‘Bakke’. It is apparently a local name for butter flower. Makoto has never tried it before, so Kei picks some for her. He says that they make good tempura, to which Nao replies that he sounds old. I maintain what Is aid from episode one. She clearly likes Kei. He explains that they taste fine when they first appear like this, but are also fine after they bloom as they add a clear bitterness to miso soup. Nao continues the ‘old’ shtick and Kei asks if her father eats them, but Nao says that he hasn’t had any in a while. Meanwhile, Makoto has wandered off to look at a utility pole. Perhaps utility pole spotting is the new train spotting? Ah, no, she just found some large Bakke. Kei tells her not to pick those ones as dogs pee on the utility pole. Ha! That made me laugh.

A short time jump and we now see that Kei’s bag is full of Bakke Nao is surprised as he hasn’t got any school supplies in there. Kei leaves everything at school, it seems. Anyway, Nao decides not to go with them for Bakke as she has a lucky day ahead, so Kei and Makoto go home alone. Kei’s Mum lets him use the kitchen and decides to head off grocery shopping again. Either she only buys one day at a time or she forget something yesterday, I guess. She stops when she too realises that he has no school bits in his bag, but we hear no more on it. In the kitchen, Kei is cooking while Makoto looks on. Chinatsu comes home and sees the Bakke, and she has a gloriously authentic negative reaction to them. This does not deter Kei though, who continues to cook anyway. I would love it if Makoto didn’t like it either now.

fw3Makoto asks Kei if he’s good at cooking and he says that he wouldn’t say good, but he does like to cook every now and then. Makoto comments that she thought so as he looks experienced and that she thought he’d make a good girl. Kei, obviously being secure in himself, proclaims that he’d be popular with guys. Apparently Makoto makes sweets when she cooks, so Kei asks her to tech him. Makoto replies that that will make him even more feminine. Now, that was actually a little sexist by Makoto. I have known a few fantastic male cooks in my time, and they’re all pretty masculine. Anyway. Naughty Makoto. I will say though that the characters here are living a relatively Japanese lifestyle, wherein I believe that the women did tend to do the cooking more than the men. I’ll forgive it to a degree on that basis.

The Bakker is done and Makoto is impressed with how they look. Chinatsu asks if Kei messed up and turned them to coal. Makoto says they’re perfect and Chinatsu starts to overreact again. Makoto tries one and disappointingly thinks they’re delicious. Kei says that as the seasons go o they’ll be able to pick different herbs to eat. And there’s a shot of a dog peeing on the utility pole. Ha! That was a brilliant shot to end the episode on. The ending theme is a quiet ballad with a chilled out feel. The video shows Makoto and Chinatsu walking in the rain, then taking flight on Makoto’s broom when the sun comes out. Post credits, Nao is at the shop thinking about how lucky her day is to be. She wonders if the luck will be that she meets a handsome customer. And we end abruptly. That was a little odd. I was expecting some sort of punchline there. Ah well. In all, that an easy to watch episode.

 

Yamishibai: Japanese Ghost Stories

yam1And now for something completely different! We go straight to the creepy opening with the child singing about friends on that side coming to this side, then cut to the view from indie a car as the road speeds by. The map reader is complaining that they’re still not there. The driver says that he bets they took a wrong turn at the last crossroads, and the map reader suggests they continue on and turn around if they don’t see their destination soon. This turns out not to be an option though as the car is almost out of fuel.

Mr Map states that they’ll be in trouble if they run out of gas in the mountains, and Mr Driver gets annoyed, blaming it on Mr Map for picking the wrong road. Mr Map, says that they don’t know it was the wrong road yet … and they’re at another crossroads. There’s a road heading off one way, and a tunnel heading the other. The tunnel isn’t on the map, but it seems to be heading in the right direction, so they go with that. Really? You fools!

The car stops art way through the tunnel, and they have to get out and push. They ponder whether to just abandon the car and walk. Although it’s not confirmed in their speech, it is pretty dark, so leaving the headlights behind would leave them running blind. They decide to take a breather and see if another car comes through, but Mr Driver notices some weird liquid dripping from the ceiling.

Anyway, they get in the car and talk about how they should have been in the hot spring already, and that it’s a good thing they have the next day off work. And there’s two kids at the car window. That’s weird. Mr Map spots them and Mr Driver says they should ask them if there’s a gas station nearby. Mr Map puts pay to this though, noting that there’s something weird about them, just as they start to shuffle off to the side. They move along to the front of the car, and the heads rise up on some colourful … are those stalks or legs? Either way, they smack into the card windshield. Hard. Then another two child’s faces appear and do the same. Those are definitely segmented. I think they’re legs. I really hope this isn’t some sort of child-face-footed spider. I am genuinely getting goose bumps right now.

yam3Smack. Smack. Crap, it is a spider thing, and it’s oozing liquid on the car while the faces continue to bang away. It tromps up the car, and the two men check that their doors are locked … but the back window is open! Mr Driver can’t reach the handle, and here come the faces again. They get squeezed through the gap while the men scream, and we can see the massive sider’s body on top of the car now. We fade to black.

A car skids in the darkness, and we’re back. An older gent gets out of his car. He wonders if he hit something, and looks underneath the vehicle, just in case. He looks up ahead, but can’t see anything, so he gets back into the car. There are two people in the back seat. I can’t see their bodies. Oh Hell. Now I’m getting paranoid. The man spots them in the rear view mirror and turns around. The faces are rising up on the legs again. The man cries out and we cut to outside. There are a lot of bugs moving about with human faces. Worms with human heads, ladybirds with human heads instead of spots, human faced caterpillars … Eep!

And there’s that weird ending video again. That gave me shivers.

 

Let the battle commence!

I will now compare each series on several different aspects. The winning series in each category gets two points, and both series get one point in the case of a draw. Being the quarter finals, we’ll be using a few different categories this time: Best Story Progression, Best Character Progression, Best Individual Scene, Best Character, Best Animation, and Best Soundtrack.

So, the nature of Yamishibai makes this one tough to judge In terms of an overarching storyline. Flying Witch does this better because it … you know … has an overarching storyline. The slow pace of it means that it does that in the barest sense though. We did get to meet the Harbinger of Spring, and learning that a witch’s prophetic dream is closer to myth than fact was cool, but that was mostly it for the episode. Yamishibai did pretty much exactly what it did last time: it showed a full story in one, short session. This is about as good as Yamishibai gets in that respect. I would be hard pressed to give this one clearly to either series though, so let’s call it a tie. Best Story Progression: Draw

There wasn’t anything like character progression at all in Yamishibai. The nature of the series means that it was always going to fall down in this category though. In terms of Flying Witch, that kinda ties in with what I stated above. We now know how Makoto interacts with spirits, learn that she’s probably not prophetic, and see the family bond between her, Kei and Chinatsu play out a little more. It’s a slow, steady progression, but it’s enough to edge the victory. Best Character Progression: Flying Witch

Oh my word … this is far tougher than you’d expect. The scene where Kei tells Makoto not to pick Bakke from around the utility pole because dogs pee there had me laughing. That’ll be the childish, toilet humour side of me coming through. At the same time, the spider thing in Yamishibai gave me chills, and that’s a pretty good accomplishment for such a low budget series. I cannot honestly pick one scene over the other as they both achieved what they were supposed to so well. Best Individual Scene: Draw – Dog Pee (Flying Witch) and Scary Spider Stuff (Yamishibai: Japanese Ghost Stories)

There really wasn’t enough of any character to get you too invested in Yamishibai in the long term. It’s not meant to though, so this perhaps a little unfair to judge the series on. It doesn’t mean that the show can’t succeed in this category though, I mean, it did take the ‘best supporting cast’ category in its round one match. In this case though, no one really stood out. Flying Witch though … that had Chinatsu. She was undoubtedly the star of the episode. Her reactions to things are so authentic in nature, and that makes is easy to forget that she’s an animated character and not a real child. That is, to me, a fantastic achievement. Best Character: Chinatsu (Flying Witch)

OK, so I stand by what I said in round one. Yamishibai achieves a lot with a small budget, and the stylised way it presents itself is really something special. That said though, I cannot get over the quality of Flying Witch. Much like in round one, it had one moment that I found off-putting (then, it was the bus, here, it was the flowing water), but it is otherwise one of the most consistent series in the competition in terms of animation quality. That it is so impressive overall clinches the points. Best Animation: Flying Witch

Thus far, I am a big fan of the Flying Witch soundtrack. The musical pieces are so well placed within the episodes that you almost don’t notice them playing, and when you do, they just fit seamlessly with their respective scenes. In this battle though, Yamishibai was the clear winner. The music was a little generic, but no less eerie for it. The story was creepy, sure, but the soundtrack was a big part of the overall effect that it had. Best Soundtrack: Yamishibai: Japanese Ghost Stories

 fw1

Final Scores: Flying Witch – 8 points, Yamishibai: Japanese Ghost Stories – 4 points

In a shockingly close battle, Flying Witch scrapes through to set up an interesting Semi-Final battle with Love Live! School Idol Project. The thing with this is that, technically speaking, I enjoyed Yamishibai a little bit more than Flying Witch this week. It genuinely creeped me out, and that is exactly what it wanted to do. Being objective though, Flying Witch was better overall, and the scores reflect that. Both shows did a good job though, and they both deserve some love.

Anyway, there goes the second to last Quarter Final. That just leaves Kiznavier and Wanna Be The Strongest In The World to battle it out for the right to face Amanchu! Who will win? We’ll find out soon enough. Thanks for reading, and I hope you enjoyed!

 

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