Junji Ito’s superlative manga have been portrayed on film several times (Uzumaki, Tomie) and this new anthology series allows the creators the opportunity to explore a number of stories, varying from surrealist, psychological, paranormal and gory horror.
The sheer number of fresh ideas presented here makes the series endlessly entertaining. We have tales of weird science, playing on notions of quantum physics where people pass through solid objects alongside more traditional horror fare of ghosts and poltergeists. The series also delights in twisting a familiar tale into something more surreal, such as the episode in which a suspicious ice-cream man takes children for a ride around the block in his van, with the the twisted revelation somehow being more disturbing that the imagined terror. The film takes uncomfortably familiar situations such as stranger danger like this and then distorts it into something graphically surreal. Some of the endings are slightly laughable, but nevertheless strangely unsettling. Another example of this sort of outrageous, logic-bending horror is in the giant head-shaped balloons that appear and begin strangling people; again merging the bizarre with the genuine terror of suicide. Rationality is often left at the door, with the inclusion of inexplicably creepy characters in an otherwise normal family, such as a boy who walks around with nails dangling from his mouth.
Ito’s style is immediately recognizable and the show does a good job of replicating it with the character and art design imitating the wilder elements of his peculiar ouvre. It is a world of almost permanently overcast skies, dull colours, and people who seem scarily at home with the preternatural terror they encounter. Overall the anime is understated, slow, and relies more on the queerness of the particular situation than overt graphic violence. There are no jump-scares, or graphic shocks, instead the episodes rely on a creeping fear and the sheer oddness of the setups. Episodes end suddenly, often without completely explaining or resolving the central tension, leaving the audience with that lingering uncertainty not only about what happened to the characters, but often what the significance of the events were. With its narrative creativity and left-field take on the horror genre “Junji Ito Maniac” is well worth a watch for fans of Ito or horror in general for