Japanese horror and Western horror are like two different sides of the same coin. Sure, both are considered horror but the way that horror looks is quite different. Western horror has always relied on gruesome killers like Freddy Kruger or Michael Myers while Japanese horror tends to use spooky ghosts like Kayako Saeki and/or Sadako Yamamura from Ring.
Japan has always had a penance for crafting spooky girls/creatures from their various folklore that works not only for movies but anime as well. Series like Corpse Party: Tortured Souls, Ghost Hunt, and Another blend real-life folklore/legends with horror animation. Sadly, while Western horror occasionally does the same, in our minds, the killer-oriented theme of horror doesn’t translate well into anime and here are some reasons why.
Killers Aren’t Scary, Just Overpowered
One of the most important elements of horror is what is actually being used to scare you. For example, in an anime about killer aliens infecting humans—Parasyte—the horror element is from the strength and mutative state of the humans now turned into alien-like beings. In the story of Another, what’s considered scary—objectively, mind you—is the curse of a ghost that causes misfortune for a class of students. These ideas can all be considered objectively scary but they work better than a traditional killer.
Looking back at Halloween’s prime antagonist Michael Myers, the scary element of our killer in question is the power he has and the seemingly invincible nature he embodies. This is great for thriller moments in a Western horror but now think about it in a horror anime. Would a guy dressed in overalls be any scarier animated? Maybe some would be scared since Myers is a powerhouse of a killer but ultimately, he has been defeated before—albeit briefly—and that makes him less scary than a ghost who can’t be harmed or an unseen wave of misfortune.
Japanese Folklore is Scarier than Western Folklore
In Ju-On—a popular ghost horror franchise—the threat aside from our spooky ghost girl is the curse she brings with her. This “grudge” that befalls her targets is something that Japanese culture does believe in, where a man or woman filled with hate upon death leaves a powerful aura that curses their last moments on Earth. Westerns believe this as well—which is why we have our own ghost stories and legends—but usually, the Western view of death is quite different from Japan’s thoughts on it. That’s why making a Western-themed horror anime is even harder, the legend/folklore itself.
Whether you liked it or not, the Junji Ito Collection had some great examples of traditional Japanese legends—with a nice amount of creative freedoms—that can be quite spooky when you dig deeper into their origins. Western folklore tends to focus on either those who used witchcraft for evil or ghost stories that usually reside in a home. Yamishibai: Japanese Ghost Stories shows that Japan’s arsenal of folklore is way more extensive than that in the West and that’s why we truly believe that if Western stories were made into anime it wouldn’t be long before we’d feel déjà vu setting in.
Kids or Adults, Neither is Safe in Horror Anime
If you’re a fan of Western horror you’ve probably noticed that movies tend to shy away from using kids as victims. Teens and adults aren’t free from being brutally mutilated or dismembered like in the SAW movies but, typically, it’s rare for kids to be shown getting harmed and are often the ones who end up being evil or constantly safe. Japanese horror anime aren’t afraid to kill whoever needs to in order to strike fear into the viewers and we have some prime examples of that.
Higurashi, School-Live, and The Promised Neverland are just a few anime horrors that throw kids into some disturbing deaths. All three of these series constantly remind the viewer that no one is safe even if their heart might be innocent and that always keeps the viewer in constant fear. If a kid can be killed or maimed in some horrible way, than who ends up being safe? The short answer; no one in the world of Japanese horror anime.
Western horror can truly be freighting and we’ve seen some incredible ones like Friday the 13th, The Haunting of Hill House and Evil Dead. Yet, none of these movies/series feel like they can be animated and retain their fear factor. In our minds, Western horror will never be a good fit for the anime world but that is our opinion and we’d love to hear yours. Do you think Japanese anime can adapt Western horror? Comment reasons why—or why not—in the comments below! Keep with us as we create even spookier Halloween articles here at the amazing hive known as Honey’s Anime!