“Junji Ito Maniac: Japanese Tales of the Macabre” Episode 11, called “Alley” or “The Back Alley,” is a story that involves a tenant finding out about the secrets of the place he is staying at. Ishida, while looking for a boarding room to stay at Shitamachi, stumbles upon a house that has recently started accepting boarders. Mrs. Uchiyama used to lend the room on the second floor for boarders to live in earlier; however, when business had been a little off, she instead let her daughter Shinobu have the room. The manga explains the situation of the Uchiyamas in a bit more detailed manner, as Mrs. Uchiyama’s husband had run off to someplace else, and the Uchiyamas needed some monetary assistance and thus had posted for boarders yet again. When Ichida had accepted the room, she had been joyful, as a lot of students preferred a condo or an apartment to themselves and had stopped staying at boarding houses altogether, thus making it harder for business to come by.
The anime picks up from the landlady making a little conversation with Ishida, while also telling him about Shinobu residing in this room before. She also told him about the rules of the house, where they expect Ishida to join them for food both in the mornings and the evenings, and she also warned about being late some nights due to work and that she might not be able to prepare dinner then, to which Ishida replied that he will manage those times. Mrs. Uchiyama, while exiting the room, quickly scooped up a dead cockroach, which might have escaped somehow, to throw it outside. As she was cleaning the porch, Ishida left the house for a little stroll. On his stroll, in the manga, he was recognized as a tenant by a strange person. In the anime, Ishida simply observed his surroundings, making a note of the tall fence right beside the house. He returned to his boarding room a little later to freshen up and join the family of two for dinner. During the dinner, Ishida asked about Shinobu and learned that she was 14 years old and in middle school. Ishida was reading a book, namely “The Hell of Thorns.” This served as a little nod to the second story of “Junji Ito Maniac: Japanese Tales of the Macabre” Episode 6, “Library Vision.” While he was going to sleep, sleep evaded him with the noises, which sounded like children playing at night, that carried over to his room. Ishida, the new Spiderman in Junji Ito’s universe, climbed out of the window to hold on to the fence as he almost slipped to look into the alley beside the house. However, he just saw an empty alley, so he went back to sleep.
The next day, while Ishida was organizing his books and other belongings, Shinobu came around to help. He admitted to listening to some children playing in the alley; however, when he checked the alley, he saw nothing. Shinobu at first told him that the sound travels through the alleys due to the town having a lot of them and that it was the same when she lived in that room. Then she realized what he had said and was alarmed when he mentioned that he had climbed out the window to see if the noises were coming from the alley beside him. She further interrogated him by asking him about the window, to which he pointed to the open window in the room. Shinobu warned him to be careful with his safety and not attempt that again. Later that day, the noises started yet again, but this time they were followed by a deep, raspy voice that called out Shinobu’s name like a curse. This spooked Ishida. As he went on a walk the next day, he was confronted by the stranger, who was earlier mentioned in the manga as somebody who was observing him. The stranger introduced himself as a former tenant from ten years ago and asked if Ishida had stayed in the same room as he had. He then proceeds to tell Ishida about the truth hiding in that alley as he informs him of a hidden window located behind the bookshelf in that room.
The stranger also recounts his tale of noticing the stained outline of a few kids who came out to play in that alley and that those kids were murdered. Ishida, in disbelief, returned, yet he couldn’t shake the premonition he felt, so he made up his mind to look through the room and locate the hidden window. He removed the books while moving the bookshelf to the side to reveal the hidden window. Curiosity got the better of him as he saw the rope attached to a wooden beam in front of the window, a way to climb down and check out the alley by himself. Ishada witnessed the stains and climbed down to inspect the locked door located on the road. He broke the lock only to find out that the stranger was, in fact, not lying; however, when he tried to climb back up, Shinobu pushed him back down with the help of a knife as she admitted to her crimes with a certain glee. She admitted to killing the children who had dared to play in that alley and had bullied her, two of her classmates who she hated, and her nagging father. As she was admitting these crimes, her mother had left for work, and Ishida had passed out from the injuries. The corpses had become stains on the wall.
Shinobu climbed out of that window with the help of the rope to finish the job; however, the rope broke, and as the sun set slowly, it fueled the spirits, looking for retribution, while Shinobu sat there in absolute fear of what was to come. Her father had constructed the tall fence after he discovered the corpses, and after she had killed the two girls, he had tried to stop her but had, however, ended up being killed. Her mother did not know that her husband had, in fact, not left her but rather had become a corpse. The stains became violent at night, and they planned to take their revenge on her. Shinobu is defined as a textbook psychopath who felt no other emotions and, in fact, relied on the one emotion that she felt while killing those people, glee. She was also quick to brag about her crimes after she had been discovered, as she viewed them not as crimes but as something the other party deserved. On the other hand, the story serves the ultimate retribution as a scared Shinobu waited in the alley for her sentence. The tormented souls who had waited for the moment to get their revenge had finally found that opportunity, thus giving the story a final end. However, it is unclear if Ishida had passed out due to injuries, exhaustion, and fear or if he had ended up dead as well, alongside Shinobu, in the retribution. It can only be assumed that if Ishida had escaped unscathed, then maybe Shinobu’s mother could have saved him along with the stranger. However, it is simply an assumption.
“Headless Statue” or “Headless Sculptures” is the story of Mr. Okabe, a renowned sculptor who theorized removing the heads from his creations as he wanted art to be represented through the flow of the bodies of the sculptures. He told his students, Rumi and Shimada, that his inspiration came from the famous paintings of the past and present, which have either a faint smile or portray little emotion on their faces. However, the art is showcased by the draping of their clothes as well as the way their bodies are placed. He wanted to achieve such perfection by removing the heads to cut down on the emotions that the faces showcased and present limitless possibilities to the public.
In the manga, Mr. Okabe insists on Shimada returning with his friend Rumi; however, Shimada assures him that his parents are out, and he needs to help him with the art project as a proud member of the art club. Rumi and Shimada have a falling out, and Rumi leaves them to their work in a huff. The next day she visits Shimada’s house to walk to school; however, Shimada calls in sick. Rumi leaves his house and goes to school herself. The anime picks up after Rumi reaches her school to discover the students gathered and the police on duty. She asks her friends Sanae and Masami about the situation after they informed her of Okabe’s death and that his head was missing. Rumi recalled Shimada staying late and rushed over to his house to check on him. In the manga, Rumi had almost told her other students about Shimada, but she stopped; later, the students were made to leave earlier than the usual time as an emergency was called. Rumi had walked to Shimada’s house, but she had not rung the bell; she had left that day. The next day, Shimada walked to his school in his winter uniform, and as Rumi was leaving for home, he held her back and asked her why she hadn’t come by in the morning. Rumi noticed the mask, and in return, she asked if he still had that cold. Shimada confessed to having fallen in love with her and constantly dodged Rumi’s questions. He then asked if she was accusing him of the murder and replied that his love for her made him do a lot of things as an excuse. He tells her that he will tell her the truth and asks her to follow him on a walk. The anime picks up from here and adds a twist where Rumi has a conversation with him the day, she goes to check up on him after hearing the news. Shimada here asks her to follow him to the school as he promises to tell the truth.
Sanae and Misana, on the other hand, stay back even after the announcement asks for the students to leave. Misana had left her books back in the art room; she needed them for her test tomorrow, so they went to the art room, where Okabe was murdered, and started finding the book. However, as they searched for Misana’s book, they looked away only for the scene to reveal Okabe with his face stretched out, taking on a purplish tint, his mouth opens to show his teeth, and his jaw dislocated. The scene then cuts to Shimada escorting Rumi to where Shimada had said Okabe was currently. He escorts her to the art room, where Rumi gets a distinct smell of rotten flesh. In the manga, this is where she discovers the statues’ disappearance, and she asks if the police have taken them away, only for Shimada to remove his mask. In the anime, Shimada locks the door and proceeds to remove his mask, while Rumi gets scared and worried to see Shimada bleeding from his mouth. Rumi gets confused about where his voice is coming from because Shimada’s face does not move to articulate any of the words he is speaking. He introduces Okabe as he takes his head from the statue and drops it. He moves closer to Rumi so that he can get her head as well. Remi slaps him, only to witness his head fall off. Rumi tries to escape, which is when she breaks the sculpture to get the key and runs out of the place. However, the statue that had Okabe’s head on it followed Rumi with a knife. She opened the door and finally escaped into the corridor, only to be confronted by other statues. She rushes upstairs and shuts herself in a class to escape; as she turns back, she realizes that she has reached the wrong classroom as she witnesses the bodies of her friends and classmates on the floor while the statues are fighting and clamoring for their heads. They quickly noticed Rumi and rushed toward her as she became trapped between the statues wearing the students’ heads while the other headless statue took hold of her from behind and rushed with the knife to cut her head off.
The statues wanted to replicate the feeling of looking pretty, which is quite similar to current trends, where a lot of people try out plastic surgery in the hopes of dealing with insecurity and also looking like their favorite celebrity. They tried out different heads as a way to complete themselves; however, as soon as they saw Rumi, they wanted to have her head. She was considered pretty by the statues’ standards, as they repeatedly confessed their love for her and exclaimed their desire to have her head. Okabe had somehow given them life but had left them incomplete, which could be taken as a metaphor. Humans can go through any measure to feel complete, sated, and satisfied. This has been proven through the decades of history that the civilizations have, from drinking blood to looking young to injecting synthetic products, tried everything to stop aging. Therefore, through the statues, Junji Ito had unleashed the greedy nature of a human, and as the statues had just started replicating human behavior, they, too, wanted to also feel complete. Their biggest insecurity was their missing head, and they could even use their maker to achieve the perfection they sought. It only goes to show how humans have used their religion, their makers, and sometimes even their parents to get what they wanted. Thus, similar to most of his stories, Junji Ito called out the farces of society.