Horror anime fans haven't had a lot of series and/or movies to really attach themselves to, with the genre certainly not comparable to the likes of Shonen franchises and romantic comedies that help to populate the medium. Luckily, Netflix has given fans an anthology series that brings to life twenty tales of terror from the manga master of horror, Junji Ito. Now, to help you pick which Maniac stories to dig into first, we ranked all twenty-one stories from worst to best to give you an idea of which tales to stick your toes in first.
What many fans might not like hearing is that Junji Ito's Maniac: Japanese Tales of The Macabre is brought to life by the same animation studio responsible for The Junji Ito Collection, the previous anthology series that was quite controversial when it came to the horror anime landscape. Many viewers believed that the series simply wasn't able to live up to Ito's artwork, and while Maniac does look better than its predecessor, there are still some issues with translating the twisted art style of the manga artist. If you're looking for some good scary stories delivered via the anime medium, there are some gems to be found here.
At present, another Junji Ito anime adaptation is in the works, as Adult Swim continues to work with Production I.G. on Uzumaki, the long-awaited series that has been delayed a number of times thanks in part to the coronavirus pandemic. At present, Toonami has yet to reveal if we'll be seeing the series land this year, though there are plenty of horror fans that are crossing their fingers.
In this list, we'll be ranking the individual stories based on the creepiness factor along with whether Studio Deen was able to hit the high marks in bringing Junji Ito's stories to life.
What was your favorite scary story from Junji Ito's Maniac: Japanese Tales of The Macabre? Feel free to let us know in the comments or hit me up directly on Twitter @EVComedy to talk all things comics, anime, and the world of horror.
20.) 4x4 Walls
Soichi is "kind of sort of" the mascot for Junji Ito, with the young troublemaker holding an Addams Family vibe as his stories aren't so much scary as they are comedies. Standing alongside Tomie, the boy obsessed with all things horror will make appearances in many of Ito's spooky stories. Unfortunately, 4x4 walls just really doesn't have anything going for it, with the anime adaptation actually cutting some major elements from the original manga, leaving the story in a place that might have you wondering why the animators even bothered at all. This one's a hard pass.prevnext
19.) Soichi's Beloved Pet
Unfortunately, Soichi stories ended up being the worst parts of Maniac for us, with the follow-up to 4x4 Walls seeing the nail-biting delinquent attempting to mess with his siblings' new cat. The balance between horror and comedy here falls flat, as it had with Soichi's previous outing, as the one terrifying moment wherein the cat brings a creepy creature to its masters' feet is accompanied by goofy music that seems wildly out of place here. Seeing the cat's transformation could have been much more effective but just isn't able to hit as hard as it could here in Japanese Tales of the Macabre.prevnext
18.) The Strange Hikizuri Siblings
There seems to be a theme growing in this list, as The Strange Hikizuri Siblings is another comedy-style story that isn't able to land the necessary balance between the supernatural and whimsy. Most of the aforementioned siblings aren't exactly compelling characters, which could still make the story work here, but it's one that simply isn't able to deliver the scares needed or make viewers become endeared to the Addams Family-like clan. With the story also taking a full half-hour to round the bend, these strange siblings can't rise to the occasion here.prevnext
This is a story that isn't hurt so much by the animation as it is simply the contest of the spooky tale, which isn't really able to deliver any punches in the short amount of time it has to tell. Ultimately, a lot of the story's answers aren't told here, with the viewer needing to break things down for themselves and it just isn't able to truly present any scares thanks to its brevity. It also has a head-scratching ending that is sure to have many horror fans wanting a clearer explanation of the "alternate reality" tale.prevnext
Alley is a short story in the Maniac anthology that suffers from both the story itself and the art leveraged in the animation, as the tale ends with a major exposition dump and the animation cells aren't able to live up to Ito's original work. The shadows themselves here are the big spooky draw of this tale, representing some surprising victims in Alley's runtime, and Studio Deen wasn't able to convey the creepiness of their appearance here, making it for a story that is lower than many of its companion pieces.prevnext
15.) Unendurable Labyrinth
Again, we hate beating a dead horse but when it comes to Maniac, it has to be compared to the original source material. For stories like Unendurable Labyrinth, the tale builds and builds until it ends with a crescendo that would typically highlight the gruesome beauty and detail inherent in Ito's art. Unfortunately, a lot of this detail is lost when it comes to this story focusing on devout monks and thus loses a major punch in its final moments.prevnext
14.) The Thing That Drifted Ashore
This is one of those stories that simply doesn't have much meat on the bone, where it's able to convey a relatively intriguing premise in missing persons seemingly being devoured, and eventually becoming a part of, a mysterious giant sea creature. This short almost felt like a "blink and you'll miss it" affair, though it does get bonus points for allowing Ito's creature designs to run rampant. Give this story a little more time to explore the creature and its twisted inhabitants and it would have been higher on our list. The story did also remove some pretty meaty internal dialogue from the original manga tale, which was unfortunate.prevnext
13.) Ice Cream Bus
Ice Cream Bus is a twisted little tale that has some fun ideas but is fairly boiler plate when you break it down. A terrifying vehicle is making its way to the children of a neighborhood, giving them the chance to scarf down as much ice cream as possible, much to the dismay of the kids' parents. Of course, like many of Ito's stories, things get darker as it marches forward, but this does make for a story that is able to hold its own, though not amongst the higher-ups on the list. You might get the jingle stuck in your head after watching this one.prevnext
Bully is a one and done story that is quite twisted in its content, but Deen's anime adaptation is another one that suffered from not only the lack of Ito's detail, but also finding itself ultimately suffering from not being in a comic book format. There's something to be said when it comes to Junji Ito's stories that make them perfect for manga, as the big reveal of Bully is an absolutely terrifying one, especially when it comes to Ito's design of the villain of the piece. Here, there is definitely something lost in the translation but it's a worthy entry amongst the twenty.prevnext
11.) Whispering Woman
Whispering Woman isn't just a creepy story in its premise, there's just something so unnerving about the titular character, telling the troubled young girl what to do every second of the day, floating around her like an apparition rather than an employee of the girl's father. Ending with a twist that fits well with the many others that Ito has thrown into his stories over the years, the quiet-talking female makes for quite a spooky visual, helping to pull its weight amongst many of its competitors.prevnext
10.) Tomie - Photo
Unlike Soichi or the creepy siblings that kicked off Maniac, Tomie is able to be a Junji Ito recurring character that is able to land efficiently in this anthology story. While the bones of "Photo" might not be as strong as many of the other concepts, the ending of the short is so grotesque and unbelievable that it helps elevate the spine-tingling tale much higher on the list. Tomie is also able to nail the "dark comedy" of the situation that the succubus finds herself in, which might just make your skin crawl.prevnext
9.) Long Hair In The Attic
Now we're getting into the solid entries on the list, as Long Hair In The Attic is able to translate the original Junji Ito story quite well. Focusing on a mysterious noise rising from the attic, the family living in the cursed house come to the realization that the creature in the attic hits a bit too close to home, with the anime adaptation really able to capture the horror of not just the main source of horror, but also the terror on the faces of the residents.prevnext
8.) Library Vision
"Library Vision" is another case where it seems that some material had to be left on the cutting room floor, as there were quite a few story beats that helped expand on the main character and the torment he went through that caused him to become obsessed with his library. While these exclusions might have stopped it from being much higher on our list, the story is still among some of Maniac's best, with the idea of the lead rattling off book after book coming across quite creepy here. Now if only we could get our hands on that "scariest story in the world" that he reads...prevnext
7.) Tomb Town
Tomb Town is another full half-hour episode, painting the picture of a cursed town wherein death makes some major changes to the deceased than is the norm. Studio Deen is able to hit some of the high notes when it comes to Ito's creature design, along with telling a scary story that has an effective beginning, middle, and end. The story itself makes for another example of how Ito wasn't able to tell effective scary stories, but ones that are wholly unique in the world of horror.prevnext
6.) The Story of The Mysterious Tunnel
The Story of the Mysterious Tunnel is able to play on a lot of Junji Ito's strengths, taking an out-there premise while also incorporating some serious scares as the dead within the tunnel have some rather twisted plans in place for the living that are unfortunate enough to step into their domain. Our young protagonist is able to find his missing sister in the tunnel but it's a spooky event that he will regret for however long he has left to live.prevnext
5.) Sandman's Lair
The Sandman's Lair is easily one of Junji Ito's creepiest stories, perhaps one-upping Freddy Krueger and the children of Elm Street by introducing a far scarier dream invader in this story tale. This short was able to get so high on the list not just thanks to its terrifying premise, but also with the animation able to capture the menace of the dream walker who is looking to enter our world by any means necessary. The Sandman's Lair is a home run to get the top five rolling.prevnext
4.) Hanging Balloons
Easily the most recognizable, and perhaps creepiest, of Ito's stories that had yet to be brought to the small screen, the Hanging Balloons is able to capture the feeling of dread while also implementing some unique scares in the anime version. The balloon sounds that emanate from the floating demonic entities are worth mentioning, with the balloons able to bring a creep factor to the anime adaptation that was present in the original manga.prevnext
3.) Headless Statues
Headless Statues might be a shorter entry than the likes of Photo or Hanging Ballons, but it is absolutely effective in presenting an original idea that is incredibly creepy in its delivery. Ito's story here focuses on a young art student who witnesses an exhibit featuring the aforementioned headless statues, and when the tables turn and we enter into the scary part of the tale, it's one of the most effective moments of the anthology series as a whole.prevnext
2.) Layers of Terror
If I had to choose which story of Junji Ito's Maniac: Japanese Tales of the Macabre was the most grotesque and nailed the feeling of Junji Ito as a whole, Layers of Terror would take the cake. The story presents a unique curse unlike anything ever presented in a horror story, with the story ending on such a twisted note that you might find your jaw on the floor. At the end of the day, there was one story that was able to overcome it, even if it wasn't as gorey and/or creepy...prevnext
Mold doesn't just have a fantastic story that highlights some of Ito's strengths in the horror game, but it also has the added benefit of being in black and white, making it seem far closer to Junji Ito's artwork than many of the other stories on the list. This tale revolving around a cursed house and its residents hits that much harder thanks to the decision to sap the color from the proceedings and it makes us wonder if this anthology should have taken a similar approach to its other stories. If you have to show a friend one animated story to sell them on Junji Ito from this anthology, it's Mold.prev