It’s peak spooky season, which means we’re ready to indulge in all things scary! Over the last few decades, there have been several unique horror titles with Halloween-worthy inclusions, but there’s something undeniably chilling about Junji Ito’s anime series, Junji Ito Collection.
The popular anime anthology adapts some of the horror mastermind’s darkest hair-raising tales into various shorts, elevating his work to new heights as a respected and unapologetic horror title.
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With an understanding that runtime is crucial in the genre, even the very first few moments of the introductory segment soaks up the ambiance made famous by Ito—enhancing the tone of his eerie universe.
Throughout its 12-episode run (with 24 individual segments and two OVAs), there’s an overwhelmingly wide variety of condensed horror to take in, so you can easily find yourself still reeling from one short while the others continue to introduce new terrors. Luckily for you, we’re here to handpick the most appropriately ominous segments from Junji Ito Collection so you can have the perfect Halloween marathon to partake in.
“The Fashion Model”
In the second episode of the series, the short story “The Fashion Model,” we’re reminded that the pursuit of fame can be deadly…well, that and an inhuman murderer, but both have equal potential.
In this early chapter, aspiring screenwriter Iwasaki discovers a photo of a model in a magazine with very prominent, elongated features that promise nothing but nightmares. Unable to shake the woman’s unsettling stare from his mind, he begins to work on a film festival entry and the team begins its hunt for the film’s heroine.
Among the applicants is the aforementioned model named Fuchi, and to Iwasaki’s dismay, the group enlists her for a spot opposite the role she was seeking. When the team goes into the woods to shoot, things take quite a grisly turn and the outcome is something you’ll just have to see for yourself.
What makes this particular short a noteworthy entry is the fact that the visuals that stay with Iwasaki can have a similar effect on a first-time viewer. The invasive close-ups, or slow pan to reveal bloodshot eyes and a demonic grin make this unique depiction one of the series most visually striking characters.
Ito’s story “Used Record” creates a new urban legend of a haunting voice rooted in tragedy, and the result is nothing shy of disturbing.
In the first few moments of this music-focused tale, we become privy to the desperation of one young woman seeking a record player to play a one-of-a-kind song. Upon meeting an employee at a record store, she’s nearly attacked to obtain the original music and we quickly find out the haunting backstory behind the rare item.
According to rumors, the singer was found dead in the studio where the song was unexplainably recorded posthumously. Depicted as a voice full of sorrow and pain, the song offers a more auditory discomfort unlike some of the more visceral tendencies of Junji Ito Collection.
Aside from the song and urban legend, the music also causes a loss of morality to obtain the recording for themselves—because a spirit-like entity with Ariana Grande whistle-tone capabilities isn’t enough!
Between the over-exaggerated and accidental nods to stan-culture and the notion of music being birthed from tragedy, “Used Record” presents a few timely horror concepts years after conception.
“Town of no Roads“
Out of all of these selections from Junji Ito Collection, the short titled “Town of no Roads” juggles the most ideas in one story.
Even though the majority of shorts included on this list are from differing episodes, this is the only complete episode (Episode 7) to make the countdown. Following the contained abnormalities of the previous “Used Record” tale, this is a much more ambitious narrative with little time to execute.
Starting off with the idea that a young woman (Saiko) is being spied on in her own home, the story immediately causes distrust as a viewer. Questioning every character’s motives, it makes perfect sense to support Saiko’s motion to escape and find her aunt—but that’s when things take yet another turn.
Over the next half of the segment, the mental state of this society rapidly declines and the lack of privacy becomes a much bigger issue outside of Saiko’s initial encounter. Getting to see both personal and general versions of this invasive virus overcome society makes for an uncomfortable ride.
Of all of Ito’s selections in the series, “Town of no Roads” has the most potential to expand and it’s always better to leave people wanting more.
In “Marionette Mansion,” we quickly condense protagonist Haruhiko’s life into a span of several minutes, and it’s one of Ito’s biggest accomplishments.
Through the idea of Ito’s shorts, or even the concept of the anime adaptation, there’s an added obstacle that comes with trying to world-build with time constraints. That’s not to say it’s impossible, because the series is filled with complexity, but “Marionette Mansion” intertwines horror, plot and ambiguity, into one concoction of anime horror flawlessness. In the story, Haruhiko has spent the majority of his life alongside his family: a troupe of natural puppeteers.
Years after his brother left the family (with a belief about puppets controlling us) they find each other as adults who have completely lost contact. He soon discovers his brother’s family is completely committed to being controlled by strings via unseen puppeteers, and that’s when things get even more bizarre.
As his younger sister begins to accept this new lifestyle choice, he feels drawn back to the house repeatedly, and each visit brings cause for concern. The mini-story brings a lot of suspense regarding the fate of Haruhiko and his potential life post-puppeteer, which all culminate in a cinematic bloodbath.
As if the vengeful puppet act isn’t enough to bring the spooks, the questionable conclusion of “Marionette Mansion” makes this one stick with you long term.
“The Window Next Door”
If you’ve ever been a little uneasy about a neighbor, access to your window or a voice keeping you up at night, look no further!
The sixth episode of the series brings a family to a new home, with the son Hiroshi being the only unhappy person in the scenario. One evening, Hiroshi begins to hear the elderly woman next door call out to him, and upon viewing, is terrified by her ferocious yet corpse-like appearance.
She spends her nights calling to him and attempting to climb in through his window, leaving him extremely vulnerable. During the day, even as he passes by her home, the masterful transitions to a peephole view enhance the fear of her unknown existence.
The entire runtime creates an unshakable dread for Hiroshi and anyone in his dire circumstances, feeling like another one of Ito’s campfire-worthy stories for years to come.