Japanese Tales of the Macabre feels less like a respectful adaptation and more like a downgrade of the Junji Ito Collection.
A Collection of Questionable Terror
Do you know what the definition of insanity is? Insanity is doing the exact same thing, over and over again, expecting different results. I bring this up because that is what Junji Ito Maniac: Japanese Tales of the Macabre feels like. The same studio with a good number of the same people behind Junji Ito Collection was given a second chance.
Instead of learning the mistakes from their previous adaptation of Junji Ito’s work, they have doubled down or made it worse. Junji Ito Maniac: Japanese Tales of the Macabre feels less like an original adaptation and more like a downgraded attempt at a Season 2 of the Junji Ito Collection. While it’s not a train wreck of a mess, it fails to capture what makes the manga memorable while also learning nothing from the previous adaptation.
Since I’ve read a good number of the manga that were adapted, I will be comparing the two works. I will judge the Junji Ito Maniac: Japanese Tales of the Macabre based on how it adopted each story and how any changes add value or hurt the overall adaptation.
Terrors of the Deep and Within
Junji Ito Maniac: Japanese Tales of the Macabre is an anthology series based on numerous short stories. Each episode is an adaptation of one or two stories that deal with the unexplained. Of course; stories with iconic characters like Tomie Kawakami, Souichi Tsujii, and Toru Oshikiri have also been adopted.
While the series has its issues, it does have a few gems that are worth watching. Adaptations of “Intruder”, “The Thing That Drifted Ashore”, and “Den of the Sleep Demon” (renamed “The Sandman’s Lair”) were among the works that stood out. “Soichi’s Beloved Pet” was also a great final, because you can’t have a good Junji Ito anthology series without one cat related. Even if they were not a 100% faithful recreation, they still perfectly captured the tone the manga was trying to set.
Of all the stories featured, the crown jewel of the collection has to be its adaptation of “The Bully”. It’s one of the few works that doesn’t involve the supernatural or beings from the cosmos. Instead, it focuses on the monsters we have encountered. If you read the manga, then you know exactly how disturbing and grounded in reality it’s.
While the manga itself was a hard read, the anime adaptation is equally difficult to watch. There are just too many moments where you got to look away as it perfectly captures the horrors of an abusive relationship. Even if some moments are only implied, that alone also makes it difficult to watch. As with the manga, it’s not shocking just to be shocking but instead trying to tell a story that too many will be familiar with.
Escaping the Terror
Despite a few standouts and “The Bully”, it’s not enough to redeem Junji Ito Maniac: Japanese Tales of the Macabre. Everything wrong with it comes down to making the same mistakes as with the Junji Ito Collection.
The most obvious is the animation quality fails to capture what makes Junji Ito’s work stand out. His artistic style stands out and any fan could recognize it right away. That is not seen in this anime adaptation. Instead, it feels like someone trying to imitate his work but on a budget. With the end result is something that is trying to look like Junji Ito’s work but it’s obvious something feels off.
The animation quality was my only issue with the Junji Ito Collection, meanwhile, Japanese Tales of the Macabre makes it worst with the use of CG animation. When used right, CG animation can be a helpful tool that could enhance a moment. But, when used as a time saver then it just looks like an eyesore. Sadly; its use fell into the latter!
I wish its faults were only limited to the animation quality. They even did a poor job of adapting a lot of his work. This becomes obvious starting with “The Strange Hikizuri Siblings” as the beginning makes no sense. That is because this is an adaptation of “The Bizarre Hikizuri Siblings: The Seance” while the start was the conclusion of “The Bizarre Hikizuri Siblings: Narumi’s Boyfriend”. This is not an isolated incident in which key a section or moment of the story has been omitted. Other times, an unnecessary retelling of a moment is made that undermines the overall point of the story.
Junji Ito Collection, to its credit, was a decent attempt that also had some charm. Japanese Tales of the Macabre on the other hand not only failed to learn from its predecessor but also properly adapt the work of Junji Ito. For anyone who has ever been curious about his work, just read the manga collections. Absolutely don’t make this an introduction or you might have a warped persecution of his work.
Disclaimer: I watched this on Netflix, which I pay for.
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Junji Ito Maniac: Japanese Tales of the Macabre (Season 1)
- A variety of Junji Ito stories have been recreated.
- Stories with Tomie and Souichi are a must watch.
- Its adaptation of "The Bully" is a distrubing masterpiece.
- Animation quality fails to capture what makes Junji Ito's work stand out.
- Use of CG animation looks cheap.
- Some adaptations have been poorly retold that undermines its overall point.