While Stephen King can craft horror with his words, Junji Ito does so with images that haunt even the safest spaces of our minds. Since the late 1980s, Ito has delivered unsettling chills to readers all across the globe, to the point where even people who don't like manga find themselves singing his praises. Naturally, it would come time that some of his best known works would be adapted into an anime in some way or form, which is exactly what Studio Deen (Ranma ½, KonoSuba) has done with the series Junji Ito 'Collection'. While the intention of bringing such an icon's work to life is great, its end result is somewhere between the realm of good and bad.
Told via anthology means a la Tales From the Crypt, Junji Ito 'Collection' brings to life 24 of Ito's works into the anime realm. Mostly stand-alone episodes, these stories push the boundaries by existing for the sake of creeping people out. There are no morals or life lessons to be dealt out, but rather its intention is to keep its audience members awake with its means of unsettling storytelling with some inconclusive endings. From time-to-time, familiar faces like Tomie and Souichi with their own stories to spin for the delight of Ito's most well-versed readers.
First, the good stuff. There were episodes that delivered strongly with creepy vibes. "The Long Dream" stands out as one that brought forth some of the series' most out-there visuals, especially when you see patients deteriorate into freaks of nature due to their sleeping habits. "Shiver" also showcased more unnerving scenes, with mysterious holes appearing on the bodies of those close to a cursed item. It goes without saying that "Greased" made me regret choosing to eat dinner while watching it, as its most grotesque form of zit-popping almost made me vomit. So while there wasn't anything truly scary per se in this adaptation, there was still enough of Ito's trademark unnerving tone to keep viewers drawn into its story.
There are also moments where Junji Ito 'Collection' wound up being very funny, although I am still unsure if that was the true intention of the story. I couldn't help but laugh when watching "The Circus Comes to the Town," where it appeared the worst big top ever was being presented. Stories involving Souichi in the likes of "Cloth Teacher" and "Rumors" led to the creepy protagonist becoming a victim to his own shady pranks. Perhaps the biggest one that gave me a chuckle, "Smashed," showcased people being killed somewhat in a Pythonesque manner after drinking a suspicious nectar.
However, I will be blunt when I say the stories chosen to be adapted can sometimes be a little shaky. What was pulled off flawlessly in the original manga doesn't do so in the anime. Perhaps it's more due to Deen's chosen animation style (which, let's be honest, isn't all that great), but watching such concoctions as the infamous Fashion Model or even Souichi moving about on stilts lead towards the jagged side of animation techniques. There were even instances where I started to wonder whether or not a Japan-based animation company was the right one to lean towards, as there are quite a few American and European animators that could have easily captured Ito's style well in a cartoon format.
It's because of this animation style that it makes it somewhat hard to recommend Junji Ito 'Collection' to those who've never read his original works. Although it's a rather cliché thing to say, this series does not do Ito's stories justice. While there are a handful of tales that do well in animated form such as the Tomie-starring "Painter" and "Marionette Mansion", most of the works presented here are not on the same level of quality as its original manga counterpart. (Maybe it's a good thing that my favorite of Ito's works, "The Enigma of Amigara Fault," didn't get this sort of treatment.)
At the same time, this anime could serve as a safer step into the works of Junji Ito, giving them some sort of idea regarding what they could expect from the actual manga. Even at its most unnerving, the anime won't scar the souls of the viewers like what the manga is able to do flawlessly. Granted, the end results are more akin to a regular fastball than an out-of-nowhere curveball, but it does showcase a good amount of the author's chill factor in the series' most strongest tales. And even the ones that fail to live up to expectations, there's at least something in them that will make you laugh instead of the intended shriek.
With that, Junji Ito 'Collection' gets a passable grade. It's not the strongest anime horror anthology by any means, but there's enough here that will make you curious enough to read Ito's original stories. You'll either walk away from each episode with a cold shiver, a tickled funny bone, or an unfeeling "meh" leaving your lips as the end credits roll. To receive two out of those three reactions from a twelve-episode series (with two bonus Tomie ones added later on the home video release) thereby doesn't make it a bad show, so consider Junji Ito 'Collection' coasting by with a win via the skin of its jagged, rotted teeth.
Check out the first episode here!
Final Grade (not an average):
Junji Ito 'Collection' can be viewed on Crunchyroll, FunimationNOW, and VRV. It has been licensed by Funimation. Episodes 1-12 were observed for this review. Promotional consideration provided by Crunchyroll and VRV.