Junji Ito Maniac: An Uneven But Unnerving Anthology


It makes sense that Netflix decided to add Junji Ito’s name to the title of Junji Ito Maniac: Japanese Tales of the Macabre, the new anthology show based on the famed mangaka’s short stories. 

Both for marketing purposes, Ito is one of the most well-known and beloved horror manga writers and artists of all time, and so no one would get it confused with the other Netflix original show titled Maniac (to say nothing of the 1980 film and its 2012 remake).

What doesn’t make as much sense, and frankly feels a bit culturally icky, is the inclusion of the subtitle “Japanese Tales of the Macabre.”

While “macabre” isn’t exactly a misnomer for the stories in the anthology, it feels reductive to the variety of tones in the twenty stories (across twelve episodes) the series offers.

Variety Is The Spice of Horror

While every episode of Maniac is adapted from one of Ito’s short stories by Kaoru Sawada and directed by Shinobu Tagashira, there’s a surprising amount of diversity in the short stories

Not only in their content, which ranges from outright comedy to stomach-churning body horror and atmospheric psychological horror, but also in style. Nothing here is wildly experimental, but some interesting choices set a few of the shorts apart.

The short “Tomie’s Photos” includes shots of rooms that remain static while characters leave and return, as well as a surprising use of dark purple negative images when we see through a film photo camera.

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