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Anime ● Review: Junji Ito Collection & Maniac

Junji Ito Collection

English Title: Junji Ito Collection

Japanese Title: 伊藤潤二 「コレクション」

Director(s): Tagashira Shinobu

Screenwriter(s): Sawada Kaoru

Studio: Studio Deen Released: 2018

Runtime: 12 episodes, ~24m each. & Tomie Part 1 & 2, ~10m each.





Junji Ito Maniac – Japanese Tales of the Macabre

English Title: Junji Ito Maniac – Japanese Tales of the Macabre

Japanese Title: 伊藤潤二 「マニアック」

Director(s): Tagashira Shinobu

Screenwriter(s): Sawada Kaoru

Studio: Studio Deen Released: 2023

Runtime: 12 episodes, ~24m each.





My Verdict: Recommended if one is a fan of Ito’s work; he has good ideas but not necessarily the best plotting. Not bad but animation is inconsistent.


Collection features 12 episodes, each containing two stories as well as 2 Tomie episodes.


Maniac features 12 episodes, some containing two stories. There are 20 stories in total.


● I have not read every corresponding manga, but I will make general comments about his manga before commenting on both anime series.


● To those who are not familiar with Ito’s work, he is known for his whack ideas. His plotting can be clumsy as things just happen a bit too conveniently at times, and some of his endings can be somewhat abrupt and inconclusive. But his premises, or his take on common premises, are usually intriguing and his stories can nonetheless be gripping.


● As is common in horror, you either accept the premise or you don’t, since it is sometimes difficult for the audience to accept how some characters just go along with such weird occurrences.


● Ito’s artwork, of course, is effective. His linework (and texturing) has an apparent simplicity, perhaps simple in principle but not necessarily in execution. For example, a character’s face sometimes has minimal or no shading contrasted with a dark background that has detailed texturing; and shadows often are drawn under or around the eyes as a simple way to make them more disturbing. Where there is detail, Ito is generally good at it, taking advantage of the entire panel space.


● Although it is good to see Ito’s manga as anime, the effect of crucial moments depicted in still art is obviously lost in animation. Sometimes, the series tries to capture the stark contrast of the manga to varying degrees of success. Manga in black and white obviously facilitates that much more easily than anime in color.


● Overall, the animation of characters is somewhat inconsistent. The background and environment are not bad. Some shots are beautifully done but others are not very good. No doubt some will be annoyed by this. Sometimes, the animation in Maniac seems even worse than in the previous series.


● Relative to other genres, I personally find works of the horror genre difficult to take seriously. Thankfully, Ito doesn’t always take his stories seriously. Sometimes, they are outright comical; at other times, presumably intended to be comical in such an obscure manner that makes the audience question whether it is intended to be funny.


● Both anime series cover that variety, ranging from the more serious to the less so.


● Both series have at least one Souichi story and one Tomie story.


● Souichi is a sixth-grader who chews on nails and is an annoying troublemaker. He is also a petty loser who is into the occult, often devising some scheme against someone only to backfire. He is in essence Ito’s Wile E. Coyote. Souichi stories are amusing if one is into that type of humor.


● Tomie is a young attractive lady who elicits crazy devotion from others. But she is a bitch. If she’s hacked to pieces, she doesn’t die. Instead, each part grows to a full body; in other words, she multiplies.


● The voice acting and the sound mix is solid across all episodes. No doubt some will recognize the voices and names.


● The choice of the opening and closing theme songs is questionable. The opening theme song for Collection is “The Writhing in Agony Blues” (七転八倒のブルース) by The Pinballs, an easy-listening rock piece. The closing theme song is “Mutual Universe” (互いの宇宙) by JYOCHO, a group that is clearly into polyrhythmics. These songs aren’t bad but other than JYOCHO’s weirdness, I am not sure how either fits the genre.


● The opening theme song for Maniac is “Paranoid” by MADKID. The closing theme song is “Iu Toori” (云う透り) by JYOCHO. Again, JYOCHO’s weirdness arguably fits but I have no idea why the producers think MADKID’s dance music fits. Thankfully, one can just skip it as it is actually annoying.


Below are the stories featured in both series. In some cases, the premise speaks for itself and need no further comment. Titles in bold are recommended even if there is no comment, usually because the story overall is sufficiently well-written.


Collection


● Episode 1: “Souichi’s Convenient Curse” – Souichi tries to curse the classmates he envies or just simply doesn’t like. Amusing if one likes that type of humor. ● Episode 1: “Hell Doll Funeral” – A couple’s only daughter has turned into a doll. This is so short that it’s almost pointless.

Souichi (Collection)
Souichi (Collection)

● Episode 2: “Fashion Model” – Iwasaki notices a horrific-looking model in a magazine. Later, he and his amateur filmmaking buddies cast her in their film. ● Episode 2: “The Long Dream” – One patient intensely fears death whilst another patient is experiencing “long dreams” even though the actual duration of his sleep is normal. The effect of these dreams somehow flows into reality. “What is real” is hardly a new idea and although it can be better executed, this is not bad.


● Episode 3: “Boy at the Crossroads” – People obsessively seek to have their fortunes told by this mysterious boy. It doesn’t end well for these people. Meanwhile, Fukada Ryuusuke is a high school student who has just moved back into the town, he having some past connection. ● Episode 3: “Slug Girl” – Yuuko is sick, turning into a slug whilst her parents try to turn her back. This is so short that it’s pointless.

“Boy at the Crossroads” (Collection)
“Boy at the Crossroads” (Collection)

● Episode 4: “Shiver” – A boy notices his sick neighbor exhibiting holes, with the cause supposedly linked to some piece of jade. ● Episode 4: “Marionette Mansion” – Kitawaki Haruhiko is part of a puppeteering family that travels and performs. One day, his brother runs away, sick of the puppets and the travelling life. Years later, they reunite. This is one of Ito’s more focused stories.


● Episode 5: “The Ongoing Tale of Oshikiri” – Oshikiri notices the appearances and disappearances of people in his life. He infers that his house must be some portal into parallel worlds with its versions of the same people. Interesting premise but lacks an interesting plot. ● Episode 5: “Cloth Teacher” – Souichi turns or makes his teachers out of cloth.


● Episode 6: “The Window Next Door” – Hiroshi moves into a new home. The adjacent house only has one window on the second floor right outside his bedroom. No one answers when he and his mum visit. Interesting premise and comical. Unfortunately, it is way too short and fails to realize its full potential. ● Episode 6: “Gentle Goodbye” – Riko marries into the Tokura family. They have the strange ability and tradition of calling back their dead. Riko does her best to fit in. This is one of Ito’s better works, in terms of characterization, pacing and thematic focus.


● Episode 7: “Used Record” – A young woman steals an old but unnamed record from her friend. Not having a record player herself, she tries to find a player and as well to find out who the singer on the recording is. ● Episode 7: “Town of No Roads” – Saiko, a high school student, is sick of her family spying on her so she decides to move to Aunt Tamae’s house. When she gets there, it turns out there are no roads. People move about by walking through everyone else’s houses. Obviously, this plays on the irony of the situation. Not great but amusing and enjoyable.


● Episode 8: “Honored Ancestors” – Risa is apparently suffering from amnesia, not remembering her boyfriend who wants to marry her. Trying to adjust, she sees a giant caterpillar at his home. ● Episode 8: “The Circus Comes to Town” – The Papyrus Grand Circus comes to town, attracting many locals. The first act doesn’t end so well for one of the clowns. Although predictable, it is nonetheless comical and keeps one watching to the end.


● Episode 9: “Painter” – Mori Mitsuo is a young and popular painter. His latest series and exhibition features the model Horie Nana who he is happy with… until Tomie convinces him to use her instead. ● Episode 9: “Blood-bubble Bushes” – A young couple’s car breaks down. Whilst trying to get help, they come across a small group of young boys who bites the woman. Later at an abandoned village, they meet a man who is willing to host them. This is Ito’s take on the “couple who gets lost and comes across a vampire”.


● Episode 10: “Glyceride” – A young girl has to put up with the built-up of grease in their home above their yakiniku restaurant, grease that permeates not just the walls but their bodies. Although the premise and pacing aren’t bad, it lacks a satisfying final act. Also, this is probably one of Ito’s most disgusting stories. Anyone who has worked in a commercial kitchen can relate. You have been warned. ● Episode 10: “Bridge” – A woman visits her grandmother who lives alone, obviously worried about her. Turns out she may have other visitors. This is basically Ito’s “ghost story with a very personal link to the past”.


● Episode 11: “Supernatural Transfer Student” – Five high school students who run the Supernatural Club are excited about the new student named Tsukano. Not only is he keen to join their club, he has a knack for finding things even locals never noticed before. Tsukano’s actions are so absurd that it is funny. ● Episode 11: “Scarecrow” – A father mourns the loss of his daughter Yuki. Still angry about her relationship with the boyfriend who tries to pay his respects at the cemetery, the father puts a scarecrow at her tombstone indicating that it’s for the boyfriend. But then the scarecrow transforms to resemble Yuki.


● Episode 12: “Smashed” – Ogi has a jar of nectar brought back from overseas. Later, a group of friends find it and consume it, forgetting Ogi’s warning that one should not be noticed having it. Unique premise even if the plot is lacking and somewhat predictable. ● Episode 12: “Rumors” – Souichi spreads rumors to paint himself in a positive light.


“Tomie Part 1” – A funeral is held for Tomie, victim of a murder in which she was hacked to pieces.

“Tomie Part 2” – Set a few years later after Part I, Tomie tries to get between Tadashi and Yukiko, the latter in hospital requiring a kidney transplant.

Tomie (Collection)
Tomie (Collection)

Maniac


● Episode 1: “The Strange Hikizuri Siblings: The Séance” – Their parents having passed away, the six Hikizuri siblings live on their own, each with their idiosyncrasies. Only two of them look normal. A photographer interested in the supernatural is invited to their house to witness a séance… and a dysfunctional family. Amusing characters even if this particular Hikizuri story is not the best.

The Hikizuri siblings having dinner. (Maniac)
The Hikizuri siblings having dinner. (Maniac)

● Episode 2: “The Story of the Mysterious Tunnel” – Goro is pressured by his friends to check out a tunnel that his mother entered but never came back…

● Episode 2: “Ice Cream Bus” – An ice cream bus visits the neighborhood. In addition to selling ice cream, the vendor gives children a ride around the city. (And no, the children don’t disappear.) Sonohara reluctantly allows his son to ride the bus.


● Episode 3: “Hanging Balloon” – Morinaka Kazuko is hiding in her bedroom as voices outside call for her. The non-linear narrative flashes back to the beginning when her friend Fujino Terumi, a 17-year-old star, is found hanging outside her apartment. It is assumed to be suicide but Morinaka finds out there is much more… Unique premise even if it is somewhat predictable but still captivating.

“Hanging Balloon” (Maniac)
“Hanging Balloon” (Maniac)

● Episode 4: “Four x Four Walls” – Soichi annoys his older brother Koichi who is trying to study. Koichi calls in a builder to soundproof his room. This is so absurd that it has much potential but it lacks direction and therefore doesn’t go anywhere. ● Episode 4: “The Sandman’s Lair” – Yuji hasn’t slept in three days because he thinks that if he does, his other self from another world will take over. His friend Mari doesn’t believe him, of course, but she tries to help him out.


● Episode 5: “Intruder” – Oshikiri makes a few friends and brings them home which seems to be a place that acts as a portal to another dimension. There they discover another version of themselves buried. ● Episode 5: “Long Hair in the Attic” – Chiemi, who has really long hair, gets dumped by her boyfriend. This story takes the “cut one’s hair after a breakup” and twists it into a nonsensical story.


● Episode 6: “Mold” – Akasaka returns home after spending a year aboard for work. He had reluctantly rented it out to his old school teacher and his family. But the house, even though it was new, is covered in mold when he returns.

● Episode 6: “Library Vision” – Goro and Koko live in a beautiful home full of books that Goro obsessively keeps. A somewhat predictable tale about obsession.


● Episode 7: “Town Tomb” – Tsuyoshi is driving his younger sister Kaoru to visit her friend Izumi. On the way, he hits a young girl. They put her in the car intending to get help but she apparently dies so they put her in the trunk. Reaching town, they find it a place where gravestones are located at the spot where people die. This is Ito’s take on the “hit-and-run guilt” premise.


● Episode 8: “Layers of Terror” – In 1996, the remains of a child are found within layers of soil shaped like the body at a dig site. Twenty years later, the professor in charge of the dig is long dead but his daughter is discovered to be made of layers. ● Episode 8: “The Thing that Drifted to Shore” – A giant marine creature is washed ashore and discovered to be holding many human bodies within.


● Episode 9: “Tomie. Photo” – Tsukiko is a photographer who sells photos of classmates to other classmates. Busted by Tomie, Tsukiko eventually takes photos of her, only to see Tomie’s monstrous form.


● Episode 10: “Unendurable Labyrinth” – Noriko and Sayako are hiking in the forest. Although they get lost, they come across buddhist monks and are offered to stay the night at the temple. These monks don’t do them harm but they are up to something… ● Episode 10: “The Bully” – Kuriko at the playground is snubbed by the boys she wants to play with. But when introduced to a young boy named Nao who had just moved into the neighborhood, she begins to bully him. Given the theme, this has potential but the story fails to make use of it.


● Episode 11: “Alley” – Ishida rents a room in the household of Mrs Uchiyama and her daughter Shinobu. He notices that the adjacent alley has been blocked off. ● Episode 11: “Headless Statue” – Shimada and Rumi are part of the art club at school where Mr Okabe is currently preparing for an exhibition. All his statues are headless.


● Episode 12: “Whispering Woman” – Uchida Mitsu gets a job as a caretaker to a young woman who cannot do anything without specific instructions. All other caretakers have failed so far but Uchida is capable of providing specific instructions to the young woman so she can function. ● Episode 12: “Souichi’s Beloved Pet” – Souichi’s siblings adopt a cat. As expected, Souichi is envious and curses the cat, making it feral.

 

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