Watch this. You love this, don't you? Come on, you wouldn't be here if you weren't the kind of person to eat up baby cartoons with dead fish people and lizard skeletons in them.
Midnight Horror School is a creation of Naomi Iwata, who also created Gregory Horror Show in the same visual style, and if you've read this site for long, you know Gregory Horror has been one of my major inspirations since I first stumbled upon it back in 1999.
Midnight Horror School, on the other hand, completely eluded my knowledge until only a few years ago, and it wasn't until 2016 that we were finally able to actually watch all of it...
As you may have gathered from both the title and introductory sequence, Midnight Horror School is about a spooky educational facility for haunted, anthropomorphic pieces of garbage like worn-down pencils, burnt lightbulbs and spoiled fruit, actually a normal, human school during the day. What may not be as clear right away is that these Tsukumogami attend school to learn about the "mysteries" or "wonders" of the world, such as U.F.O sightings, lake monsters, Easter Island and Sasquatch.
Every student is literally the ghost of something humans have discarded, and by learning about mysteries, they can learn how to create or even become mysteries. In doing so, they can avoid being fully forgotten by humankind and live on.
The trash-ghosts aren't the only weirdos haunting the school, either. The staff and faculty consist mostly of monstrous skeletons, interestingly rendered in a more realistic or at least non-cubical style, and these are the teachers, who seem to be the ghosts of extinct animals manifesting as skeletal television sets.
They walk upside-down along the vertebrae and ribs of the school's inner walls!
Mr. Salaman here is the skull of a giant salamander, a sweet old man who seldom loses his temper and loves teaching his students in the "Yellow Lizard" class, including the mild-mannered pencil-headed boy and keyboard girl the series kind of treats as its go-to "main" students.
We also have Ms. Peginand, a penguin, presumably of the giant-size prehistoric variety, which would make her a Palaeeudyptinid. She teaches "Pink Toad" class, and she tends to be the boastful, competitive high-society type, always ready to one-up her coworkers. She also has that wonderful "female anime villain" laugh. I'm sure you know the one if you've watched enough Japanese stuff.
Finally, there's Mr. Tigerl, the saber toothed tiger and teacher of "Blue Spider." Naturally, he's the loudest and most temperamental of the three, but he also has his sweet and sensitive side. He even loves reading romance novels, which make him cry.
Some of the meaner students try to shame him for it, only for the kids to love him more than ever. God this show is cute.
For the most part, there isn't much of a theme to which students are in which class unless you go by the personalities of each teacher, and the fact that the biggest nerds seem to be in Pink Toad. I guess I'm a Pink Toad, which is good, because I could listen to Ms. Peginand read a phone book and not get bored.
The school itself is also a character, seemingly its own "principal" as well as the series narrator, with his own personality and quirks. At the end of every episode, he presents a quick video clip to the audience regarding someone or something featured in the story.
There are many more skeletons around the school, but now that we've met the head faculty, we should take a look at...
Midnight Horror School's 26 (???) Students
Ampoo is an electrical plug, and he's one of many students with an admittedly generic personality template they give to most of the "boys." What does differentiate each student are their personal interests, abilities and problems. Ampoo likes art, he can generate unlimited amounts of electricity, and he likes to be alone sometimes, which can cause problems with his more extroverted lightbulb-headed friend.
The umbrella kid is kind of shy and emotionally sensitive, which can be dangerous, since he conjures up a torrential indoor rainstorm whenever he starts crying. This becomes the focus of an episode in which he misses the pink umbrella he was in love with back when he was a regular, inanimate umbrella in the living world. I'm not sure how that works either. It could be that these beings awaken with retroactive memories of their inanimate lives, but when he writes a letter to that other umbrella - who's still a regular umbrella in the human world - he gets a response.
He also likes to parachute off the roof.
Midnight Horror School is one of those kid's cartoons where girls are the minority of characters for no particular reason, but they're definitely written more distinctly than some of the other students. Chaps was once a piece of candy that melted before it could be eaten, and now she's an excitable, optimistic little girl who loves nothing more than making candies, cakes, cookies and treats of her own.
Docky is the "cool kid" of the school. Basically everybody thinks he's awesome, including Docky, and he is, because he's a skeleton with the ability to move absurdly fast, which is actually a terrible skeleton-related pun in Japanese.
So why is there a box-headed skeleton student, while the school staff are "realistic" skeletons? Apparently, Docky isn't a real skeleton at all, but the ghost of an educational skeleton model.
We don't see a lot of Enton, whose head is a brick chimney, but we know he's a loner, takes everything kind of slow and likes to perch on the rooftop (naturally) to look at the stars and moon. He gets an episode focusing on his lack of friends, during which he accidentally generates a sentient smoke-being who stirs up a little trouble.
Fonton is one of those old-fashioned pens that fell completely out of use, giving him a pretty cool, distinct look with his sharp, hollow head and dribbling ink. He doesn't get a whole lot of development, but he communicates by writing on squares of paper, which is always a cute gimmick.
The smartest kid in school is also one of those cardboard book sleeves you don't really see that often, and when you did, most people lost them or threw them away. I've never even seen those things references or talked about anywhere, and it's a really fun idea for a character. His level of intelligence, emotional state and range of knowledge can actually change according to the book he inserts into his head, with one default book that seems to be his preferred "brain."
A worn-down bi-colored pencil is the closest thing to a "main" character in Midnight Horror School, the student featured the most both in the series and its advertising. He's unfortunately also saddled with the role of the "just average" kid in most respects, though he has the power to bring his crude drawings to temporary life. The border between his red and blue ends actually behaves like an "energy meter," going full red to animate his drawings and draining to completely blue when his abilities are spent.
This bottle of ink naturally hangs out a lot with Fonton, but otherwise, Inky is one of the school's least popular kids. He has a slow, sluggish way of speaking, he doesn't seem especially bright and the girls find him a little creepy.In his one starring role, it turns out that his ink works as a "love potion" if it's used to draw a heart while he thinks about his crush, and yes, love potion plots in kid's shows are really creepy, but this one at least gets resolved before it goes too far. It's at least not his fault; the school bullies figure out how it works, and use it just to cause chaos for the sake of causing chaos.
We can assume Inky's ink has all sorts of other properties under other special conditions, but we never learn much more.
Every school cartoon has that one female student regarded as "pretty, but scary" by all the other students. Juno, however, usually reserves her temper when somebody deserves it, and has done the most throughout the series to protect other characters from danger.
She also has a carnivorous plant growing out of her flower pot head, which has its own distinct sentience and the usual array of thorny-tentacled-plant-powers. If it goes to seed, it can actually sprout new plants on other student's heads, each thematic to their respective host! For whatever reason, the plant itself - not so much Juno - is obsessed with Inky and likes to bop him in the face with its leaves.
The giggling, squeaky-voiced pumpkin kid is known for his boundless energy, which can make him tiresome to the other students. He can also make a rattling noise by shaking his head!
The piano-headed girl is kind of the female counterpart to Hikky, in that she's the most "normal" of the girls and the go-to female character. She's also the girl seemingly every male student has a crush on, for whatever reason. I guess there's something particularly attractive about having a piano for a head.
Besides the obvious magnetic powers, Magnero is, of course, an engineering and tech geek, even capable of building a robot which, in one episode, comes to life and regards him as its father. The metal plate stuck to his head can be taken off and even thrown, but naturally always comes back, like a boomerang.
This old fashioned newscaster microphone is both noisy and nosy, running a news show that tends to sensationalize and exaggerate events around the school. People don't really use this type of microphone anymore, do they? It's been those little, barely visible headsets for a while now. I guess that's why she's here.
Onpoo, of course, loves music, and her head is a musical note. I'm not sure what that means she is, exactly, but considering how abstract our next student is, it's entirely possibly she represents a forgotten piece of music rather than an actual object. She never does get that much focus.
Humanoid fish monsters don't have to do much to be lovable, but Piranin also happens to be the school's sweetest, most sensitive student. He's also the most nervous, the most awkward and the most gullible, making him an easy target for bullying and pranks. It takes until nearly the last couple episodes to find out that his true power is healing worn down objects.
So, what's Piranin the ghost of? A fish, right? Nah. None of the other students come from animals, so why would he?
See, According to Piranin's special episode, there were once rumors in the human world that fish-people might actually exist, but those rumors soon faded and nobody believes them anymore.
Piranin is the ghost of those rumors. Apparently when we stop believing in something, the belief itself can become a student at Midnight Horror School.
Quicky is overbearing, loud and impatient, all things you should expect from a personified alarm clock. He's also the second time Iwata has designed a clock-headed character with dangling snot. What does snot have to do with clocks?? Is there a pun in there, or is it just because it looks like a pendulum?
Rosso is a shy, emotionally vulnerable fire hydrant who just wants to be left alone. He can generate water, but not usually very much or very well until the storyline calls for him to have a big, heroic eruption.
Rosso ends up the sort-of boyfriend or at least a very close friend of Juno, who appreciates his ability to water her cranial vegetation regardless of how small a squirt he generates.
I guess this cartoon gets a little bit weird sometimes.
A set of loudspeakers which also happen to look like a monkey, which is another Japanese language pun. Naturally, Spimon can cause a bit of a ruckus and spends a lot of time climbing things he's not supposed to be climbing.
I like how the stitch on top of his head is also a volume indicator.
One of the school's three bullies and troublemakers, Tubee is an oil paint boy whose dangling drip of paint can be used as a sticky, stretchy appendage for all sorts of hijinks. In his episode, nobody else - not even the teachers - thinks his paint-tentacle is special enough to qualify as his actual power, or "wonder," until by sheer accident he paints an entire mural over the school grounds.
Tubee's spraypaint counterpart, Usop's abilities are a little more versatile; he can not only spray messages on things, but spray sticky or slippery surfaces as needed for their various pranks. Of the three bullies, it's actually Usop who seems to be the nastiest kid in school, or at least the most amused by the misfortune of others, but he's also been known to show more heart than the others from time to time.
Vincent is a jar of jellybeans, because in Japanese pronunciation, the "Vin" syllable and "bean" sound remarkably alike. Vincent is one of the few students without a mouth in his design, so maybe he's nourished by his own jellybeans, though they also seem to constitute his "brain" and generate all sorts of magical properties when eaten.
Vincent actually acquires these beans from "fairies" he discovers in the books he reads. His biology is complicated.
Ampoo's best friend comes at nearly the end of the alphabet. The cube style makes it hard to tell this kid is a lightbulb until you notice the wire inside. He seems to be kind of addicted to riding on Ampoo's shoulders and grasping his prongs, which allows Watt to light up, but if he burns out he needs his head to be replaced. I'm not sure where, exactly, anyone keeps getting spare Watt heads.
A pretty cute use for the letter X, this student is just one big mystery. Despite the name, nobody knows Mr.X's actual gender, where they came from, what they look like or anything else about them. Mr.X never speaks, but ominously laughs, and if anyone tries to pull that paper bag off, they'll only find another, identical bag underneath until they're exhausted.
At last, we reach the very best character, my poor troubled son, Yumyum the rotten banana. Boss of the paint kids, token bad guy and professional asshole-for-no-reason, Yumyum would be just plain detestable if he wasn't an adorable piece of rancid fruit and incredibly pathetic. In fact, he's almost the same character as BAIKINMAN, which makes sense, because he also has the same voice actor performing the same voice.
The best part of Yumyum, however, is that his rotten banananess allows him to control swarms of flies, his "fly gang," or as he sometimes specifies, his adorable "fly gang."
I raised that boy right.
Yumyum's flies can form just about anything he wants. Basketballs, floating platforms, walls, appendages, even a dashing black suit and sunglasses in at least one episode. I'd expect nothing less from my chip off the old block.
The last (OR IS IT?) student in the show is Zobie, the zombie child, who actually sleeps in his own coffin-shaped locker at the school, and loves to collect garbage of all sorts. He's never explored much as a character however, and it takes until almost the end of the series for a commercial bumper to show us where he came from...
Yes, we're shown nothing but a rotten arm sticking out of a coffin before it "poofs" into Zobie. Does that makes Zobie an actual dead person? Or is he the coffin? If he works like Docky, was he possibly a Halloween decoration??
All the Rest
As promised, there are plenty more skeletons than only the teachers. Another staff member is "Lure," a lizard fisherman whose job is mostly to operate the elevator, but he's constantly falling asleep. In his focal episode, because almost everyone and everything gets a focal episode, he saves the school from a giant, ghostly shark!
Most adorable of all the school skeletons is their handyman, Screwsnail, who almost looks like something out of a Bosch painting with his long, spiny bird-rodent snout and heavy snail's shell. His shell can store a seemingly endless supply of tools and spare parts, and naturally weighs several tons.
With with cameras for eyes and a bony radio dish on his head, you would think Johnny's job is to be the school announcer, but mostly he just spies on people, spreads rumors and acts like an asshole. So, a bird.
THE VENDING MACHINES
People complain about cafeteria foods, but I bet nobody would if their cafeteria was just a selection of talking, mechanical skull-headed vending-monsters, most of them dispensing thematic treats. One with a pig's skull produces pork products, the pumpkin here makes pumpkin pies and pumpkin soups, and so forth.
There also seems to be a minor line of dialog implying that the pumpkin machine might somehow be Kabo's dad, or something. They sure never draw any other attention to the notion.
We never get to see much of Mr. Showtime, a holographic disco clown skull, but he hosts competitions and other major events with the boisterous attitude you're probably imagining.
This giant, skeletal dragon's name is just EDDY.. Most of the time, Eddy is fast asleep, and the kids use his body as a jungle gym they often refer to as "bone hill." The inside of his skull is also used as a secret hangout, especially by Yumyum and his gang. We never do learn why he has to be chained up to the school, though. There's even an episode about how homesick he is to be with other dragons somewhere out there in the stars, or maybe he used to be a constellation. It's not really detailed.
MR. BOOK DEPOSIT MACHINE
The school librarian might be the best skeleton after Screwsnail, a giant chameleon skull with legs and even a skeletal hand on his tongue! Unfortunately, if any of the kids aren't reading enough, Mr. Book Deposit Machine gets the blame or even risks losing his job, and we learn in one episode that Yumyum alone brings down the entire school's average literacy. That's really sad for the both of them.
Putting skeletons to rest for a moment, the school grounds are also infested with these lovable stripey plants, each with a giggling mouth, who seem to love causing mischief and can, under some circumstances, grow into monstrous tree-sized versions. There's an episode where one of them gets jammed in Inky's bottle and keeps feeding on his ink-being, growing larger and more hostile until actually sucked dry by a bunch of Juno's plant sprouts.
THE CRYING FOUNTAIN
What connection there may be between the weeds and this long-nosed, crying skull-tree is anyone's guess, but this guy seems to feed the school's water supply, and what little we see of him consists largely of him commenting on how incredibly sad basically everything makes him. It's a livin' I guess.
OLD OWL SAGE
Our very, very last non-student character is the only one designed like one of the students, a boxy black owl living in a cage outside the school, dispensing any advice people seek.
Regarded as a harmless old kook at times, the old owl is secretly the school's most powerful guardian, transforming when he hears the sound of a special bell.
And now, my obligatory favorite thing in the series...
...Is a perfect, flawless angel who must be Protected At All Costs. Leader is the highest-ranking fly in Yumyum's fly gang, presumably critical in keeping the other flies in line and charged with delivering juicy intel back to their fragrant master. Where does leader come from? Why does he have a skull for a head that's also a camera? We never find out, but Leader does get speaking roles and even an entire episode in which he befriends Chaps.
Thankfully, Yumyum shows a lot of appreciation for leader and the other flies, so I don't have to discipline my son any time soon.
We're still not quite done, yet, becauuuuse....
WHO THE HELL IS THAT
Look at the very, very end of the last row here. We see this shot in every single credit sequence, and there's always the faint, ghostly form of an additional, faceless student after Zobie. That can't just be an error or meaningless space filler, can it?
The "ghost" student even appears in the last shot of the whole series, casually mixed in there with the other kids and waving to the camera. Why?! Who!?! No attention is ever brought to this being, I can find no mention of it online in any form, it's just...there.
I guess it only makes sense that an entire character might serve as nothing but a mystery to the audience itself.
If you're the kind of person who, like us, can and does enjoy watching weird, imaginative cartoons intended for people as little as a tenth your age, then I definitely recommend a little Mignight Horror School between episodes of Octonauts and Yo Gabba Gabba. The characters are adorably weird, the setting is just plain fascinating, and even if you don't know a word of Japanese, what you've learned here should give you more than enough context to understand just about every episode, all of which are available in raw form on youtube as we speak! I didn't even cover EXACTLY every monster that shows up, or some of the most interesting plotlines either!