Why Junji Ito's The Bully is a realistic scary story
The monster is a human child
The philosopher Thomas Hobbes had his theories about human nature, to sum up what he says is this, humans are all born evil. Applying that theory to this story, he's right.
I've heard of this story from Junji Ito before and many of his fans found it to be alarming as a trigger for childhood trauma. When I got the chance to see for myself how this story sent chills down the spines of the readers. I saw why they were right. My stomach never felt so sick.
I will be mentioning parts of this book, so I have to make an important disclaimer. If you have read this story and do not wish to remember some of the controversial acts that happened in this story, you may excuse yourself. If you haven't read this story but choose to stay away for you own comfort, it won't hurt my feelings, please think of yourself and don't read something that effects your mental health. If you haven't read this book and don't want any spoilers. Go read it and then come back if you want to compare contract your thoughts with mine.
Now that I've gotten that out of the way. I'll begin.
The Bully opens up with a young engaged woman named Kuriko explaining to her fiance' what she did as a child that may alter their plans to get married. Sure kids do reckless deeds at a moment of not knowing the consequence of right and wrong. But in the sinister nature as Kuriko did.
She had been tasked to play with a young boy named Nao. When she grew to be annoyed with him, she devised these sinister tactics to make him go away. In the afternoons when she puts on an act how she loves to play with him, it was only to see what new macabre deeds she could do to him. She manipulates this poor boy to endure this all if he still wants her friendship. The worst kind of peer pressure that this girl does to poor Nao. From making him attempt to jump off of a slide from the top, despite his pleas and screams to not make him do it. Shoving his face in sewer water, and then finally, daring him to go into a neighbor's yard that has a vicious dog. After his injuries from the dog, Nao moved away and she never saw him again. She explains all of this to her fiance' Yutaro.
It was already unsettling to see a child do all of these horrible inhumane acts to another child. But her obsession began again when she marries Nao instead of Yutaro, after bearing a child, a young boy that resembles and acts like Nao. It'll all begin again. Growing up didn't change Kuriko, that monster was still harbored inside of her, only to reenact those same deeds on own child. It's an unsettling ending that our imagination knows what will happen to that poor innocent boy.
It's not an uncommon theme in horror, if anything it's a rarely used troupe that the child is the villain. It's unsettling to know how villainous this child was, there was an unbridled evil in her that she inflicts. She knows how to get away with what she can, get what she wants. Larry Cohen, the director of It's Alive tweaked with the idea of children as the horror and created the idea in horror. He said in the documentary Nightmares in Red, White, and Blue, "The thing that you love is now the enemy" Kuriko has been that enemy, and that threat. It's unnerving what Kuriko is capable of evil without any demon possessing her or a doppelganger in her place. She's a human but humans can be their own brand of monster by the actions without hesitation to inflict this pain. It's hard to read but it does happen in real life. There are children that act out inhumane acts on other innocent children, it's a raw slice of life that occurs, and parents try and they can, but they can't stop what they didn't know was darkness was lurking in their own child.
There has always been that common lesson that children need to be raised right to perform as a mature, well-being in society. Psychotic tendencies just don't go away if they are hidden extremely well, that's how Kuriko was able to get away with what she did as a child, that same method of madness just followed her when she transitioned into adulthood.
Despite The Bully's controversial moments throughout the story. I think it does offer insight as an example for practicing in psychology or to identify certain warnings in various children. This is a story with shock value but with intelligence behind it to know that monsters can be human and they can be in the children we think to be innocent and well-meaning.