I just finished Junji Ito: Maniac (Tales of the Macabre). The sporadic short stories that were chosen made a good decision to show the other stories that Ito is known for. People have already been ruined by the collection series and knew there was no way to look back but to look forward to what could be done to the other stories.
It's more than what we got with the Junji Ito collection. Many of the criticisms of the new anime anthology have fared better with fans this time around. It's not perfect but better than what happened in the collection series in 2017. The Junji Ito collection series became a stain and strain on the fans who wanted to see the horrifying tales on the screen. Instead, they got green colors, stale scares, and disappointment from the flat animation from something that is supposed to be a dimensional achievement in art.
NOW, with that said, Junji Ito's work has been an anxiety ride for a lot of animators that are struggling to transfer his work into animation. His comics are the most detailed pieces that have ever been produced in the comic world. It would be hard to animate those fine lines and details would get washed away in animation.
But we did get more of those details this time. The eye veins, sinister smiles, and those eerie idiosyncrasies. There are some positive takeaways I had with this show that took my breath away and some moments that felt like lackluster clusters.
The element that truly brings Junji Ito's Maniac to life is the noises. It was already challenging to have the first barrier breached with the animation of Junji Ito's work (We don't count the collection series). The animated anthology tested our senses by knowing we can't un-hear the scary scritches and sounds in many of these episodes.
In the episode, Long Hair In The Attic, the utilization of the teeth-gritting got under my skin. It became the full sensory experience knowing that sense was breached in Ito's work.
This story is one of my favorites, I felt that I got to experience this story again for the first time.
When Hanging Balloons came up on the episode list, I was interested to see how they would adapt this one. The episode was a triumph to be animated in a way that needed to encapsulate the floating head threats. The CG did make the horrifying hanging heads menacing in a way that had my breath caught in my throat. Everyone who saw the episode praised it for how it created the same tension and tragedy that they read in the short story. As of right now, that episode is still at a solid seven stars out of ten.
I think I would have to say my one complaint about the series is that the removal of the narration from the story does make us feel like it lost a core part of the storytelling.
We could be given pieces of art without dialogue and know exactly what's going on or let the art speak in silence to let it sink in.
A lot of Junji Ito’s stories thrive off of the inner monologue that we’ve been given. The narration doesn’t have to carry the story, there are many things that we can put together for the plot. But seeing the stories, a lot of the story is given to us within the narration. A majority of the adapted stories didn’t get the full adaptation with that narration. I’ll give an example.
In the episode Layers of fear, there’s a part of the short story, where the big sister Narumi takes up the helm to go into the university that would have the information on the item that caused the curse in the family. Instead, the focus of the story is solely on the mom’s descent into madness which is great but it leaves the story on a stale cliffhanger. Narumi's character was reduced to just someone that is around the madness than someone trying to stop the madness. In the book, she went to the University to get some answers, in the series, she just gives up. She lets her mom and sister with her away in the room, Usually, the silence can speak volumes if the outcome is shocking enough for the audience to digest it. This is the first time the quietness doesn’t speak volumes for the story. Layers of Fear is still one of my favorite stories, and I'm glad that I got to see two of my favorite stories in this anthology, it wasn't bad, but it was different. I'll take different over bad any day.
The Bully...wow. Now that was both good and bad. The story of The Bully has been regarded as the most controversial and terrifying story of Junji Ito. I knew what to expect from this episode, but I wondered if it would go as far as the original story. The Bully did depict the uncomfortable nature of recurring psychological and physical abuse as it happened in the story. But somehow it got low ratings despite being a spot-on story. It could be that fans just disliked this story for its content or felt that it didn't become a faithful adaptation. It's a hell of a move and it's unclear if it paid off or not.
Junji Ito Maniac still managed to present the best of the graphic novel nightmare fuel. But this is just the beginning of the Ito-lution. Soon we'll be getting the highly anticipated Uzumaki series. This is the new beginning that we all deserved.