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Junji Ito Maniac: Japanese Tales of the Macabre Review – A Mixed Anime Anthology

January 18, 2023

The post Junji Ito Maniac: Japanese Tales of the Macabre Review – A Mixed Anime Anthology appeared first on Ready Steady Cut.

This review of the Netflix anime anthology Junji Ito Maniac: Japanese Tales of Macabre Season 1 is spoiler-free.

Some horror creators have a knack for images and concepts that make the average viewer worry about their sanity. How many times, for example, have you read a Stephen King book and thought, “Who would even think of that? Junji Itōthe Japaneses manga artist, is the same way. Some of his best work is also his most confusing, in the sense that you can’t see how a sane person could find it. Luckily – or not, I suppose, depending on your sensibilities – some of that best work is being adapted into the new netflix anime anthology, Junji Ito Maniac: Japanese Tales of the Macabre.

Junji Ito Maniac: Japanese Tales of Macabre Criticism and Plot Summary

The twelve-episode series, which includes 20 stories drawn from Ito’s collected works, gives color and voice to increasingly twisted tales, some of them featuring familiar concepts and characters. The work remains recognizable if, in this form, somewhat detached from its original incarnation, like watching a cover band cover songs you love. The ideas are there, but the execution – Ito has licensed the adaptation of his work but hasn’t contributed to the series beyond that – sometimes leaves a bit to be desired.

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The basic idea, however, is quite simple: here are some people, bad things are going to happen to them. You may recognize some people. You might have trouble digesting some things. Some episodes tell a single story, while others contain two. There’s no narrative continuity, but the art and animation styles remain relatively consistent and always underwhelming unless something terrible happens, although it’s true that something terrible does happen generally. There’s not really a unifying theme in the curation, but there are some commonalities, particularly in sibling relationships, and a perverse fascination with heads, especially if they’re grotesquely enlarged or absent altogether.

You wouldn’t tell it was Ito’s job at a glance, but after five minutes you would know for sure. Again, it comes back to this unique, weird and horrifying imagination, this feeling that no one else could have imagined something so sinister. However, I wasn’t entirely sold on episodes that combine two stories, because sometimes it’s better to let even the most horrible ideas breathe and develop. Ten minutes barely seems enough to tell a story, and some episodes suffer from their brevity.

The inclusions are also sometimes mystifying. Sure, some will stick with you for their devilish imagery or concept, but others go almost unnoticed, and several hardly feel worth the effort to adapt in the first place. None are bad in the sense of not working at any level, but some are not thrilling or scary. Highlights are so nasty they downgrade average offerings to real trouble.

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Junji Ito Maniac: Is Japanese Tales of the Macabre Any Good?

It could rightly be said that this is an Ito collection best suited for those unfamiliar with the work of the mangaka. Elements — such as the opening credits song, use of color, and part of the curation — are less likely to really annoy someone who doesn’t come in with expectations. Those who know their Ito tradition well will find trouble that makes Maniacal the latest in a long line of slightly mishandled adaptations that don’t look quite right.

But do not get me wrong. Fans of the macabre will find here, as the title suggests, lasting images, stories that will absolutely wander through their brains for quite some time after watching. You’ll ask, many times, who could possibly come up with this, and that’s, I guess, exactly what you’re looking for.

You can stream the Netflix anime anthology Junji Ito Maniac: Japanese Tales of the Macabre Season 1 exclusively on Netflix.

Further reading:

  • Junji Ito Maniac: Japanese Tales of the Macabre Season Recap.
  • Will there be a Junji Ito Maniac: Japanese Tales of Macabre Season 2?

The post Junji Ito Maniac: Japanese Tales of the Macabre Review – A Mixed Anime Anthology appeared first on Ready Steady Cut.