“Junji Ito Maniac: Japanese Tales of the Macabre” Episode 10 titled “Unendurable Labyrinth,” or “Unbearable Maze,” begins with an introductory scene in the anime, where a girl starts hyperventilating while there are two other girls who are portrayed sitting down with a flashlight beside them, surrounded by what seemed to be rows of standing dead bodies. The manga begins with two friends, Noriko and Sayako, hiking up a mountain, and after a while, they sit down for a break as Noriko asks Sayako for her reasons for missing school. Sayako’s friends, as well as Noriko, were quite worried for her well-being, and Noriko asked if Hiromi’s words, their friend, were the reason. Sayoka, before she had started missing school, had a fight with Hiromi, which caused her to cut her hair short and also stopped her from attending the classes.
The anime picks up from when after the break, they restart their hiking; however, they lose their way somehow, as they come across a strange temple. They find some strangely haggard monks passing by, and Noriko quickly asks them the way, only to receive no response. The girls look around to find shelter for the night, and they come across a waterfall, where they witness monks training under the waterfall while some of them are suspended from above. The girls were approached by an older monk, who offered them shelter to stay the night as it was already too late for them to go back down the mountain. He leads them to the main temple of the religious sect while also informing the girls about the religion. The concept of the monks’ religion stemmed from Esoteric Buddhism, and the unique beliefs they harbor make their religion different from the rest and having been around long enough made sure that the people couldn’t term it as a new religion. He introduced them to devotees who were not followers of the religion and had only arrived to heal their souls with the meditation the sect offered. He also offered them to stay and hone their cultivation for a few days, similar to the rest of the people present there. Noriko was quick to decline; however, she was forced to accept when Sayako made up her mind to stay.
They start meditating, and Sayako begins to have a flashback to a conversation a friend of hers had behind her back. She had accused Sayako of having a terrible personality, while the anime shows Sayako being stared at by multiple luminescent eyes. The manga gives a more detailed explanation; the friend talking behind Sayako’s back was Hiromi, and her words made Sayako more conscious of people staring at her, leading to her becoming more and more paranoid, which served as the main reason for Sayako’s disappearance at school. The anime picks up from when she quickly jolted out of her reverie as Noriko was swatted for sleeping by the monk keeping a watch on all. Sayako and Noriko were later introduced to another girl, who was their roommate for the time they stayed at the temple.
Aya Kuramoto was a fellow high schooler who had allegedly come to the temple to get rid of her anthropophobia; however, her real reason for coming to the temple was to find her brother, who had gone missing 5 years ago. He had joined the religious order around that time and never returned home. She had found her location through a diary her brother used to keep, which was why she had signed up for the program; however, her search had yielded no results. The next day, in the manga, everybody had been tasked with cleaning the temple. Noriko had started a conversation with Sayako, and she decided to leave together the next day because she did not like the religion and its beliefs very much. However, when she turned around to ask Sayako for her opinion, Sayako seemed to have disappeared.
The anime picks up from here and shows the viewers that Sayako had, in fact, been whisked away by the monk to have a conversation in private, where the monk asks her if she would like to join their religion to get rid of her worries. While returning after having a conversation with the monk, Sayako overheard some of the followers chatting about the Hundred-Man Chorus, which was quite a prestigious event. The followers resolved to work hard so that they could also take part in the event next time. Sayako returned to her room to tell Aya and Noriko about what she had heard. At that moment, a hundred monks finished their ritual of making their way to the temple situated inside a cave. Aya informs the other two girls that the Hundred-Man Contemplation is held once every three years and is a private ceremony held by the monks of this sect. The ceremony included eternal meditation, where the monks followed the rituals of self-mummification. The monk would be called a “living Buddha” only when he is buried underground in a casket; while he is still alive, he will ring the bell until he is already a mummy. During that time, the monk was required to have a diet consisting of raw vegetation and fats that cleansed the body to prevent decomposition and accelerate the process of self-mummification. The practice was considered illegal and was banned regardless of religion. These monks still underwent the process.
As the monks started moving toward the temple, Aya quickly followed them. Noriko and Sayako followed her too. They entered the maze inside the temple, and the only way in was a door behind the Buddhist statue. As they made their way into the maze, they came across the old corpses of the monks who had self-mummified long ago. They followed along to discover fresh corpses; Aya found her brother self-mummified among the rest of the monks. Overwhelmed with grief, she asked the other two to go ahead without her. Sayako and Noriko, however, lost their ways; Sayako broke down under the stares of living dead monks as they found their way into the place where the recent monks had entered to rest.
Physically and mentally exhausted, both Sayako and Noriko could not escape the maze. Meanwhile, the head monk, who had tried recruiting them, was discussing the three girls’ escape and had mentioned that the way would lead them to secular illusion. Thus, it could be assumed that the other two girls, as well as Aya, had perished under the weight of their psychological illusions, which had overwhelmed them to the point of hyperventilation. This story focuses more on the phobia that is brought on by people getting hurt due to the words spoken lightly about them. The phrase “words can hurt more than actions” was presented really well through “Junji Ito Maniac: Japanese Tales of the Macabre” Episode 10 and the manga, as Hiromi’s words had pierced through Sayako, making her fearful of having everybody stare at and scrutinize all her actions. The monks’ stares at the end of the episode had a huge effect on her, which was proven by the introductory scene showing her hyperventilating when they could not get out.
“The Bully” is a short story where a young girl bullies a little boy in her childhood while she comes clean about her actions to her then-fiancé. The anime begins with a group of boys playing in a playground while a young girl watches them. In that group of boys, there was a guy named Yutaro, whom the young girl, whose name was Kuriko, really liked and wanted to play with. But Yutaro wanted to remain cool in front of his friends and thus wanted nothing to do with the girl. While Koriko watched the boys, they would tease her. Similarly, it so happened that when Koriko was watching the boys alone, she was approached by a woman who had her son with her. She introduced her son as Nao to Koriko and asked her if she would play with her son. She entrusted Nao to her and also gave her a chocolate bar to share with Nao. The group of boys now wanted a piece of chocolate, too; however, at that time, she didn’t want to share the chocolate with the boys because it was something she got when she agreed to play with Nao.
As time passed, Nao started to be more and more engrossed with Kuriko, which stopped her from paying more attention to her crush, Yutaro. This made Kuriko feel a little annoyed with little Nao. She started misbehaving with him to make him leave her by himself, but each time she misbehaved with him, he would come back the next day ready to play with her. She started with rather harmless pranks first, where she surprised Nao by screaming a little into his ear and then pulling his ears to check for “humbugs” to scare him away. However, Nao came by the next day and asked her to not hurt him but play with him. This time, while she drinks water, Nao feels thirsty as well; however, she decides to take it further by forcing him to drink sewer water and leaving him there while he sits and cries. Nao returns back again, only for Koriko to threaten him to jump from the slide by making him climb it up. Her plans were foiled when Nao’s mother arrived at the park at that moment. She quickly turned the tables by telling his mother that Nao had gotten on the slide and was crying because he wanted to jump. Nao’s mother rushed to the slide to get her son back. The next day was the final day that Koriko saw Nao because she had taken him to a rabid dog’s kennel and asked her to fetch the ball she threw at the dog as a challenge. If he was successful, she would play with him. However, Nao was injured by the dog, while Koriko ran away and left the situation.
Koriko recounted the tales to her fiancé, as she wanted him to understand her past and also wanted him to accept her after knowing the misdeeds of her past. The plot twist occurs when she admits that her past had a sequel as well because she now tells Yutaro that she had, in fact, met Nao, who is now known as Naoya. At that time, Nao had forgiven all her misdeeds and also admitted to being in love with her since they were young, which is why he had wanted to be around her all the time. He had also thought about her since then and wanted to contact her. Koriko also admitted to Yutaro that that day was not the first time she had met with him. She continued meeting with him, which resulted in her falling in love with him. She told Yutaro that their marriage was off and that she would marry Naoya now. Nao and Kuriko married each other and had a son named Hiroshi. As soon as Hiroshi turned a few years older, Nao saw that he looked exactly like him, and he left Hiroshi and Kuriko alone as he got his revenge against the intense hatred, he actually felt for Kuriko. After a few months had passed, Kuriko realized the revenge Nao had planned for her and then proceeded to treat her son similarly to how she had treated Nao when he was a kid. She overlaps Hiroshi’s face with Nao, and the story ends with her losing her mind and taking Hiroshi to the park to reenact her childhood.
The story focuses on the intrusive thoughts that dwell in a person’s mind, and that push them sometimes to act in a way that is not socially acceptable. Nao had achieved the ultimate revenge that he wanted on Kuriko, and Kuriko, in turn, had forgotten her son and had started to behave just like the bully she was in her childhood. It is unknown how Hiroshi has fared from the unnatural acts she must have put him through. However, the story really brings forward the intrusive thoughts in action and the way a human reacts to a situation not according to their liking.