Junji Ito Maniac: Japanese Tales of the Macabre Season 1 Recap (Episodes 1-12)

By Jonathon Wilson
Published: January 19, 2023 (Last updated: July 4, 2023)
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Junji Ito Maniac: Japanese Tales of the Macabre Season 1 Recap (Episodes 1-12)

This article is a story recap of Junji Ito Maniac: Japanese Tales of the Macabre Season 1. It contains some minor spoilers for all twelve episodes, but not specifics or endings. 

The Netflix anime anthology Junji Ito Maniac adapts the collected works of beloved mangaka Junji Ito into 20 stories spread across 12 25-minute episodes. Ito is a master of his craft widely renowned for his horrifying stories and characters, and this collection includes a sampling of some of his most famous, as well as a few of his lesser-known and, if we’re being frank, less impressive efforts.

Below is a brief round-up of every episode, including the story it’s adapted from. Each entry includes some details about the premise but nothing about the ending.

Junji Ito Maniac: Japanese Tales of the Macabre Season 1 Recap (Episodes 1-12)

Episode 1 – “The Strange Hikizuri Siblings”

This opening episode tells a single story from The Circus is Here, the fifth volume of Horror World of Junji ItoIt’s a relatively inauspicious opening without much in the way of legitimate scares or lasting imagery, but it has some fun dysfunctionality at its core.

Episode 2 – “The Story of the Mysterious Tunnel” / “Ice Cream Bus”

“The Story of the Mysterious Tunnel” is the title story in the fourteenth volume of Horror World of Junji Ito and is about… well, a mysterious tunnel. It’s essentially a ghost story with a strong family component, and it has some cool imagery towards the end. “Ice Cream Bus” is the opening chapter of the tenth volume from the same series, House of the Marionnettes, and is an iconic Ito story. This is where the anthology really kicks into gear with a truly nasty premise.

Episode 3 – “Hanging Balloon”

Adapted from the fourth volume of Horror World of Junji ItoThe Face Burglar, this is an exceptional little story with a truly disturbing premise and horrifying imagery. Giant balloons shaped like heads fill the sky above Japan, seeking out their victims and hanging them from a noose beneath.

Episode 4 – “Four x Four Walls” / “The Sandman’s Lair”

“Four x Four Walls”, originally known as The Room of Four Heavy WallsThe Room With Four Walls or The Silent Room, is taken from Horror World of Junji Ito Volume 6, Souichi’s Diary of Curseswhile “The Sandman’s Lair”, or Den of the Sleep Demon or Where the Sandman Lives, is from House of the Marionettes. The first story is notable for being the collection’s introduction to Soichi, one of Ito’s most famous characters, but it’s the second that truly delivers on exquisite body horror.

Episode 5 – “Intruder” / “Long Hair in the Attic”

“Intruder”, taken from the ninth volume of Horror World of Junji ItoHallucinations, has a clever concept that is horrifying in a low-key, imaginative way, and makes a good pairing with “Long Hair in the Attic”, from Flesh-Colored HorrorThe first story is a fun and clever exploration of alternate realities and doppelgangers, while the second has some frightening sights but also a little catharsis in its story of a young woman and her disinterested boyfriend.

Episode 6 – “Mold” / “Library Vision”

“Mold”, a story adapted from the seventh volume of Horror World of Junji ItoSlug Girl, and “Library Vision”, based on Library of Illusions from New Voices in the Dark, don’t necessarily match as a pair, but they’re solid episodes — the latter especially, a tale about obsession, generational trauma and mania presented in an interesting way.

Episode 7 – “Tomb Town”

A single episode devoted to an adaptation of Street of Gravestones (or Gravetown) from The Circus Is Here, “Tomb Town” is a pretty cool little story about the  literal manifestation of guilt and the perils of refusing to face one’s actions and decisions. This episode mostly relies on its clever concept, but there is some trademark nastiness towards the end.

Episode 8 – “The Layers of Terror” / “The Thing That Drifted Ashore”

Probably the best episode in the collection. “Layers of Fear”, adapted from a one-shot celebrating Ito’s 30th anniversary, is my pick for the most imaginatively disturbing story in the entire collection. And “The Thing That Drifted Ashore”, adapted from a short story from Slug Girl, is a short but effective coda that delivers a really memorable visual just to cap things off.

Episode 9 – “Tomie – Photo”

“Tomie – Photo”, or simply Photograph, has been included in several collections and here in Junji Ito Maniac it provides a nice introduction to the character while also delivering on that quintessential weirdness and visual body horror. I wasn’t crazy about this one but it’s given a full episode to work because Tomie is one of Ito’s most iconic characters.

Episode 10 – “Unendurable Labyrinth” / “The Bully”

“Unendurable Labyrinth”, adapted from Unbearable Maze, the second story in Blood Bubble Bushesand “The Bully”, a story in the same-titled twelfth volume of Horror World of Junji Itoare a pair of stories that focus on distinctly human horror, which give this episode a stand-out feel for how different these stories are from many of the others.

Episode 11 – “Alley” / “Headless Statue”

“Alley”, essentially a murder mystery with a supernatural slant, is adapted from Back Alley, the fifth chapter of The Bully from Horror World of Junji Ito. “Headless Statue”, meanwhile, adapted from Headless Sculptures in Flesh-Colored Horror, is a more classically entertaining Ito short with strikingly awful imagery of severed heads on living statues.

Episode 12 – “Whispering Woman” / “Soichi’s Beloved Pet”

“Whispering Woman” is adapted from the eighth chapter of Ma No Kakera, and treads unusual territory by being rooted in friendship and a positive bond, even if it ultimately goes a bit haywire and violent as expected, while “Soichi’s Beloved Pet”, taken from New Voices in the Dark, pulls a first for Junji Ito Maniac by returning to the same character featured in a previous story.

Thanks for reading our recap of Junji Ito Maniac: Japanese Tales of the Macabre Season 1.

Additional reading:

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