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The Asian ApertureKwaidan
POSTED BY JASON FETTERS, September 30, 2012    Share

A smiling face in a cup of tea, a man frozen to death by a vengeful ghost, and how long black hair can cause terror in a manís heart all await the movie lover in the realm of the Japanese supernatural. Kwaidan is an anthology film based on the short stories of Lafcadio Hearn, a reporter who lived in Japan and collected local folktales.
Four stories were adapted and stylized for director Masaki Kobayashiís haunting vision. While the gore and violence is toned down, the psychological buildup lingers in the imagination longer than any scenes of carnage could.

First up is The Black Hair, about a man in Kyoto who seeks fortune and fame at all costs. This includes divorcing his devoted wife so he can marry into a wealthy family. It isnít long before he realizes that he actually had a better life living in poverty with a kind wife. The fortune he sought after failed to live up to his demanding expectations. Thus he developed intense nostalgia for bygone days and he decided to return to his first home. This was his downfall. The Black Hair moves quickly towards a rewarding and shocking conclusion.

Next is The Woman of the Snow about a Yuki-onna, a mysterious Yurei (Japanese ghost) with long dark hair, pale skin, and blue lips that lives in snowy regions. Two men retreat to a nearby shelter to escape a snowstorm. The younger man watches in horror as a Yuki-onna opens her mouth and sprays out a white substance that freezes the man to death. She then turns to the young man and makes him promise to never tell anyone what has happened. So he returns back home and is nursed back to health. When he is stronger, he goes out into the woods to chop down a tree for firewood. On the way home he meets a beautiful maiden. Eventually they are married and everything appears normal for a while. Like the first story, this is another story that moves along to an interesting ending.

Next is Hoichi the Earless, which is a story about the Battle of Dan-no-ura, when the Genki clan fought the Heike clan during the Genpei War. A young blind boy, known for playing the biwa and singing The Tale of the Heike is contacted by a mysterious samurai who takes him out to perform his music for a special crowd. This causes him to sleep all day at the monastery and to be questioned by the monks. He cannot tell what he is doing all night because, as in The Woman of the Snow, he is told by the samurai to not tell anyone. Naturally his peers are curious and attempt to draw it out of him but he doesnít give in. One night while singing, monks restrain him and force him back to the monastery and that is when he has to confront his visitor.

Last, is another short tale, about a wealthy samurai who keeps seeing the same face appear in the water in his cup of tea. He has to quit drinking tea to avoid seeing that face. Then one day he meets someone who has a similar face.

The stories in Kwaidan are like the traditional ghost stories that have the twisted endings. Unlike the ghosts in Western ghost stories, Japanese ghosts are a lot more frightening because who wants to go up against a Yuki-onna that can freeze you just with her breath? A lot of the Yurei have strange powers that will wreck your life.

So with the Halloween season just starting, take a trip to ghostly Japan and experience all the terrors that await.

Highly recommended

5 out of 5 Stars

"The Asian Aperture" is ©2012 by Jason Fetters. All contents of Crazed Fanboy are ©2012 by Nolan B. Canova and Terence Nuzum.

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