The Anime Annex: Junji Ito Collection
I have loved scary stories since I was a child. However, the series of short stories, Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, has always been much more frightening than slasher films like the Halloween and Friday the 13th. Sure, I find a degree of enjoyment in gory films, and I certainly understand how those movies are loved by massive amounts of people, but psychologically disturbing stories have always had a much greater impact on me. One of my girlfriend Patti’s friends recommended work by the Japanese horror writer, Junji Ito, but before I could read any of his manga, we discovered that an anime, Junji Ito Collection, premiered earlier this year. As always, beware of spooky spoilers going forward, my horrible anime-niacs.
Every 22-minute episode of Junji Ito Collection features two short stories, though each individual tale varies in actual length. Except for one character who appears in a few tales, none are related, so this anime is easily accessible. While each short story falls under the genre of “horror,” they don’t all follow the same formula; some feature disgusting content, some are simply weird and unsettling, and some are overtly disturbing. There is quite a terrifying variety.
“Fashion Model” begins with a young man, Iwasaki, flipping through a fashion magazine and noticing a model with a very unattractive appearance. Although the rest of the models in the magazine appear normal, this unsettling model is extremely tall, has a long, thin head with a pointy chin, sunken eyes, no eyebrows, and a large forehead. Iwasaki is part of a crew of amateur filmmakers, and they release a casting call for a female lead in a film they plan to produce. The monstrous model from the magazine arrives to audition, shocking Iwasaki. Although the crew quietly agree that her appearance is horrid, they nonetheless want her in a role because securing this professional model, Ms. Fuchi, will draw more attention to the film. As the cast and crew drive to a remote location and joke with each other, Ms. Fuchi laughs, and reveals rows of razor-sharp teeth, much to everyone’s horror. “Fashion Model” takes some very disturbing turns before it concludes, which I do not want to spoil here. Although “Fashion Model” is one of the longer stories, even the shortest tales prove just as horrifying.
“Slug Girl” shows that the home of schoolgirl, Yuuko, has become infested with slugs. Soon, Yuuko’s tongue has turned into a slug, and her parents decide that the best course of action is to cut it out, but unfortunately, the slug-tongue grows back. The parents then bury Yuuko in a tub full of salt hoping that it will kill the slug. Although simply writing about the story’s weird beginning will not do it justice, I will again not spoil the end, because the visuals truly add to the terrifying nature of “Slug Girl.” “Hell Doll Funeral” is likely the shortest story in the entire series, but establishes a disturbing world very quickly, which lends credibility to the horrifying animation. Children in this world can succumb to “doll’s disease,” and the daughter in this particular family is an unfortunate victim. The progression of the disease as shown in this very short story is absolutely repulsive.
The actual animation throughout Junji Ito Collection is incredible, and the artists and animators truly understood how to capture the terrifying essence of each story and visually deliver. Although every single tale likely takes place in a completely different world, each setting is believably gloomy and invokes a sense of dread. I imagine this was not such an easy task, because the only consistency between each story is that it is, in some way, discomforting. However, all of the artists and animators who worked on Junji Ito Collection had the creator’s own original material as a template, and his work is masterful.
I had never heard of him before, but Junji Ito’s manga have been published for decades. A friend of Patti’s claimed that he was a great horror writer, so Patti bought me two of his books for Christmas last year. After watching the show and reading those books, I fell in love. Some of his books are collections of short stories, while others tell a complete, horrific tale throughout chapters. Uzumaki is my favorite chapter book by Ito, and it illustrates the tragic and horrid events that befall a town because of spirals. Perhaps you don’t believe there is anything inherently terrifying about spirals, but Junji Ito seems to have a penchant for creating terrifying tales out of unconventional and innocuous themes.
Junjo Ito Collection is an amazing horror anime. The first season has only 12 episodes, and I looked forward to its weekly release more than any other show. Unfortunately, a second season hasn’t been announced yet. Regardless, this was a perfect introduction to the writer for me, and I was even more excited to read his books after watching. I would recommend Junji Ito Collection to any fans of horror, and also those who like short stories. I love this writer and his stories so much, so if you’re reading this, give it a try, and I’m certain you won’t be disappointed.