“Layers of Terror,” or as also known, “Layers of Fear,” is the first story of “Junji Ito Maniac: Japanese Tales of the Macabre” Episode 8. It begins with an introductory scene where Professor Soya, Yamaoka, and a few others are excavating the Ajime Shell Mound Site in the year 1996. Professor Soya and Yamaoka discuss the unusual find as they figure out what stratum the excavated field could belong to. The field had taken on a shape that resembled the shape of a human in layers. What the anime does not mention is that Professor Soya was a genius in stratigraphy, which is why he could recognize any of the strata or sedimentation formed in the soil.
During the excavation of the human-shaped, layered stratum, they come across a skull that belonged to a child, and the rest of the people present at the site gather around to witness the discovery of another historic or geological feat. Professor Soya, after the excavation is over, explains to the rest that this was done as a ritual, where the child was bound and put to rest. The tomb to protect the child was created by a layer of soil shaped to resemble a human, and similar layers of clay were layered above it to make the tomb grow bigger and bigger. After they discovered it and Soya removed the skull from its resting place, an ominous rain that was not previously forecast put all the other excavations on hold as the people rushed to save the site. Only Soya did not move from his place, as he was oddly fixated on the skull he held in his hand.
The scene shifted to 21 years after the excavation, where Professor Soya’s family was returning from his 13th annual memorial. The car was driven by Nerumi, his elder daughter, while her sister Reimi and their mother were in the back seat. Their mother was fawning over Reimi due to her good looks and cheerful personality. Nerumi voiced out her feelings while driving, as their mother almost suffocated Reimi with her love. She stated that they had invested everything into Reimi’s education, and not so much as spared a single glance at her, not even to fix her teeth, to which her mother retorted by calling her ugly and not worth the investment and further stating that Reimi had more potential. This hurt Nerumi, and as soon as she turned back to confirm her mother’s words in disbelief, she lost focus and almost had an accident with the incoming truck. She swerved to the left to save herself and her family, but the car skidded and instead hit the signboard. Nerumi and her mother escaped with no injuries; Reimi, on the other hand, was not that lucky as the signboard had come into contact with her face, ripping off half of it. As she was rushed into the hospital, the mother kept blaming Nerumi for her sister’s plight.
The next moment changed everything, as soon as the doctor called in the family to discuss Reimi’s strange build, which resembled Baumkuchen, a type of German cake that was made up of layers. The doctor explained the strangeness with the example of a tree because each layer of Reimi’s skin had a younger layer under it. This also pointed to the possibility of Reimi having the skin of her younger self. The doctor suggested a possible examination of her epidermis to study her further after they performed an MRI scan and found out about the layers. However, their mother refused further examinations, as she insisted on taking her daughter back home for recuperation and asked the doctors to forget about her daughter’s strange condition. Later, before discharging Reimi from the hospital, when Nerumi and their mother were having a conversation, Nerumi made an observation that connected both Reimi’s and Nerumi’s conditions to the tomb excavated by their father at the Ajime Shell Mound Site in 1996. Nerumi recalled that her father’s personality had drastically changed after he returned from the site, and a year later, Reimi was born. Professor Soya later deteriorated until he died 9 years later. Nerumi had also been affected by the curse, as she had multiple rows of teeth in her mouth. Her mother disregarded her words as she continued to dote on Reimi after bringing her back home. Nerumi then shared her idea with her family to get rid of the curse, as she suggested holding a memorial service for the skull that their dad had excavated.
The Seito university had the skull in their exhibition, and Nerumi suggested asking them for it, saying they might even agree after listening to their plights. However, the mother disagreed and painted it as a waste of time. This made Reimi rage out at their mother, calling her greedy. This only made it worse when their mother visited Reimi’s room at night, as she had clearly lost herself to her greed and insanity, as she called out to Reimi’s earlier epidermis. She then proceeded to peel off skin after skin of her daughter to reveal a 2-year-old Reimi who had been calling out to their mother. As she peeled the first layer of the epidermis, Reimi screamed and passed out in pain, while Nerumi rushed in only to fall down, aghast. Her mother then urged her to peel the rest of Reimi’s skin from her body, as it revealed a small human system and unnaturally elongated limbs. The anime yet again fails to provide an explanation for why this happened, as in the manga, Nerumi explains it well. She said that this had happened because the body had simply stretched out from the center. In response to this, their mother tried to cut her own face off as well to see if the curse had affected her too. However, it only affected her greed.
In the manga later, Nerumi, the only person who still thought that it was the curse that had ruined their family, tried to find the skull. However, the university informed her that the skull had, in fact, disappeared after Professor Soya’s death, and they had not been able to find it again. The anime packs up when Nerumi goes to provide them with food and closes the door. However, the manga provides a little more insight into the conditions as Nerumi realizes that the peeled skin does not grow back the same way, leaving Reimi in a disabled state, while her mother had to bind her face after she tore it off as she locked herself into Reimi’s room as she dealt with the consequences of her action.
Reimi and Narumi’s mother became their downfall as she ruined the lives of both of her daughters due to her greed. Her greed and the rage she felt when Reimi went against her wishes led to her ruin. Their mother was obsessed with little Reimi, and after she ruined her to the point of no return, she tried to go back to her 38-year-old self to give birth to another perfect Reimi so that she could go through taking care of her again. The curse of the tomb had affected them in the worst way as it had brought forward the deepest and darkest desires of the family, which had served to destroy their normalcy and, in Soya’s case, took away his life altogether.
“The Thing That Drifted Ashore” is the second story of “Junji Ito Maniac: Japanese Tales of the Macabre” Episode 8, as the introductory scene shows a dream sequence where the narrator visits the aquarium and shows the viewers the fish kept there. The story really begins with a prehistoric giant fish that had drifted ashore, with various onlookers gathering around it as their curiosity piqued after discovering something new. The scientists who had gathered to examine the new type of fish discovered that the fish had several protrusions similar to those of the angler fish. These protrusions were used by the fish as luminescent lights to navigate the deep seafloor. This pointed to the fact that the fish was indeed a deep-sea fish, which is why marine scientists had never discovered its type. Among the onlookers, the narrator was also present, a good-looking fellow who helped another onlooker who had felt a little faint due to the heat as well as the sight of the sea. In the manga, the narrator is introduced from the very first page, giving him the stage to discuss and talk about his lucid dreams, which let him float in the deep ocean and discover those prehistoric fishes in his dreams. This had served as the reason for him to examine the new fish as well. The anime showed the narrator helping the woman to the shade as he told her that he hated the ocean due to the fish and asked her why she hated the ocean as well. She recalled the event of a ferry sinking almost 7 years ago, which had also carried her fiance, Tadashi, aboard.
While the pair talked among themselves, a scientist, Mr. Shiota, found transparent patches on the fish’s body, and on close inspection, he found that the transparent patches looked into the fish’s intestine. It contained the bodies of numerous humans trapped inside. As the scientists cut through the fish to let out the assumed deceased humans from inside, numerous transparent, almost white-skinned humans, with nothing but their features left to distinguish them, flowed onto the beach like a wave. The narrator and the woman walked toward the fish to make sense of what was going on; the woman quickly recognized her fiancé and introduced herself as Mie. The narrator quickly took her away from the situation as Tadashi, who was clearly no longer human, had almost tried to scratch at her. The scientists then figured out that these humans were the sunken passengers of the ferry that had sunk off the coast of Izu almost 7 years ago. The scientists deduced that these humans were parasites that lived off the nutrients provided to them by what the fish ate. This has helped them keep themselves alive to this date.
The story ended with the scientists asking the naval officers to round up and catch those humans, while the last scene from the anime depicted the narrator jumping into the deep sea as he dreamed lucidly of it. The entire story was mentioned as an entry by the narrator, and lucid dreaming was a part of it that the anime did not mention yet was shown just before the story ended. This served as a take on the earth still possessing a lot of creatures yet to be discovered and also the complexities of the human mind as well as the human body, which are yet to be examined. What humans have just discovered is simply the tip of the iceberg in terms of the vast amount of information floating around and yet to be found.