Review of the Netflix series ‘Junji Ito Maniac: Japanese Tales of the Macabre’
The bizarre spirit of Japanese manga artist Junji Ito emerges in this series of animated shorts.
Junji Ito is one of the best-known names in the world of contemporary Japanese manga. The writer and artist made a large number of long and short stories and specialized in the horror genre. Ito shows a strong preference for creepy subject matter, especially when it involves physical abnormalities and limbs. In much of his work, characters are transformed, strange deformities are produced and body parts are severed, only to take on a life of their own.
It’s not exactly cozy, but it’s especially creepy. After watching the twelve part Netflix series Junji Ito Maniac: Japanese Tales of the Macabre You have a very nice image of the artist’s work. However, it remains to be seen if you’ve gained any insight into Ito’s ghoulish mind. The man turns out to be completely unpredictable and above all inimitable in his creative excesses. In total, about twenty animated short films take place, some of which come together in a duet episode.
The short horror stories have no connection to each other, except that they all sprang from Ito’s mind. Death and damnation play a central role. Ito also likes to elope with students and family ties. For example, we see a mother who discovers after a car accident that her daughter has only grown for twenty years, building an extra layer of skin each year. Like onion rings, she begins to peel her daughter and then puts the Stanley knife to her own cheeks.
We also see a popular Japanese pop star who begins to haunt the city after her suicide, fueled by her declining popularity. Her head floats in the air like a giant balloon, taking one victim after another. And then there’s Ito’s fascination with apparitions, mysterious spaces, and secret experiments.
Macabre stuff, where you often have no idea where the story is going and what kind of nasty surprise is just around the corner. However, it is doubtful that in all cases an animated short film is the best way to tell these stories. The standard anime style, characterized primarily by a lack of movement (indicated by the pace at which these movies are made), isn’t the biggest problem; this ties in perfectly with the comics.
It is mainly the individual duration, between ten and twenty minutes, which usually plays a trick on this series. Then you suspect that Ito is primarily interested in making an impact and then his audience can find out for themselves. Many stories end when fear and danger have soared. The viewer is left confused and has to deal with the fact of a threatening, sinister, or downright murderous situation.
Ito not only proves to be a master at shocking and exploiting the limits of the human body, judging by the many decapitations and gruesome things that can sprout from the human head, he is also quite destructive and fatalistic. As soon as the often elusive danger manifests itself, potential victims no longer stand a chance. They can run or try to defend themselves, but it’s all useless.
This animated horror series is a wonderfully unconventional exotica in the Netflix range, but the wish remains that some stories are better developed and, above all, completed. Also, the purpose of the repetitive movie during the credits remains a mystery. This also goes for the creature-obsessed artist who mumbles to himself after the credits and, in some cases, anticipates the following stories.
Junji Ito Maniac: Japanese Tales of the Macabre can be seen in Netflix.