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Anime / Ayakashi: Samurai Horror Tales

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Ayakashi: Samurai Horror Tales (or Ayakashi: Classic Japanese Horror) is a 2006 original anime, retelling classic Japanese Horror stories and Yōkai to share tragic tales. It is best known for Bakeneko, the short arc from which Mononoke originates.

Eleven episodes long, it consists of three self-contained arcs, each with very different animation styles:

  • Yotsuya Kaidan (Yotsuya Ghost Story), an adaptation of the classic Japanese ghost story about betrayal, murder, and revenge from beyond the grave. Written by Chiaki Konaka.
  • Tenshu Monogatari (Goddess of the Dark Tower), based on the Meiji-era Kabuki play by Kyōka Izumi. It tells the story of a forbidden love between a god and a human.
  • Bake Neko (Goblin Cat), an original creation and the third and final arc, about the appearance of a Mononoke and its reasoning for attacking the family the arc is centered on. It was later continued with Mononoke, featuring the Medicine Peddler as the main character. The story would appear again but in radically different form in the Spin-Off.

Not to be confused with Ayakashi Ayashi. For more tropes about the Medicine Peddler, see Mononoke.

Ayakashi: Samurai Horror Tales provides examples of:

  • Ain't Too Proud to Beg: Odajima had been nothing but an annoying hindrance to the Medicine Peddler for most of Bakeneko. But while the survivors try to flee from the rampaging Bakeneko into the noble family's basement, Sato in the throes of madness tries to strangle Kayo to death. Odajima tries to save Kayo but the elderly patriarch forces the samurai to protect him or else he'll snap his neck. Out of options, Odajima desperately calls for the Medicine Peddler's help and begs him to do something.
    Odajima: "I...I beg you, please! DO SOMETHING!!!
  • Ambiguously Human: There's no elaboration in the arc itself, but the Medicine Peddler sure doesn't appear to be a normal person. His white skin, pointed ears, mystical powers, and ability to transform into a Mononoke exorcising dark skinned humanoid all point to inhuman origin, as well as this line:
    (when called a strange guy by Yoshifumi) No, I'm not a strange human.
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  • Animal Motifs: Every time Tamaki appears, she is always surrounded by cats. This foreshadows her involvement in the birth of the Bakeneko.
  • Art Shift: The animation and design of the Bakeneko arc is very different from the rest of the series. But in general, the art style of the three stories differs.
  • Asshole Victim: Most of Oiwa's victims from Yotsuya Kaidan. And nearly everyone in Bakeneko.
  • Attempted Rape: Takuetsu (Yotsuya).
  • Bittersweet Ending: Emphasis on the bitter in Tenshu Monogatari. Sure, Tomihime and Zushonosuke can finally be together, but it's only after the castle is destroyed, all of Tomihime's attendants die, Zushonosuke abandons his humanity, and the couple befell the same fate as Tomihime's mother (that is, to become a bird after she died).
  • Blue Is Heroic: Odajima, one of the samurai retainers from Bakeneko, wears blue. He along with the family servant Kayo was revealed to be completely innocent of the aristocratic family's crimes against Tamaki and the titular Bakeneko.
  • Brother–Sister Incest: Naosuke and Osode very nearly.
  • Cats Are Mean: The titular character of Bakeneko is a monstrous cat spirit bent on killing off an entire family and their servants. Though it didn't start out that way.
  • Character Narrator: Nanboku in Yotsuya Kaidan.
  • Clingy Jealous Girl: Tamaki from Bakeneko... or what the elderly patriarch's eldest son believed. When she died, her devotion to the elderly patriarch was such that her jealousy transformed her into a monstrous spirit as an attempt to ward off any chance of her former patron taking in another woman. Except that's not what happened at all.
  • Contrived Coincidence: The falcon Zushonosuke trained for the emperor and lost inside Shirasagi Castle not only is revealed to be Tomihime's, but it also houses the soul of her mother inside it. It's darn near fate that brought them together.
  • Covert Pervert: The Medicine Peddler carries feudal-style porn (called shunga in Japan), as well as rather interesting medicines and "marriage charms". Kayo was intrigued.
  • Cruel and Unusual Death:
    • Many of Oiwa's victims suffer this.
    • The deaths of Sato, Yoshifumi, and Sasaoka in Bakeneko are heavily stylized but gory nonetheless. The Bakeneko takes all three of them and traps them within the dimensions of a nearby wall, then it mows through all three of them, leaving behind their mauled bodies in a way that looks like a woodblock print.
  • Dead Unicorn Trope: The author of Yotsuya Kaidan suggested that Oiwa's curse may have been generated not by a real event, but by the people taking the story serious, being afraid and perpetuating the curse with their fear.
  • Deranged Animation: Oiwa's curse results in a couple strange sequences. The "Bakeneko" short takes it Up to Eleven by being made of this trope.
  • Driven to Suicide: Several characters from Yotsuya Kaidan, including Osode, Naosuke, and Genshiro. Oiwa's death may have been this or accidental.
  • Due to the Dead: At the end the Bakeneko arc, Kayo and Odajima (the family maid and samurai retainer, respectively) make a small burial shrine for the Bakeneko next to the well where Tamaki's body was discarded to reunite it with its friend as a way to apologize for the atrocities their family committed against them.
  • Duel to the Death: Between Iemon and Yomoshichi, whom the revenge quest was passed on to by Naosuke.
  • Edutainment: In between parts of the Yotsuya Kaidan arc, Nanboku gives the viewers trivia about the various personalities that went into making the original play the arc is based on, as well as some of the more notable performances.
  • Easily Forgiven: Susuki is very forgiving of Tomihime, considering that she, from the other Forgotten Gods' perspective, attacked and critically injured one of their own and put all of their immortality in jeopardy. Uba however is not so forgiving.
  • Eaten Alive: The fate of Iemon, in the original ending of Yotsuya Kaidan. After being stabbed by Yomoshichi in their duel, he is then consumed by a swarm of rats. His mother is also consumed by rats shortly before this incident.
  • Establishing Series Moment: The Teaser for the Bakeneko arc opens up with Mao already dead, the Medicine Peddler calmly and magically setting up barriers, and everyone freaking out. Then the opening plays. It really sets the tone not only for this arc, but also for the Mononoke anime that will eventually follow from this.
  • Ethereal White Dress:
    • Oiwa from Yotsuya Kaidan started wearing white after her death and transformation into a vengeful spirit.
    • Tamaki from Bakeneko. Her few appearances had her dressed entirely in white, which is a symbol of death in Asian cultures. For the audience, this foreshadows her very tragic backstory.
  • Fake Relationship: Osode is subject to this with Naosuke, pretending to be married so that they can eventually find her former fiance's killer and avenge his death. Little does she know that Naosuke was his killer, and that Yomoshichi's not even dead— he switched clothes with one of his own men to deliver a message.
  • Fan Disservice: Tamaki, a very attractive woman, is naked in most of her appearances. Her body is covered in horrible bruises and she's repeatedly raped and beaten.
  • Flashback: How Tamaki's story is told.
  • Framing Device: Yotsuya Kaidan is told on the backdrop of its original author, Tsuruya Nanboku IV, telling the audience the history of the play, its various inconsistencies with reality, and its performances over the ages.
  • Freudian Excuse:
    • For those who are familiar with the original story of Yotsuya Kaidan should know what happened already to turn her into the monstrous ghost she is. For those who don't... Oiwa turned from a devoted wife to an extremely vengeful spirit after she discovered that her own husband and several other people were involved in a plot to poison her, causing her to commit suicide. She spends the rest of her arc horrifically tormenting and murdering the co-conspirators.
    • The Bakeneko from Bakeneko started out as an ordinary cat who was taken in by Tamaki, a young concubine, after its family was killed by the patriarch of a noble family. Tamaki, who was kidnapped and sexually abused against her will, dedicated herself to nurturing and feeding the cat so it would grow strong enough to escape and experience freedom for the both of them. One day, the patriarch's eldest son secretly tried to rape Tamaki and was caught by his father. The patriarch assumed Tamaki had been seducing his son and beat her to death. The cat tried to protect Tamaki but she bade it to run away so the cat wouldn't die senselessly for her sake. The cat's immense regret over failing to protect Tamaki from her killers twisted it into a powerful and homicidal spirit bent on revenge.
  • Gainax Ending: Yotsuya Kaidan. After retelling the events of the play, its author and the arc's narrator Tsuruya Nanboku gives a lecture on the history of the play and its place in Japanese culture after the initial ending, surmised that the various tragedies associated with performances and adaptations are all part of Oiwa's curse, and then begs for Oiwa's forgiveness. Oiwa then lunges at the camera, a candle is blown, and the whole arc ends there.
  • Girl in the Tower: Tomihime lives in the keep tower of Shirasagi Castle, and it is there that Zushonosuke climbs towards.
  • Go Out with a Smile: Tamaki dies with a smile on her face after saving a cat from getting mauled by the people who kidnapped, sexually abused, and then beat her to death.
  • Guilt by Association: Despite The Reveal of the Bakeneko arc having nearly all of the elder characters play a part in the Mononoke's creation, only Mao, her parents, and the perverted servant are innocent of any crimes committed against it, but are killed anyway.
  • Gyaru Girl: Kayo has many of the visual and personality traits of one. She's chatty, dresses in loud and flashy colors, and has the brown skin and exaggerated makeup of a typical gal.
  • Haunted House: To most humans, Shirasagi Castle is this, as the castle is unoccupied by humans and is decrepit and old in the human perspective.
  • Heroic BSoD: Kayo and Odajima (Bakeneko) are both extremely shaken and disgusted when they are shown the full story of Tamaki and the titular character.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Tamaki fed a kitten trapped in the family basement until it grew strong enough to escape, starving herself to the point of emaciation in the process. When her abusers beat her to the point of dying and the cat risked getting killed in protecting her, Tamaki bade the cat to run so it wouldn't die senselessly for her sake. However, it still managed to die, coming back as a vengeful spirit to exact justice on her abusers.
  • Ignored Expert: in Tenshu Monogotari, Zushonosuke the falconer warns Lord Harima against trying to hunt with Kojiro in the rain, but he is ignored and the falcon goes off-course, kicking off the plot.
  • Impoverished Patrician:
    • The samurai and their families after they are dishonored (Yotsuya Kaidan). The two main female characters often allude to their fallen status.
    • The aristocratic family in Bakeneko. By the start of the story, we learn that they have been made so poor by the matriarch's frivolous spending that they were willing to sell their daughter's marriage to the scion of a more wealthy neighboring family.
  • Inexplicably Awesome: The Medicine Peddler just turns up out of the blue with no explanation of who he is, how he got there or why he can do what he does. Then awesome ensues. And he's off again.
  • Jacob Marley Apparel: Oiwa keeps her physical disfigurement as a ghost so she can torment the people who plotted to poison her.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: While he does have his moments and gets in the Medicine Peddler's way ignorantly, Odajima (Bakeneko) is friendly to Kayo, a female servant, accompanying her to pray in the room where Lady Mao's body is held when she gets scared, and trying to rescue her from being strangled to death by an increasingly deranged Sato. Then it's revealed that he (and Kayo) were completely innocent of their family's crimes against the Bakeneko.
  • Karmic Death:
    • Chobei, who helped hide Kohei and Oiwa's corpses by nailing them to a door and dumping it in the river, is killed by Oiwa's ghost by "nailing" him to the wall before breaking his neck.
    • Sato, Yoshifumi, and Sasaoka are all killed by the Bakeneko for mistreating, raping, and disposing of Tamaki's body respectively.
  • Kiss of Death: A few of the bandits that feature at the beginning of Tenshu Monogatari get their life forces sucked out of them via kiss. And although Zushonosuke didn't know it at the time, his kiss with Tomihime also temporarily robbed her of her immortality (since her love for him weakened her powers), bringing her to the reality of death.
  • Lady Macbeth: Oume, although she's not married to Iemon yet. Iemon had disliked his current wife for a while but Oume gives him an excuse and the tools to get rid of her for good.
  • Like Mother, Like Daughter: Tomihime's mother once fell in love with a human man as well, and spared his life just as Tomihime did with Zushonosuke. However, the mother wasn't lucky enough to have her man stay around, and she eventually dies in her human form, having her spirit be housed in the form of a bird. Tomihime and Zushonosuke, despite everything, end up the same as the mother after Shirasagi falls.
  • Love at First Sight: Oume to Iemon in Yotsuya Kaidan, and Zushonosuke to Tomihime in Tenshu Monogatari.
  • Market-Based Title: The original series' title of Ayakashi: Classic Japanese Horror sounds quite a bit different from the localized name of Samurai Horror Tales.
  • Meaningful Name: Lady Mao's name is phonetically identical to 'cat' in Chinese. Guess what kills her.
    • Tamaki has this going on as well, though it requires some explanation if you aren't from Japan and aren't familiar with the humour. 'Tama' is a common name for a cat, which makes it funny anyway even if you don't have the kanji staring you down because "hee hee bakeneko lady has a cat name, awesome". But when you consider the 'ki' kanji they use means living or birth...? You can take her name to mean KITTY IS ALIVE/REBORN.
  • Make It Look Like an Accident: Iemon murders Oiwa's father in his rage at having his hand in marriage rejected, and puts him together with the freshly murdered Yomoshichi (who was killed by one of his men, Naosuke, in a similarly jealous rage to wed Oiwa's sister Osode) to make them both look like they'd been killed by bandits. They then use the tragedy to have both women wed them (pretend to in Osode's case), under the presumption that they work together to avenge the men's deaths. Oiwa and Osode fall for it hook, line, and sinker.
  • Medium Blending: Yotsuya Kaidan has a few live action sequences.
  • Mega Neko: The titular Bakeneko from Bakeneko (which represents its immense hatred).
  • Mind Screw: Just what was the deal with Nanboku, the live action sequence, and Oiwa's curse (Yotsuya Kaidan)?
  • Mistaken Identity: Naosuke ended up murdering the wrong man; his intended target, Yomoshichi, went on a journey to deliver a message, so he switched clothes with Okuda Shouzaburou to carry the mission out. Naosuke saw Shouzaburou the night of the hit, and killed him unknowingly.
  • Monster Delay: For most of the arc, the Bakeneko is invisible.
  • Ms. Exposition: Kayo serves as this to the Medicine Peddler, giving him information on the house owners, Mao's marriage into another family, and other tidbits.
  • Murder the Hypotenuse: Oume from Yotsuya Kaidan tricks the object of her crush (Iemon) into poisoning his wife. It's a non-fatal poison, but the results were horrific and convinced the husband to discard the wife.
  • Murder Makes You Crazy: Although he didn't directly kill Oiwa, Iemon is still rife with images of the dead, murdering his newly wed wife and father in law because he thinks he saw Oiwa and Kohei in their places, and in general becoming more paranoid and frightened over the months. A bit of it might be guilt as well, since before the final duel he sees a vision of his first meeting with Oiwa.
  • My Greatest Failure: The Bakeneko in its titular arc. Its feelings of guilt and regret for failing to protect Tamaki twisted it into a vengeful and homicidal spirit.
  • Naked First Impression: Zushonosuke first encounters Tomihime while she's bathing in a lake.
  • Never My Fault:
    • Even when confronted by Oiwa's ghost in a dream, Iemon shirks off responsibility for his hand in her death and blames it on the Ito clan.
    • The court lady Sato (Bakeneko) isn't directly responsible, but she refuses to take responsibility for her complicity in Tamaki's death and spends much of the story screaming that it isn't her fault.
  • Nightmare Face: Oiwa, because of the poison.
  • Oh, Crap!: Despite being very calm most of the arc, the Medicine Peddler shows panic in only two scenes; the first when he senses the Bakeneko's presence right as Mao dies, and the second when the Sword of Exorcism refuses to open after he thinks he's received the Truth and the Motive, and the Bakeneko gets by his defenses.
  • Ojou: Plenty of them, along with other members of Japanese nobility.
  • The Reveal:
    • Bakeneko: The story of Tamaki and the titular Bakeneko.
    • Yotsuya Kaidan: Yomoshichi isn't dead; Naosuke had murdered another man by accident.
  • Rescue Romance: The way the patriarch in Bakeneko portrayed his story with Tamaki was framed this way. He abducted her from a sacrifice procedural and intended to give her back, but she insisted on staying with him instead. The truth of the situation was far worse than that.
  • Revenge: A central theme in all three stories.
  • Reverse Whodunnit: We know from the start that the main antagonist and the killer is a Bakeneko (heck, it's right there in the title of the arc); the problem is why it's even there, which the Medicine Peddler needs to know to begin exorcising.
  • Roaring Rampage of Revenge: The Bakeneko from Bakeneko is so full of vengeance and hatred that the Medicine Peddler had to exorcise it in order to end its rampage.
  • Rule of Scary: Oume's poison, administered orally, can permanently disfigure someone's face in just a couple hours. note 
  • Situational Sword: The Sword of Exorcism the Medicine Peddler always keeps with him can seal away any Mononoke, but only under three conditions; he has to know what Form it has taken, the Truth concerning the current state of its being, and the Motive for its appearance.
  • Snow Means Death: The story of Yotsuya Kaidan ends with Iemon dying in the snow. As for the actual arc, it ends much, much differently.
  • Spoiled Brat: Cranked Up to Eleven and lampshaded with Oume, a merchant's daughter.
  • Star-Crossed Lovers: Zushonosuke and Tomihime. As a Forgotten God, Tomihime cannot fall in love with a human under any circumstances, else she give up her immortality and condemn herself to death. Ultimately subverted though; they don't survive in their humanoid forms, but they are at least Together in Death and turn into falcons like Tomihime's mother, allowing them to finally live together in peace.
  • Stringy-Haired Ghost Girl: Oiwa from Yotsuya Kaidan is the original version.
  • Suicide by Cop: In order for herself to be free of the tragedy of her life, Osode tricked both Naosuke and Yomoshichi into killing her, under the guise of killing the other man.
  • Surprise Incest: Osode and Naosuke turn out to be blood siblings, as he finds out from reading her birth certificate. Learning this is what finally makes him regret his actions, and slits his stomach in penance.
  • Swarm of Rats: A common motif in Yotsuya Kaidan. A woman's corpse is swarmed by rats, and later another woman (Iemon's mother) is eaten alive. Also invoked during Iemon's death.
  • Sympathetic Adulterer Tenshu Monogatari has poor Oshizu as the losing end of a romance between Zushonosuke and Tomihime. While he did seem to love the former woman before meeting Tomihime and eventually marries her, nothing could stop him from falling in love with Tomihime; he has Tomihime on his mind the whole time following their first meeting and Oshizu's left accidentally stumbling onto the two consumating their love, and then later having to pretend he died when he leaves her to save Tomihime. None of this is portrayed as a moral wrong, merely tragic on Oshizu's end. Though her eventually telling the emperor's men about Shirasagi Castle and her trying to kill Tomihime do lose her sympathy points.
  • Sympathy for the Devil: The Mdeicine Peddler knows how dangerous the Bakeneko will become if left to its whims, but does acknowledge the suffering it had to go through and empathizes with it before cutting it down.
  • Take Up My Sword: As she lay dying, Osode asks Naosuke to take vengeance on Iemon and his household for what he did to Oiwa. And after Naosuke slits his own stomach, he asks Yomoshichi to do the same. The latter at the very least honors their last requests.
  • Those Two Guys: Kamimaru and Kaimaru serve as this in Tenshu Monogatari, as well as the comic relief and the Greek Chorus.
  • Together in Death: Zushonosuke and Tomihime in Tenshu Monogatari, and Tamaki and her cat in Bakeneko.
  • Too Dumb to Live: The band of thieves and their women are practically walking around with death flags over their heads in the beginning of Tenshu Monogatari. They knowingly enter a supposedly haunted building complex, ignore the warnings of the mysterious old woman near the door of Shirasagi Castle, and (with the exception of one) decide to get down and dirty, leaving them distracted when the Forgotten Gods come and kill them.
  • Tragic Monster: Particularly of the Yotsuya Kaidan and Bakeneko arcs. The circumstances that cause their appearances are quite sad:
    • For Yotsuya Kaidan, the monster in question was a poorly treated woman who learned that her husband poisoned her and left her for another woman, on top of throwing her corpse and another poor man's corpse into the river.
    • For the Bakeneko arc, we have the titular monster, who was just an ordinary cat taken care of by a captive girl, and was helpless to save her from her maltreatment from her captors.
  • Trauma Conga Line: Oiwa goes through hell in Yotsuya Kaidan. First her father is killed by who she thinks is bandits (actually her own husband), then her husband becomes cold to her after she gives him a son, then she gets poisoned by a jealous woman, which disfigures her, and her husband abandons her and her child. Evidently, when she comes back as a spirit, she decides she's had enough.
  • Traumatic Haircut: Iemon rips out a fistful of hair from Kohei's head to torment the servant as punishment for stealing. Later Oiwa attempts to comb her hair after being poisoned and ends up ripping out whole chunks.
  • Unreliable Narrator: In Bakeneko, the elderly patriarch of a noble family who was ultimately responsible for the Bakeneko's creation believed in his version of what happened to Tamaki, despite it being completely bullshit and a total lie. The Medicine Peddler calls him out on this before leaving him to reflect on his pastexercising.
  • Visual Pun: All of the effects of the medicine the Medicine Peddler shows to Kayo are shown in very unsubtle ways (ie. medicine meant to enhance men's sexual performance is represented by a turtle's head coming out of its shell, medicine for pregnancy represented by a fertility statue). Similarly, when Kayo tells the Peddler about Mao's husband-to-be, the turtles' heads go back into their shells.
  • What Is This Thing You Call "Love"?: As a Forgotten God, Tomihime doesn't fully understand the mindsets of humans, least of all human emotion. She finally gets to learn as she falls in love with Zushonosuke.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Oiwa's baby. Going by Iemon's nightmare, where Oiwa held a statue covered in blood as a stand in for the child, he is heavily implied to have died sometime after his mother's death. And on the topic of children, Kohei's son, who was under the custody of Iemon's family, is completely absent from the story after one scene.
  • Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds: Both Oiwa and Tamaki's cat are motivated by revenge against the people who made them suffer terribly in life for selfish reasons.
  • Woman Scorned: Oiwa from Yotsuya Kaidan. When she learned that her husband Iemon was involved in the plot to kill her, she was Driven to Suicide...only to come back as an extremely vengeful spirit.
  • Very Loosely Based on a True Story: As we learn after the story is finished, Yotsuya Kaidan is based off of an actual event that happened, but Iemon and Oiwa themselves are fictitious, and the plot crafted wholesale.
  • Yamato Nadeshiko: Oiwa from Yotsuya Kaidan was beautiful and the perfect wife who was entirely devoted to her husband Iemon. Then she discovered Iemon's plot to poison her and everything goes downhill after that.
  • Year Outside, Hour Inside: A full 24 hour cycle in Shirasagi Castle is a year for the rest of the world.


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