What scares you the most? Find out as the haunting world of manga author Junji Ito’s short stories finally comes to life in the Junji Ito Collection anime series.
Imagine losing your loved one to a tree that grew from a wound on their body, bearing literal blood fruit. Their body wasting away, there’s nothing you can do about the situation unless they eat the fruit their body produces, which introduces an insatiable bloodlust. Or maybe you’re in a relationship where your significant other’s family has always been distant to you, and then you find one day that the love of your life has been cheating on you—because you’ve been dead all along.
These are just a few of the situations introduced in the chilling Junji Ito Collection, an anthology anime series of stories based on the legendary horror artist’s works. This macabre theater of terror is one of the first anime adaptations to take Ito’s lesser known works along with some of his popular stories and translate them for the TV screen. The result is a weekly thrill ride that’ll chill you to the bone, either directly or as you think about it late at night as you crawl into bed. You may want to leave the lights on for the Junji Ito Collection.
A Collection of Masterpieces
Junji Ito Collection is composed of 12 episodes, each containing two stories. The stories themselves are culled from Ito’s manga collections: the 11-volume Junji Ito Masterpiece Collection and Fragments of Horror.
One of the centerpieces of the series is “Town of No Roads,” which exemplifies just how surreal some of Ito’s works are. It begins with a young woman who has dreams about a young man who likes her in real life. He has been using a bizarre method that entails sitting outside someone’s room at night and whispering in their ear so that he will appear in their dreams. A strange man appears during the dream and is killed by a man calling himself Jack the Ripper. When the same thing happens in real life, the young woman notices that her family is beginning to stare at her and watch her through holes in the wall.
She tries to escape her home and go stay with her aunt, but her way out is blocked at every turn by bizarre, ramshackle wooden buildings. Eventually she learns that the houses simply keep rebuilding themselves, privacy is no longer a thing, and people simply pass through others’ homes as though they were part of the road system. It’s inexplicably weird and uncomfortable, and by far one of the series’ high points, though we won’t spoil the ending here so you can still enjoy it.
In “The Long Dream,” we meet a young girl who’s absolutely terrified of dying. While in the hospital, she’s waiting for important surgery. She continues to claim to the hospital staff that she’s being visited by Death itself, but it’s actually another patient who’s been suffering from a series of unsettling dreams that get longer and longer every time he has them. His body ages rapidly in the outside world until he’s no longer recognizable as a person. Eventually, he simply shatters into bizarre crystals. It’s a sobering and weirdly beautiful look at death, though it doesn’t particularly end well for any of the parties involved.
There’s nothing to make you sit and think about the eventuality of death or anything poignant whatsoever in “Window Next Door,” which has some of the most terrifying moments of the series. A young man moves into a new house with his family, but they never see the neighbors outside their house. Other neighbors have spotted a single figure in the house’s one window. One night, the young man goes to bed and hears a woman calling out to him. It’s a corpse-like woman reaching out to him from the window next door. Things continue to escalate, and eventually the woman starts trying to climb across the gap between her home and the young man’s in a situation that keeps getting worse and worse. There’s no way to stop her as she continues to use even stranger, more unbelievable methods. It really needs to be seen to be believed.
There’s a little something for all viewers in the series, and while most revolve around scaring the pants off of you so you have to turn a light on when you walk around in your own home, there’s a dash of humor and the surreal here and there to keep things a little lighter. The opening theme is, perhaps inappropriately, garage rock-y, so you’ve got something to calm you down a bit before jumping into the fray full tilt. Ito is a trip and a half.
Get to Know the Master
Junji Ito is responsible for some of the most deliciously scary stories out there. You’ve probably seen some of his work floating around even if you haven’t actively sought it out. His detailed line work, unique art style, and somber yet quietly nerve-wracking creations are certainly among the weirdest out there. They’re usually compiled in quick short story formats or longer volumes.
One of his most famous works is Uzumaki, which revolves around a community that’s suddenly become obsessed with spirals. It’s even been adapted into a feature-length live-action film. You may have seen the grotesque imagery of a man’s body twisted into a spiral while trolling around online. Or maybe you’ve seen references to someone looking to stab their own eardrum trying to get to the spiral inside. Yes, that’s all part of the Ito charm, as is the equally chilling The Enigma of Amigara Fault.
Ever seen images of what look like holes in walls with the sound effect “Drr … drr … drr ….” while looking for some new manga to read? The Enigma of Amigara Fault is an excellent example of how Ito can invoke an oppressive mood while telling a uniquely terrifying tale without zombies, ghosts, or any of the typical supernatural garbage permeating too much of the genre. While the payoff, visually, is a little tame compared to Ito’s other works, the psychological implications of Amigara Fault will absolutely linger.
If you’re into grotesque femme fatale characters, you’ll be pleased to know Ito’s character Tomie is just that, a demonic woman who ends up getting men obsessed with her to the point that they try to kill her—but they never can. She makes an appearance in Junji Ito Collection, but is the subject of entire volumes and even movies, if you’re looking to dig further into her lore.
Ito’s work is not only instantly recognizable, but it’s also unforgettable. You’ll be sure to find something you enjoy, even if it’s just something that scares you, in his catalogue. Junji Ito Collection is an excellent starting point if you’d rather have your Ito stories animated and curated for you all in one place. For superfans it’s a great way to see some of your favorite tales coming to life. Hopefully there’s another season to come, or perhaps a full-fledged series adaptation of Hellstar Remina or even Uzumaki someday.
Juni Ito Collection is currently streaming on Crunchyroll. You can also catch Junji Ito’s latest manga collection, Shiver, in a hardcover release from Viz Media.
This story appears in the Spring 2018 issue of Anime USA Magazine. Click here to get a print copy.