Junji Ito Collection
by Christopher Farris,
How would you rate episode 10 of
Junji Ito "Collection" ?
Despite the wide disparity of quality in Junji Ito Collection, one element that's surprisingly held true is the quality of the segments that are grouped together. Aside from the mediocrity of ‘Fashion Model’ being paired with the high-concept success of ‘Long Dreams’, usually one good bit in an episode of this show meant the other would be similarly successful (and likewise, the worst segments were largely grouped with each other). But in this episode, we finally witness a distinct gulf in the quality between both stories, giving us the best and worst of this uneven series as it nears a close.
The first part, ‘Greased’, could be considered the good one, though it's also bound to be an uneven ride for many viewers. Ito's stories have always dabbled in revolting imagery to gross the audience out alongside more cerebral horror, and this tale goes deepest into the nastiness well. Just the description of our focal character Yui's living situation, the air literally thick with the dread of her oily environment, is enough to make you instinctively recoil. Right from the beginning, this episode mixes the too-real setup of Yui dealing with familial abuse at the hands of her brother with the outrageous creep factor of his oil-drinking habits. This story is clearly here to gross you out and it does a damn good job with that.
It's a good thing Yui is the point-of-view character and not her brother Goro, as he quickly proves to be an outrageously unsympathetic monster, though not necessarily the key threat of the story. Everything about Goro makes this segment peak disgusting, as no sooner do we question how bad his acne will be in his teens than we see it actually demonstrated, complete with animation of him popping his pimples! Suffice to say, of all the gross-out weirdness this show has dabbled in, this episode is the absolute worst for the easily-queased. Honestly, this was the first time I was relieved that the detail of this show's animation was well below the level of Ito's manga art.
By the time Goro is holding his sister down and squeezing his pimple juice onto her, you'll be relieved to see their grease-bag of a father kill him, but the wild ride only escalates as we hear about the ‘fatty meat’ he serves at their restaurant. And that's to say nothing of Yui's too-symbolic dream of a volcano. It's actually difficult to assign a clear rating to the ‘quality’ of this outing. It's an unbelievably gross and unpleasant story that was hard to watch just because of its outrageously revolting subject matter. But to be fair, that's clearly the tone it's going for, and it's such a success in evoking that gag reflex from the audience that it could almost be commended for it. The anime's resources are also implemented well, with the show's grainy filter turned up even more for an appropriately grimy effect. Even more uniquely, the story lacks any truly supernatural elements until the end, which burns a pretty freaky image in your brain to finish strong. It succeeds as an example of ordinary horror that eventually boils over into impossible insanity.
The excess of ‘Greased’ would almost make me appreciate a less wild ride in the second half, but ‘Bridge’ sadly delivers the more expectedly mediocre side of Junji Ito Collection. For one thing, the resources are leveraged less successfully, with this outing looking cheap in the usual ways for this show. It's also got the problem of overly detailed explanations leading up to the action, which is probably why it comes off so weak. Because on paper, the premise behind ‘Bridge’ is hilarious.
Maybe it didn't have to be this way. I can see how the idea of attempting to send the dead off on a raft down a river only to have them ram into a bridge and sink might be shown as ominous or harrowing in a series of manga panels. In motion, however, especially the cheap sort of motion provided by Junji Ito Collection, it's nothing short of a goofy punchline. When the supposedly-spooky villagers at the center of this practice brush off all attempts to fix this issue as “Can't change it, that's tradition”, the silliness of the idea seems even more obvious; there's no horror at all when we're stuck laughing at these idiots and their inability to change. To this end, we at least glean some sympathy for Osode, the old lady at the center of this story, when she insists on having her death bypass this dumb contrivance. So if nothing else, the sheer goofiness of this does the bare minimum to keep your attention.
It can't even keep that straight by the end, however, opting for a needless “It was all a dream” twist that isn't even a cop-out to resolve the story. This played-out pseudo-twist is only present so the granddaughter Kanako can loop around to her grandmother's death and river-rapid funeral in a way that wouldn't work with how the story had been structured up until that point. By the end of this circuitous storytelling, you might be free to draw your own conclusions, but it still feels half-baked, almost certainly stupider and funnier than it meant to be. This episode delivers a disparate experience, with the effective atmosphere of the ‘Greased’ storyline rubbing up against the mismatched mess of "Bridge" for an episode that's all over the place.
Junji Ito Collection is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
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