As a fan of both the horror genre in general and Junji Ito specifically, Junji Ito Collection is a series I knew I wanted to watch the moment it was announced.
Ito, of course, is a relatively popular horror manga artist with a pretty hefty body of work to draw from. While some of the stories in Ito’s repertoire haven’t really left an impression on me, there were plenty that did. Maybe that’s why I was so disappointed in the majority of this first episode.
Out of all the stories that could have started off this animated venture into Ito’s horror, Souichi is a very weak option with more humour value than horror. For those unfamiliar with Souichi Tsujii, he’s one of Ito’s reoccurring characters. A disturbed schoolboy with a terrible sense of humour, occult-obsessed Souichi thrives on cursing his classmates and traumatizing his siblings. In most cases, we don’t really even know what Souichi’s classmates have done to deserve his ire – he just seems to truly enjoy scaring them. No one actually dies from Souichi’s curses, afterall.
Preemptive apologies to fans of Souichi stories, but…. unfortunately, Souichi isn’t really a compelling protagonist to follow. He’s whiny and annoying, and while he’s certainly disturbed (and disturbing), he’s not dark enough to give this episode the creepy, uncomfortable feeling that I enjoy most when I read Ito’s works. There’s nothing wrong with following the POV of a villain – in fact, it makes things a little more interesting. But Souichi is barely a villain and has neither the morally grey redeeming qualities nor the sheer evil to pull it off. Instead, it’s all a little too ridiculous to become truly invested in.
Episode one doesn’t give us much of a story or a compelling plot – it’s just the haphazard story of Souichi being hopeless and hapless as he tries to teach people a lesson for…. existing, I guess? There’s no real closure, either. It feels like the first chapter in an off-colour sitcom, which isn’t exactly what I so enthusiastically signed up for. If this story had come a little later in the season, I don’t think I’d be as unimpressed, but as a kickoff to the series, it’s a bit lackluster.
The episode includes a shorter story – an adaptation of A Doll’s Hellish Burial – in which children are afflicted by a disease that turns them doll-like and unable to move or speak. When young Marie falls victim to this, her parents find themselves unable to dispose of the body like most parents do. Unfortunately, they soon come to see what happens after the initial doll phase is over. This one definitely was more of a horror aspect, and more of what I was hoping to see from Junji Ito Collection. Unfortunately, it was also a short story and took up only about 2-3 minutes of the episode. Still, given the original promise of characters such as Tomie and this little gem, I’m hoping that my initial reactions are just to Souichi and that the rest of the season will be a little more enjoyable.
So what about the technical details?
Both the voice acting and music are off to a great start, including a very genre-appropriate, stylized opening. Truthfully, though I didn’t like Souichi’s voice, I have to admit that it’s spot-on to what I expected the character might sound like.
The art here is not necessarily the type of stunning that I’m usually in love with in anime series, but it’s pretty true to Ito’s style. Even better, the roughness, occasionally heavy lines (such as around Souichi’s eyes), and lack of detail combine with relatively dreary, dampened colours to create a pretty effective horror atmosphere. Junji Ito Collection’s first episode keeps a closed-in, suffocating feel even in scenes that take in the daytime or outside – a perfect match for the type of horror Ito often writes.
Despite some mixed feelings on the choice of opening story, I’m definitely excited to see what else Junji Ito Collection will bring to life. Even if I didn’t love the majority of the first episode, it was pretty true to its source material and ended with some good Ito flair. Hopefully other Ito fans are feeling hopeful for what’s to come next!
Catch Junji Ito Collection on Crunchyroll on Fridays at 10:30!