The Historical Context and Significance of The Evil Spirits Series

Ten years have already passed since the Ghost Hunt anime aired on Japanese television. It marked the beginning of its popularity in the international anime scene. In celebration of this anniversary, Story Unlocker turns the spotlight on Ghost Hunt, also known as the Evil Spirits series.

Mai and Naru (Shibuya Kazuya)Mai and Naru (Shibuya Kazuya)
An illustration by mangaka Inada Shiho of Mai and Naru, the main characters of the Ghost Hunt/Evil Spirits series.

The Ghost Hunt anime partially adapted the manga illustrated by Inada Shiho. Inada Shiho went on to adapt the entire Evil Spirits series by Ono Fuyumi. In 2016 she completed the manga adaptation of the sequel to the Evil Spirits series: Akumu no Sumu Ie. In the meanwhile, Ono Fuyumi took it upon herself to rewrite her debut novel series. Media Factory published the rewrite of the Evil Spirits series in 2010 and 2011.

In light of the rewrite, magazines like Da Vinci and Yuu featured several interviews and articles on Ghost Hunt. The December 2010 issue of Da Vinci celebrated the first rewritten volume of the Evil Spirit series with a special feature. The feature begins with a preface by Higashi Masao, an expert in horror and ghost stories criticism. In this short contribution, he highlights the historical context of the Evil Spirit series.

Shiver, and sleep, Maidens

Closing in on the revival of the Evil Spirits series.

A contribution by Higashi Masao.

Volume 1: Are there really lots of Evil Spirits?!
Volume 1: Are there really lots of Evil Spirits?! (1989)

The Evil Spirits series appeared into the world for the first time from 1989 until 1992. In retrospect, this period was actually an extremely important turning point as well if we take contemporary Japanese ghost stories and horror into consideration. Particularly in 1990, Fusousha’s Shin Mimibukuro and Tsunemitsu Tooru’s Gakkou no Kaidan1)School Ghost Stories (Kodansha KK Bunko). played a role in igniting the ghost story boom in the world of books based on true stories, and children’s books. In addition, the leading expert in ghost story talks, Inagawa Junji, also published Inagawa Junji no koko ga kowaindesu yo2)Inagawa Junji’s It’s scary here (Halloween Select Bunko).. The legendary Ikiningyou (Living Doll) became printed in a book for the first time as well, compiled from columns serialized in Halloween. Launched in 1986, Halloween was the first Japanese horror manga magazine aimed at women.

What the three books mentioned above have in common, are the 80s youth culture, and the aspect of having a base which accumulated ghost stories and urban legends that circulated from that culture. So, it goes without saying that both Gakkou no Kaidan and Shin Mimibukuro had a large ratio of “ghost stories in school” that took place in the Osaka University of Arts where the writers commuted to. There were also young women among the Halloween class of readers whose favorites were scary stories and movies.

Evil Spirits Series: One Step Ahead of the Rest

Ghost Hunt 1: Ghost Stories of the Old School Building
Ghost Hunt 1: Ghost Stories of the Old School Building (2010)

In other words, the ghost story fad which heightened among the young people after the Kuchisake-onna (Slit-Mouthed Woman) disturbance in 1979. It gathered the attention of writers and researchers alike. It started to bear fruit in the shape of books around the year of 1990. The one which had a head start in the form of a novel, was none other than the Evil Spirits series.

The style of depicting the activities of psychic detectives, who are in pursuit of various apparitions which occur in familiar places, beginning with a school, from the viewpoint of a girl you could find anywhere, was very easy to like for readers of the same generation. There is no mistake that this was the life-sized story they were eagerly waiting for. And yet, it was so charming, because the extensive knowledge of depicting apparitions and the occult was genuine.

The huge amount of reports on strange personal experiences from the girls who were crazy for this series were not only collected, but also utilized in the Onidan Soushi, currently serialized in Yuu. In this reality one cannot help but feel mysterious emotions. In that sense, the book series carries out its second coming, further increasing girls who shiver as they sleep. I am convinced that it is inevitable as well from the perspective of the history of written ghost stories.

Higashi Masao

Born in 1958, Kanagawa prefecture. Anthologist, literary critic, and editor-in-chief of Yuu. As the leading expert in horror and ghost stories criticism, he participates in a great number of publication projects. He wrote Hyakumonogatari no kaidanshi, Kaidan bungei handbook. In addition, he compiled Bungou Kaidan Kessaku-sen, Te no hira Kaidan series, and the like.

“Ghost Hunt” Reprint Commemoration Special Feature

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Notes   [ + ]

1. School Ghost Stories (Kodansha KK Bunko).
2. Inagawa Junji’s It’s scary here (Halloween Select Bunko).

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