Junji Ito Collection Episode 7
by Christopher Farris,
How would you rate episode 7 of
Junji Ito "Collection" ?
One fundamental horror concept is the fear of the unknown. When we aren't certain of something, our minds can conjure up horrors greater than any real-life scares. So many horror stories make use of this concept, explaining very little in order to let our imaginations do the rest of the work. It's difficult to say how intentional it was, but this episode's modest success is rooted in its unknowable horror.
Unlike the slower build-up of previous entries, ‘Used Record’ hits the ground running with an immediate clash over an allegedly supernatural bit of vinyl. No sooner has our nameless heroine stolen the titular record and even killed her friend over it, we cut to the show's intro, leaving the audience hanging for a full 90 seconds. Other stories in Junji Ito Collection have certainly operated with an air of mystery, but we haven't the faintest clue what's going on this time, making this story immediately engaging.
The story continues with that whiplash-inducing pace as the girl gets chased down by a record store owner simply for possessing the mysterious music. Even if this is only intriguing for its lack of answers, it's still welcome after so many other segments in this show have failed to connect at all. The idea of this simplistic compulsion overlaps with the in-story piece of music everyone is fighting over. We can't properly explain our extreme interest in it, but we feel a need to keep following it all the same.
The pace of the story plateaus when the record is finally played. The actual song doesn't sound too special, (how could it after all the supernatural hype?) but the jarring image of a dead body coming into view as it plays works as a substitute to communicate the music's unusual effect on its listeners. When this leads the story to escalate to its inevitable unfortunate climax, repeating the song with the voices of the newly-dead joining in is a clever touch that reinforces the song's unspeakable power. That ending does make good use of the audio element, and overall this piece works as a simple, raw scary-story. The tight storytelling and light details honestly leave little room to screw up.
The second half of the episode, ‘Town of No Roads’ tries to play with that same level of ambiguity in a more methodical story. However, it doesn't quite pay off as well, because there's more time to absorb the light explanations of weirdness it presents and realize that its twist and turns aren't that interesting. It starts off with an absolute mess of elements that never congeal, despite an attempt to tie everything together at the end; you still have to squint to make the Aristotle Method thing fit. At first, it actually seems like the main character Saiko's incredibly creepy problem with her family could be a red herring, but as the episode wears on, a clearer interpretation of the girl's issue comes into focus.
After all that setup for Saiko's situation, the show moves into what eventually turns out to be a dream sequence, which does work to continue selling the 'What the hell is going on?' feeling of this episode. One thing this story does extremely well is recreating the feeling of a dream, where abstract logic seems to make sense to the participant in the moment, but it's clearly nonsense when viewed from the waking world. The town Saiko finds herself in is centered around the idea of roads being closed off so people must come and go through each other's houses, which is shown through a decent myriad of abstract imagery even within the show's meager artistic capacity. However, this story falls into the trap of making the audience question if it's only interesting because we don't really know what is going on. The story also ends on a complete anticlimax, with the only takeaway being that Saiko is probably about to wake up, at least finally safe from the serial killer.
That sours what had previously been an at least an engaging visual experience, leaving us to interpret the story's meaning from the limited information we were given. One possible explanation is that the dream resulted from Saiko's creepy family whispering suggestions into her dream, encouraging her to embrace the lack of privacy they force her to live with. But even then, there's no resolution to this obvious problem, and the question still remains of where Jack the Ripper came from. An abstract story like this doesn't necessarily need a complete explanation, but giving us more to work with would at least encourage a more positive takeaway given its relatively upbeat resolution. The story gets major points for ambition, but it lacks the follow-through to be a full success.
Junji Ito Collection is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
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