Directed by Shinobu Tagashira and featuring a soundtrack provided by Yuki Hayashi, “Junji Ito Maniac: Japanese Tales of the Macabre” is an anthology that includes some of the most bizarre and dreadful horror tales created by none other than a genius in the horror genre, Junji Ito. The intro and the outro of the first episode describe perfectly what went through the maestro’s mind, as the outro focuses on how he visualized and maybe had used his own blood to create masterpieces when he did not find a pen or ink of any kind. The visual trajectory in the intro explores a rather colorized version of a glimpse into his mind as the patterns and designs describe an absolutely fascinating psychedelic experience. The first episode retells the story of “The Strange Hikizuri Siblings” while referencing “The Second Daughter’s Lover” as well.
“The Strange Hikizuri Siblings” begins with an eerie and unsettling backdrop as the characters are gradually shown looking at the camera. Their gazes are breaking the fourth wall and staring at the audience while there seems to be a body burning right in front of them. The burning body seems to resemble that of a mannequin. This seems to be a reference to an earlier story that takes place before the present timeline. As all of the siblings look at the audience one by one, the introductory scene fades out, and the episode begins its tale. The characters are then introduced one by one while they gather outside their home to see their big brother off as he leaves them for work. Kazuya Hikizuri is introduced as the head of the family. He is 19 years old, and he takes care of his other siblings. According to his brothers and sisters, Kazuya is an elite at an insurance company who has to leave early in the morning and returns home when it is dusk. The siblings chat along as they are introduced in descending order, with Kinako Hikizuri taking the lead after Kazuya. Kinako is introduced as a chubby 18-year-old who is also suffering from body dysmorphia as she projects her insecurities on Shiguro, who is 16 years old and is one of the middle siblings in the family.
Shiguro is introduced as a sloppy and mannerless teen who harbors a little grudge against his big brother. Narumi, the other middle sibling, is introduced as more normal according to the standards of society, more conventionally attractive than her siblings, and yet indifferent and fed up with their antics. She is 14 years old, and she generally keeps to herself and ignores the rest of the siblings when they argue. Hitoshi, one of the youngest siblings who is 10 years old, is introduced as the sibling that gets bullied the most due to his timid and shy nature. Just like other family dynamics, Hitoshi, as one of the youngest siblings, has to be at the beck and call of his other siblings. He has to take care of their youngest, Misako, who is just 8 years old, whenever she throws a tantrum. Due to the years of being bullied, Hitoshi has a rather dark aura surrounding him and is usually quite morose. Misako is introduced with a bratty personality and is the most vicious of them all. She uses her nails as claws as she scratches Hitoshi’s face when he goes to comfort her. Her other siblings usually give in to her demands due to her willful nature.
Every day, it is a ritual for the Hikizuri siblings to gather in front of their mansion and see off their brother Kazuya as he leaves for work. Kazuya, after leaving, does not go to work; instead, he loiters around and spends his time at the park or near the pond. He puts up the act of going to the office in front of his siblings to act as their role models; however, the money that he receives as a salary is none other than the inheritance left by the Hikizuri family for them. In the episode, while he was lazing around near the pond, he met Sachiyo, a spirit photographer. Sachiyo was clicking pictures of the pond to capture supernatural phenomena, and Kazuya invited her for a tour around their creepy mansion. Kazuya had a keen interest in Sachiyo, which made him introduce her to his other siblings. Their tour is hijacked by Shiguro, who almost creepily salivates over Sachiyo. Shiguro shows Sachiyo the tomb of the boyfriend of Narumi, while Sachiyo takes pictures of the siblings as well as the surroundings for more eerie evidence. Shiguro passes the tomb off as a joke, but those who have read the prequel to this manga know that it heavily references the prequel. The viewers who are puzzled about the scene where they burn a mannequin and stare at the audience, as well as the mention of the tomb, are puzzled by references to the prequel, which involves Narumi, who is portrayed as having a better grasp at sanity among the weird siblings.
In the prequel, Narumi runs away from the mansion after being fed up with her siblings’ antics, and as she runs away, she finds solace at her high school senior’s place. Her senior Kotani takes her home as he discovers her attempting suicide. After a few days, he does try to make her go back to the mansion, however, in vain, as Narumi threatens him with self-harm. The siblings decide to send Shiguro to find Narumi and bring her back. As they do so, the siblings also plan on pranking Kotani and luring him to the mansion, where they display the burnt mannequin as Narumi and try to make him kiss the chopped-off burnt head of the mannequin. Kotani, disgusted, tries to escape from this torture and comes face-to-face with what he thinks is the ghost of Narumi. He dies of a fatal heart attack, and Narumi was in on the plan as well as encouraging it. Thus, they buried him with the burnt mannequin, and now his tomb serves as a tourist attraction while they show it off to Sachiyo.
Sachiyo took her pictures and left the siblings alone, which made Kazuya decide to hold a séance after Misako cried over her parents at the dinner table. Here, Hitoshi gets clawed by Misako after he is tasked with comforting her as his other siblings remain indifferent to the incident and argue amongst each other, and Narumi leaves them to it. Kinako, after agreeing with Kazuya, left to invite Sachiyo for the séance as the rest organized resources for the event. Sachiyo arrived with her boyfriend, Sawano, who is a physics major and is equally intrigued by the siblings. As the séance begins, Kazuya is irritated by Sawano’s presence, and instead of Kazuya, it is Shiguro who is possessed by the spirit of their father, Gozo. Before Shiguro began his winning performance act, Misako created a scene and distracted Kazuya from completing the ritual. As usual, Hitoshi had to take care of her, and Misako bit him, which led him to leave the séance and find comfort at their parents’ graves.
Shiguro, meanwhile, vomited out ectoplasm, and Sawano quickly grabbed a sample of it before Misako happily took it to call for Masue, their mother, as she thought that the ectoplasm would take her mother’s shape. Shiguro established his dominance over Kazuya, as he was still angry from the argument they had had during dinner, by pretending to be Gozo. He became the head of the family for a short while, as he sent Kazuya the next day over to Sachiyo to invite her to another séance. Here, Kazuya came to know that the ectoplasm was just wheat flour after Sawano had examined the sample. He returned home and admonished Shiguro, while Hitoshi exhibited the true nature of being possessed. The ectoplasm that escaped from Hitoshi took the shape of Gozo, followed the terrified siblings around, and disappeared into the grave. Hitoshi was possessed because he was the only sibling who had enough spiritual energy to act as a vessel for supernatural beings. This was captured by Sachiyo in the picture she took of Hitoshi during the tour. Hitoshi was surrounded by what seemed like numerous spirits, while the mansion was haunted by just a few.