Junji Ito Collection
by Christopher Farris,
How would you rate episode 6 of
Junji Ito "Collection" ?
One major problem in Junji Ito Collection so far has been the divide between concept and execution, a given for any adaptation that falls short of its source material. However, it's even more pronounced in the case of this particular flavor of horror. Producing genuine scares requires a level of skill and craftsmanship that this series has generally proven not to have, regardless of the varying strength of its source stories.
This is especially clear in this first, shorter segment of this episode, ‘Window Next Door’. The core concept is a simple and strong idea for a spooky story, as focal character Hiroshi finds himself beset by the unwanted advances of a creepy old woman next door. For just the briefest of moments, this story looks like it might nail the atmosphere it's going for. The sound effects and mixing continue to be one of the isolated effective elements of this series, and the build-up as Hiroshi hears the naughty nudging of his nighttime neighbor is decently evocative. But then the actual reveal happens, and it's just a complete flop.
Between the unimpressive art Junji Ito Collection has always sported and the underwhelming way the woman's appearance is presented, the dramatic revelation comes across more as a punchline than a jump-scare. Between the pacing misfire and the limited animation of her encounters, it throws the audience into confusion. Is this actually supposed to be a comedic segment? Ito's stories have shown a predilection for humor many times before, and comedy and horror do often go hand-in-hand. The problem is that it's hard to tell how much this take on the material understands those nuances.
The general concept is similar to the earlier ‘Fashion Model’ storyline, except it wisely focuses on the fears and feelings of the protagonist rather than trying to mine mystery out of the apparent monster. But even with some solid ideas behind this horror story, the gulf between concept and execution is so wide that we're left less interested in the anime story and more wondering about how the manga iteration might have worked better. It feels like the story stopped just as it was getting interesting.
The second story, longer story continues with even drabber-than-usual visuals, but at least the story is more low-key. ‘Gentle Goodbye’ is like ‘Long Dreams’ in that it's more of an unusual conceptual exercise than a frightening series of twists, so it succeeds at being somewhat interesting. Unfortunately, it's still a tale with a scattered start that takes a while to coalesce into its actual focus. It does at least balance its beginning with a better use of its absurd horror-comedy elements, as the family our heroine Riko marries into takes the idea of the dead ‘living on in our memories’ more literally than usual.
The exact mechanics behind the not-ghosts are teased out effectively in the first several minutes, making us wonder if Riko's new family simply has a different perspective on dying and haunting than the world around them, which is a clever perspective that I haven't quite seen before. If you cared about your family and loved ones that much, why wouldn't you jump at the opportunity to keep them around in spirit form for longer to ease your grief? It also lays out a lot of potential for degrees of revelations. The premise's storytelling twist options are obvious to the audience, though the exact nature of them takes a bit longer to play out. To the show's credit, it delivers multiple twists just to keep us on our toes.
The first twist that Riko's sister-in-law is an afterimage spirit is the more impressive surprise, in the ‘makes you rewind back to catch signs that you missed the first time’ way. It also provides a uniquely bittersweet element to Riko's relationship with her adopted family, given that the ghost is the one that treats her best. Of course, it also leads into the other twist that'll only be surprising if you're young enough that The Sixth Sense was never part of your upbringing. Riko turning out to be an afterimage herself is decidedly less surprising, revealed in ways that are more tedious and unsavory than they could have been.
The final resolution at least rounds back to the establishing ideas well, and ghost-Riko living out the remainder of her days with her father that she was afraid of losing was a different turn from where I thought this story might be going. But that just-good-enough feeling is the big issue holding this story back. It's only engaging on the most basic level. ‘Gentle Goodbye’ is thematically solid, but its execution makes me wish I could have seen this same content paced out better with stronger production.
Junji Ito Collection is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
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