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Halloween with the Junji Ito Collection!

Halloween with the Junji Ito Collection!

Date Published: Wed, 3rd Nov, 2021

Halloween was the talk of the week and the days leading up to it were full of spooky surprises and grim grins as the fright hype made its way around the neighborhoods. Too old to trick and treat and too far from the city to spend the night with friends, my agenda for Halloween night was to sit in bed with a coffee, my house locked up tight and the lights all turned off. Impromptu as it may seem, I'm not the slightest bit ashamed to divulge the details of how I spent Halloween 2021.

I live in a rather secluded area, so the only thing I needed to get into the Halloween spirit was to take a quick walk through the woods after dark with nothing but my phone to light the way. After my imagination and regret got the better of me, I hightailed it back into the house, bolted the doors shut and hyperventilated for a few seconds. Once the transient panic was over and I was able to see the humor of my situation, I took a warm shower (while staring the bathroom door) and decided it was spooky time. A warm coffee in hand and some double & triple-checking the locks later, I made my way into the safety of the bedroom and opened up the laptop to decide upon the entertainment for the night. I quickly discovered that the wifi was down and so pulled out the old 3TB Hard Disk to pick out something from my collection. This stash goes back to 2014 so believe me when I say it's something I'm quite proud of. In the horror stash, sandwiched between Highschool of the Dead (no ecchi folder was made for obvious reasons) and Kagewani (don't watch it) was a title I'd always looked over: Junji Ito Collection. And that brings us to the highlight of my Halloween.

I'm not here to tell you that Junji Ito Collection is the best anime out there or that it's the most horrific one, because it's neither of those. It's an obscure title lost in the realms of a jam-packed genre; the Junji Ito collection is a rather niche anime spoken of today only by the more dedicated fans of horror anime culture. It was the perfect pick for my setup. Obscure anime have the distinction of making you feel like you're the only one to come across a story and for a horror anime on Halloween night, this is the perfect setup. The 12-episode horror anthology series animates some of Junji Ito's most renowned titles from within his collection, more specifically from the 11th volume of the Junji Ito Masterpiece Collection and the Fragments of Horror.

It's basically a collection of 24 short horror stories spread across 12 episodes with no continuity and a totally unique premise each time. I am a firm believer in the fact that what makes horror work is the imagination of the subject, and with the rich diversity of stories provided as fodder for my imagination, the Junji Ito Collection succeeded in driving my dreams into overdrive once I was through with my binge. I wouldn't recommend anyone to watch it at night, particularly not if they have an active imagination. Simple as its formula may be, reviewing the Junji Ito Collection is a tricky field to navigate as it's terribly easy to spoil the short stories since there's not much beating around the bush as far as the plot is concerned. I'll pick two of the earlier stories as templates to base my review on, so a mild spoiler warning is now in effect for thr rest of the article.

The pilot episode covers the story of Souichi, a class creep who has the ability to place curses on those he doesn't like. Be it burying people alive or inflicting great pain upon them or anything in between, it's all under Souichi's control. What immediately struck out about the story was the intimate detail with which we were allowed to spectate Souichi's life. Class creeps are a widely used character profile in anime, but to see such a character becoming the highlight of a story remains an underutilized theme. While I won't elaborate more on the direction Souichi's story takes, the episode does a great job of placing you in his shoes, as uncomfortable as the experience may be for anyone with a hint of sanity within them. You get to watch the train wreck unfold firsthand and see the consequences of his actions make themselves apparent in course of the short story. It's hardly fifteen minutes long, but by the end of the story, you're just glad it's over, completely unaware that you've only just gotten a taste of Junji Ito's style of storytelling.

Evoking a sense of abject horror isn't the goal of any Junji Ito story, regardless of its classification under the genre. The stories aim to intrigue, captivate and revolt- all in that order. There is no fixed formula for any story; Junji Ito's unique style percolates through the bias created by typical horror anime and hits home right in your soul.

The second story deserving of a highlight is that of the Boy at the Crossroads. A small town plays host to a disturbing legend: women keen on having their romantic fortunes told can stand at one of the corners of the Crossroads and wait for the boy to come strolling out of the eerie mist. Upon respectfully posing the question to him, his reply will be indicative of the events that shall soon come to transpire. Short and sweet, this legend is the focus of the story and is told through the experience of three school students, one of whom finds himself inescapably intertwined with the legend. As the minutes pass and the story develops, so will your sense of apprehension at the events which unfold. Truly masteful, Junji Ito's way of making fifteen minutes seem like an hour is a skill exercised in most of his stories, making your binge feel like an eternity of discomfort and paranoia dashed by the occasional jolt of fear.

Although I fell asleep seven episodes into the binge, Junji Ito's works have left an indelible mark in my experience with horror anime; an experience I'm keen to turn into a yearly tradition. If this story leads you to watch the collection yourself, I'm very keen to read your feedback. Adilsons' anime groups on whatsapp and Discord are two of the best places to do so. However, as far as I'm concerned, I just may have struck spooky gold in my 3TB stash of anime!
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