The bone snatchers: the horrors within

As I’ve said in my previous posts, I have been busy chasing and dealing with the requirements of medical school. That doesn’t mean I have done absolutely nothing as regards anime: on the contrary, I have observed and watched a significant number of movies and series (both anime and live-action).

This is an OK film.

This is an OK film.

In this post I shall attempt to explicate upon and expound on my experiences of the horror genre in different media. The title of the article alludes to the 2002 film The Bone Snatcher, a film that I have found and watched after waiting for roughly six years. I was in high school back then, and the film was airing just as we were about to dock in Davao, my home city. I wasn’t able to finish the film because the ship had already docked while the movie was still in the middle: I had to move because I had to carry the bulk of our luggage, and I didn’t want to contend with the traffic among people trying to get off the boat.

I looked up the film at erratic times during the next six years, and I finally was able to obtain it roughly a month ago. After having watched it two days ago, I came to the conclusion that it was a passable film: it wasn’t terrible, but it wasn’t exactly A-grade material, either. It was just OK; a lot of critics even think otherwise.

The Bone Snatcher tells the tale of a mining crew stuck in the middle of the Namib desert with a strange creature from beneath the earth. Among the unique things the film offered was the fearful creature itself: instead of large crocodiles or snakes or aliens, their enemy was the Ishikuru, or the Sand Mother. It’s actually a fancy name for an egg that coordinates the actions of millions of ants, and these ants consume flesh, leaving only the bones. (I don’t know whether the creature arose from true African lore, or just the minds of the writers, but I thought the premise was unique.)

As with most horror films, nearly all of them die through the course of the movie, but this one has a relatively positive yet open-ended conclusion. The prospective lovers survive and temporarily separate in the end after besting the egg-creature, but another egg had hidden itself in the crate of the woman, and the movie ends.

It was probably with the glasses of nostalgia and stress that I thought the movie was pretty good back then. I have aged, and I (hopefully) have matured, and it currently just is a decent flick for me. It brought me to thinking about other examples of the horror genre.

Among the most prominent examples in the anime medium is the Higurashi no Naku Koro Ni series. The gore was unprecedented, and the anime received some negative reviews for its bloody and violent nature. Some series, like the one I am currently trying to finish, Karakuri Zoushi Ayatsuri Sakon, traipse between horror and mystery, although the causes are entirely terrestrial.

None have intrigued me as much as psychological horror, however, where the point of horror is not with external causes, but the atrocities and the perversions of what man can do to both himself and to fellow man. The best example in anime that I can think of is Mononoke.

The Kusuri-iuri

The Kusuri-iuri


Mononoke evolved from the final arc of Ayakashi ~ Japanese Classic Horror, and it featured the same enigmatic yet endearing character, the Kusuri-iuri, or the Medicine Seller. (By this I do not pertain to Princess Mononoke, which, while great in its own way, is entirely different from Mononoke.)

Many people speak ill of Mononoke because they do not approve of the way the series was illustrated and animated. It is, for me, however, one of the most transparent illustrations of the capacity for human horror and injustice. A story there portrays how one man, because of his cowardice, delighted when his beautiful and loving sister sacrificed herself for his sake; another story (I think it’s my favorite) portrays the monster as her own self-imprisonment and self-castigation: she is in fact the Noppera-bou. She became faceless because she had trapped herself for a long time: she could not speak and she could not see. Despite the fact that I’m not well-versed in the culture of monsters in Japan, I am able to appreciate the ability of Mononoke to scare me not because of bloodshed and gore (although there is that) but because of its ability to make me realize how horrible people can be to others and to themselves. We all have our own demons inside us, and it is at times very difficult to face even ourselves. This is what Mononoke brings to the fore and while it’s a very revelatory experience it is also a very scary one. This is like what Sartre says regarding existentialism. People dismiss it not because it is worthless but because it is revelatory: it reveals to them that no one can save man except themselves, that even if God is present in the world it is only them who can ultimately pull themselves up or dig their own graves. There is supreme freedom in this knowledge, but also supreme gravity: we can rely on no one except ourselves. The realization of what we do not want to face is often a scary thing, and it’s what Mononoke exposes, and it is what makes it an awesome show in an awesome medium.

There are no rogue alligators; there are no giant anacondas or aliens that seek to eat our minds. There is only ourselves to deal with our evils, and to me it’s a scarier thought than oversized animals or aliens. Ultimately, it is ourselves who drive us towards destruction, and it’s a horrifying thought.

P.S. This is the first among hopefully many entries juxtaposing different genres of media together. It’s still formative, but I’m calling the series Quintessential Allusions. This is one on the horror genre (in case you didn’t get it from the title). ๐Ÿ˜‰

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13 Responses to “The bone snatchers: the horrors within”

  1. G Says:

    Begging for comments? Here’s one.

  2. RedMaigo Says:

    Thanks for your semi-review of Mononoke. It made me actually go out and find an episode in order to make a quick appraisal of the series. After watching episode two I was floored not only because of the subject matter (children, callousness, sacrifice and loss) but how it also hit on so many other levels.

    I agree that the there is no monster that exists in any folklore that can match the darkness and evil that lives within ourselves. And the black deeds that are carried out because of our own baser nature (greed, pride, cowardice etc) make any concocted work of fiction pale in comparison.

    I think these type of stories have such a powerful impact because most of them are based on the ugly side of human nature. Horror stories are mirrors held up to our faces so we can see the demon inside staring back at us.

    Too bad most modern day anime fans will not give this show the time of day since it does not follow the standard anime style (big eyes, small nose and mouth etc) which is a shame. I respect Japanese animators who take a chance by creating different art styles to tell a story, including other slept on shows like Kaiba, Kemonozume, and Ayakashi.

    I was going to go out and about today but you have now got me hooked on this show. I will watch the rest of Mononoke after writing this post.

  3. Ryan A Says:

    Mixing media! I’m not familiar with any of these other than I may have watched Bone Snatchers (cannot recall), and I’ve only read small things on Monoke or the previous series. The darkness of ourselves, oh yes, this has been explored, and it’s quite shocking how real it is.

    As for the style, I’ve read select few who find it alluring, and it’s likely one of the series’ strengths, imo. It’s like a voice for our eyes saying, “Cast new sight upon me!” Perhaps it requires a perspective apart from what the casual school-lovcom viewer wants in a series.

    ^^ glad to hear you intend to post more.

  4. Mungkee » Blog Archive » anime|otaku ร‚ยป Blog Archive ร‚ยป The bone snatchers: the horrors within Says:

    […] more:ร‚ย  anime|otaku ร‚ยป Blog Archive ร‚ยป The bone snatchers: the horrors within Tags: Anime, article, culture, earth, film, horror, horrors, japanese, movie, post, serious, […]

  5. Kairu Ishimaru Says:

    Never heard of this film before. But the title is very catchy. The tagline is interesting too but the cover wasnt scary at all for me. At least make it scarier so that I will be interested on watching it.. The cover also reminds me of The Zahir. ๐Ÿ˜€

  6. Michael Says:

    G: I wanted a comment with content! But thanks for the comment, anyway. ๐Ÿ˜‰

    RedMaigo: I’m glad I influenced somebody with the beauty of Mononoke. And you’ve only just begun. My personal favorites are Umibouzu (the arc after the zashiki-warashi) and Noppera-bou.

    Noppera-bou was just so cool, IMO. I’m not particularly fond of avant-garde animation, but most of the time it’s paired up with the best plots and storytelling. Kemonozume was great as well; I still have to watch Kaiba, but hey.

    Ryan A: You’ve been with me for a very long time and YOU know I love my romantic comedies and dramas. Mononoke is a divagation from that, but I can also appreciate its greatness and insight.

    Kairu: Watch Mononoke instead, if you haven’t. ๐Ÿ˜‰

  7. Anonymous Says:

    I just love reading ur reviews or blogging.

    I don’t know really know why but i think it’s the language that attracts me.

    Btw,how do you pronounce Mononoke anyways?

    Is it,mo-no-no-ke or mo-no-oke

  8. RedMaigo Says:

    Michael: I have finished watching Mononoke and it was a good series. My favorite arc in the Mononoke series was also Umibouzo. It was nice seeing Kayo-chan in Umibouzo and the Bake Neko stories. Also, a Norio Wakamoto voiced character in any anime, even if its a cameo, is ALWAYS a good thing!

    However, it also inspired me to watch the last three episodes from Ayakashi – Japanese Horror Classics that Mononoke was originally spun off from. I will have to say that the original Bake Neko story from that anthology absolutely blew away the re-imagined version of the Baka Neko story for Mononoke.

    I’m re-watching the Ayakashi version right now!

    Thanks for the tip.

  9. Michael Says:

    Anonymous:

    Thank you for the compliments. I believe it’s pronounced as the former: it’s said as mo-no-no-ke. I appreciate the comment. ๐Ÿ™‚

    Red Maigo:

    The nobility of the sister was opposed by the cowardice of the brother. It took him a long time to face his literal demon, but it was great. Did you like Noppera-bou? It’s the most misleadingly psychological among the Mononoke arcs.

    But I would agree that the first Bake Neko arc was the most amazing arc of the Medicine Seller’s adventures. I was almost crying by its end at how the inhumanity of the family contrasted with the slighted woman’s love for her cat. The men got their just deserts, and Kayo, as she was with Umibouzu, was a welcome presence. ๐Ÿ™‚

  10. RedMaigo Says:

    Noppera-bou was good, but it was a hard act to follow after Umibouzu. I still state that Umibouzo was the best arc in the Mononoke series.

    I also agree that the Sakai clan got exactly what it deserved: the menfolk as well as the women. The men for…what they did…and the women for not only knowing about it but taunting and humiliating Tamaki. I mean they might have been her if it wasn’t for their position in the household.

    I’ll admit I was almost at the crying stage myself, but they were tears of rage!

    Anyway I’m done.

    Keep blogging…

  11. Z Says:

    I thought you were finally edging away from writing gay entries not until (TADA!), I read this: “I was almost crying by its end at how the inhumanity…” –> WAAH. LOL. you sound so GAY!! /palms on face

    No comment. The only Mononoke I know is Princess Mononoke. ๐Ÿ™ Hail Miyazaki! ๐Ÿ˜€

    “No one can save man except himself…” I agree. God does not intervene with human affairs. This country of mine suffer so much even though almost all the people pray to Jesus Christ because we are crippled by our traditional feudal mindset. In addition, our country is poor “because our elites have no sense of nation.”

    P.S. Watch Franklyn. It might appeal to your slightly twisted head!

  12. Gamekeygen Says:

    Good Job! Keep it up, I will check back some time.

  13. kosze swiateczne Says:

    Hey, nice art i add your blog to my rss!

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