Can Junji Ito Collection Do its Spooky Source Material Justice?
by Nicholas Dupree & Steve Jones,
Junji Ito Collection is the latest anime to try and capture the author's uniquely idiosyncratic style of horror manga. This week in anime, Nick and Steve find out if this anthology can escape that Junji Ito curse.
Disclaimer:The views and opinions expressed by the participants in this chatlog are not the views of Anime News Network. Spoiler Warning for discussion of the series ahead. Not Safe For Work warning for content and language.
Steve I am always ready for a good spooking. And who better to deliver than the devilish master of manga spookery, Junji Ito!
It's a shame this series didn't come out in the fall. How great would it be to have a horror anthology anime airing during October?
A Sister's All You Need was horrific enough for me, thank you.
We don't speak that name around here anymore.
But yes, after years of being basically the face of horror manga in the west, Junji Ito's finally gotten a TV anime adaptation! And it's probably my favorite brand of horror story - an anthology series! Admittedly I'm not a huge buff of Ito's work. I've read and loved Uzumaki, and like everyone else I've made more "This Hole Was Made For Me" jokes than have actually been funny, but otherwise I know Ito more for his reputation than his work itself.
I've read a fair amount of Ito, but I definitely haven't come close to exhausting his oeuvre. That dude is prolific as hell. And nobody writes or illustrates quite like him. You can tell you're reading a Junji Ito story from page one, and I think that's a big part of why he's the most well-known horror mangaka. That said, as much as I love his manga, the previous attempts at anime and live-action adaptations of his work have been, for lack of a better phrase, pretty bad.
What, you didn't like the farting CG shark monsters in GYO?
Some ideas work best on paper. And should stay on paper.
But yeah, on that note I confess I've been pretty underwhelmed by the Junji Ito Collection anime so far. I've watched a lot of horror anime in my days and I can't say I'm terribly impressed with the production on these early episodes.
Junji Ito should write a manga about how any anime based on Junji Ito's manga are inevitably cursed. I will say that it's the best adaptation of Ito's work that I've seen so far. But it's still pretty bad.
The most immediately apparent problem is the show's animation—Ito's style is ridiculously difficult to translate into motion already, and while Collection does its best to recreate his most striking imagery in isolation, flat and stiff is the order of the day for everything else.
Yeah, his work is basically tailored for manga format by nature. Most of his stories are structured so that everything builds up to a grotesque, intricately-illustrated punchline that's supposed to shock the reader on its own, and manga is really great for that! You can have smaller, less important scenes slowly build up the tension, and then a big full-page spread of a gross monster that's ready to eat you. It's not something you can replicate in an anime directly. So if you adapt his stories panel for panel, it doesn't replicate that experience. They largely become middling short stories.
Which is a shame since Ito's brand of isolated horror is really interesting. Like Yami Shibai, a lot of the stories are basically urban legends or stray what-if thoughts that might occur to you when you're just trying to get to sleep. It's a kind of intimate creepiness that can really get under your skin due to how mundane it seems. What if you just stumbled into a horror story without any control over it? What if something otherworldly took over your dreams or your life in a way that's beyond your understanding?
Yeah! What I love the most about Ito is his willingness to take these weird, sometimes extremely silly ideas, and then keep ramping them up until he reaches a genuinely unsettling conclusion.
One very compact example of this is the second story from the first episode. It begins with a girl turning into a doll, which, sure, fine
But it ends with her looking like THIS
Granted, sometimes Ito ends up building to a uh...less horrifying image.
Like I'm sure that probably looks creepy in black-and-white but I'm just giggling here.
Junji Ito is also funny as hell. This is a dude who wrote an entire horror-style manga about the everyday behavior of his cats.
Oh for sure. Some of my favorite parts of Uzumaki were the ridiculous side plots about a sentient hurricane with a crush, or the jack-in-the-box corpse bounding down the street like a fucked-up Chuck E. Cheese animatronic.
Horror and comedy are inexorably intertwined.
But in Collection the presentation is so monotone and flat that I couldn't really tell if I was supposed to be laughing at the goofy slug girl or not. It's delivered with just as much gravitas as the terrifying degeneration in the "Long Dreams" segment in the previous episode, which is decidedly not meant to be funny.
Long Dreams is one of his creepiest stories, so I'm glad the anime audience got exposed to that nightmare fuel. Very long nightmare fuel.
It's a really neat concept, not just for the horrific elements, but also in how the story plays out after the central character's death.
Like any prolific author, Ito's stories are a mixed bag. So you have silly or macabre little ideas, but also ones like Long Dreams that do try to say something beyond just the unsettling punchline.
It's an interesting thread, even without a conclusion.
It's reminiscent of the Twilight Zone or other sci-fi anthologies that take an idea and just run with it to an open but intriguing end, arguably the strongest part of Junji Ito Collection so far.
Totally agreed. But then you have some stories where the message amounts to "yeah that really scary-looking lady is in fact a monster who wants to eat you."
Though if I'm being honest, my favorite chapter so far has been watching this little turd get dunked on.
Yeah, I thought Souichi's story was an interesting one to open on, since it's firmly on the comedic side, but he's fun and the show is sure to return to his hijinks later.
I just appreciate this kind of black comedy a lot, since it's not the type of story that gets told that often. Turns out the show's ironically at its most entertaining when it's not trying to be scary! Which is not a great endorsement, I guess. ="D
I'm fine with horror not being scary so long as it's being interesting! Junji Ito is nothing if not consistently interesting, but this adaptation is sadly starved for inspiration. That said, I'm still gonna keep watching it. I like re-experiencing these stories, even if they're not their best selves in this anime.
Yeah, despite my better judgment I think I'm gonna keep watching too. While I can't call the show good, it's certainly a unique entity in a season that predominantly cute and pleasant material. Even if it's not the best it could have been, it's like nothing else airing right now.
And if nothing else, the ED theme introduced me to a cool new band.
The unique EDs featuring the characters from each episode prancing around the background are admittedly a cute flash of creativity that I must commend the show for. At the very least, when the show adapts The Enigma of Amigara Fault (and it better), we can all post new versions of that "this hole was made for me!" panel.
spoiler: the hole is anime
And really, even if Collection never manages to get really spooky, we always have our own personal bit of horror to look forward to:
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