The first episode of the Junji Ito Collection is out, and it’s kind of disappointing. The art and animation are fine. The problem is its choice of story.
Episode 1 of the new anime adapts the first of the many, many, many Souichi stories, “Souichi’s Convenient Curses,” which are all about a creepy kid who is obsessed with cursing people using ushi no koku mairi, Japan’s own brand of voodoo. His antics are shocking at first, but they usually end up being foiled by his level-headed family members, revealing him as the weird but ultimately ineffectual grade schooler that he is.
Admittedly, the later Souichi stories get better once told by the point of view of his visiting cousins, but none of those installments were adapted here.
I don’t know why they chose this story for the premiere episode because, although Souichi tales make up a big chunk of the Junji Ito oeuvre, they aren’t very representative of what makes Ito so special (and they’re kind of a slog to read through). I would have be OK with a Souichi short here and there as a Unicorn Chaser after a particularly intense story, but something more along the lines of “Long Hair in the Attic” would have better set the tone for the series.
The episode ends with a brief adaptation of “Hellish Doll Funeral”. It’s spooky, gothic, and just a little ridiculous - exactly what an Ito shock story should be. It shows a little what the animators could be capable of, but at less than two minutes long, it’s almost too little, too late.
The next episode preview only gives numbers 041 and 084, which, by my count* of the chapters in The Horror World of Junji Ito collection are “Ryokan” from Vol. 7: Slug Girl and “The Long Dream” from Vol. 14: The Story of the Mysterious Tunnel. (“The Long Dream” has previously been adapted as a 1 hour, shot-on-video live-action TV special in 2000 by the director of the Uzumaki movie.) Both are excellent and chilling stories, so we’ll see if this rather weak episode was the adaptation’s way of easing noobies in.
*According to my copies of The Horror World of Junji Ito, “Souichi’s Convenient Curses” should be chapter number 031, and “Hellish Doll Funeral” should be number 096. However, the anime episode labels them as Collection No. 068 and 090, respectively. I don’t know if this numbering comes from another edition of collected stories or chronological releases or what, so take my predictions with a grain of salt. If anyone out there can point me to whatever numbering system the show is using, please do.