For those familiar (and enthusiastic) about Junji Ito’s work, such as myself, this anime was one of this season’s welcome surprises. Did the first episode of Junji Ito Collection live up to the expectations? Let’s find out.
Japanese Original Episode Title: 双一の勝手な呪い / 地獄の人形葬
The first Junji Ito Collection episode comes in two very disproportionate segments: the first is the story of Souichi Tsujii, a boy who is rather peculiar by nature, and by peculiar I mean unnecessarily creepy. He seems to think of himself as special, as he has the gift to perform mostly voodoo-based curses which he experiments with on random people. On this episode, he takes out his voodoo dolls for a walk in the forest and manages to give out a more pathetic/annoying, rather than creepy, vibe. He eventually ends up hanging upside down from a tree with an angry landowner throwing axes at him and having his brother saving his sorry ass.
The second (and much, much shorter) segment of the episode is the brief story of a couple whose daughter is turning into a wooden doll. Instead of discarding her non-functioning body, her parents keep her. However, when her body keeps transforming into worse and darker things, they decide to get rid of her.
Themes & Trivia
Souichi’s backstory: The first part of the episode is following almost to the letter Junji Ito’s short story on Souichi named Souichi’s Selfish Curse. There is, however, another story on Souichi preceding this one, where we are first being introduced to his… unique character. Fun fact: he constantly chews on nails because he’s anemic. I’m sure he could have found something less sharp to keep in his mouth, but then again, nothing could be as handy for a voodoo practitioner. AMIRITE?
Learn your grammar: When Souichi’s brother makes fun of him for mistakenly using his vocabulary, Souichi refers to himself as being ‘jyuuninnami’ (十人並み), probably believing the word means ‘unique’. In fact, he even changes the first part of the word (the kanji 十, (jyuu) ten, to 百, (hyaku) hundred), trying to emphasize his point. Unfortunately for him, the word means ‘average’ and ‘common’, which allows his older brother to make fun of him.
Voodoo: If you’ve got the slightest idea of what voodoo is, you’re probably aware of the fact that it is not exactly rooted in Japanese tradition. Voodoo is an Afro-American religious tradition often abused by various forms of media, but what we see in this episode being performed by Souichi is not voodoo: it’s Ushi no toki mairi (丑の時参り), ‘the ox-hour shrine visit’, a traditional Japanese method of laying a curse. To lay the curse, you must, just like Souichi, wear white, place a bunch of candles on your head, and hammer nails in a sacred tree of a Shinto shrine. If performed repeatedly for seven days in a row, the curse is believe to achieve the target’s death.
Fun fact: Junji Ito, before becoming a mangaka, was a practicing dentist. That probably explains where he got the inspiration for most of his horror stories.
I’m not impressed by the first episode of Junji Ito Collection. Being a fan of his manga work, I was expecting to be blown away. However, I feel that the animated rendering of his stories is not really adding anything to the already existing value of Junji’s work – and that is never a good thing.
Apart from the fact that I wasn’t even a little bit disturbed by Shouichi’s story, I felt that the show was severely lacking in terms of filming and animation techniques – it didn’t make me feel anything, which is the exact opposite of what Junji’s work does: it manages to profoundly disturb the reader in the simplest of ways. A good example of this was how much more effective the second short story was, compared to that of Shouichi; it was inexplicable, appalling and straight to the point. In the manga’s case, it was also an opportunity to show off some drawing skills.
Also, the music of the show is just bad. Probably took 10 minutes to write on a keyboard set.
I would have opted for a stronger start
Please get better. I was really looking forward to watching this show and I really enjoy Junji Ito’s work. I don’t want to finish this with a bitter taste in my mouth.
What did you think of the Junji Ito Collection’s first episode? Did you expect a better story to start with? Let us know in the comment section below! And don’t forget to check the rest of the Winter 2018 anime reviews on MANGA.TOKYO!