After another hiatus, another double review. Apologies. As the winter season wrapped up, I found myself growing more disillusioned with this show and what could have been. Regardless, I am pushing through. Episode 10 brings us two tales of nightmarish visions come to pass. Episode 11 shows us contrasting stories about meddling with things we don’t understand.
In “Greased,” or “Glyceride” in its original title, our young female protagonist is suffering under the oppression of her family situation. This manifests figuratively under the layer of grease from her father’s yakiniku restaurant that permeates the air and every surface of her home. Literally, it manifests as her brother bullies her cruelly and her father becomes increasingly unhinged.
Her brother’s bullying grows worse when he enters puberty and his classmates bully him for his acne, brought on by his strange habit of drinking straight cooking oil. Her father picks up the habit and eventually stops working. Our main character dreams fretfully of a world soaked in oil until she drowns.
Anyone who has deep fried anything in their home knows that the oil splatters everywhere and no matter how well you clean, it can take days for the lingering smell to dissipate. The manga’s famous shock page, in which the brother holds her down and squeezes his facial sebum onto her, is the reason why I had always been hesitant to read it. The grotesquerie was just too much for me. Again, the lack of detail in the animation neuters the impact of the scene – it just looks silly. The voice acting and oppressive atmosphere almost saves it.
In “Bridge,” Kanako answers the call of her grandmother, Osode, who is living alone in her hometown mountain village. Crossing the bridge to her house, she encounters a ghost in the form of a rotting corpse. The ghost is one among many who have been calling out to Osode to join them.
Osode recounts her village’s strange funerary ritual, long since abandoned. The corpse would be placed on a tatami mat and floated down the river while the deceased’s loved ones watch from the bridge. If the corpse made it under the bridge without bumping the supports and sinking, they believed the soul of the deceased would be able to pass on to the afterlife. Think of it as a game of Pooh Sticks, but with dead bodies.
Osode remembers watching her uncle’s funeral and, later, her fiancé’s funeral – the last in the village to be interred this way. She recalls that before both men sank beneath the water, their eyes opened and seemed to look at her. Osode begs her granddaughter not to let them bury her that way.
Kanako wakes up in her car. She had taken a nap on her way to her grandmother and dreamed the whole thing, but she encounters an apparition on the same bridge, and events from her dream come true.
I think this eerie ghost story is nice, but, as with the first story, the lack of artistic detail does not bring it up to an Ito level of horror. As it is, it could very well be an episode from a mediocre early-2000s live action J-horror drama. Compare this screenshot from the episode to the corresponding manga page.
On to Episode 11!
Tsukano is the titular “Supernatural Transfer Student.” He soon joins the Supernatural Club, which counts among its members Kitagawa, who claims to see spirits, and Shibayama, a local Uri Gellar-type celebrity spoon bender. Tsukano, in his innocent enthusiasm, proceeds to inadvertently debunk his classmates’ supposed powers, but it soon becomes clear that Tsukano has a true link to the supernatural when he discovers eyeball-sprouting plants, a new lake complete with its own Nessie, and a waterfall that wasn’t there before. He declares that standing under the water grants supernatural powers, and his charlatan classmates, their pride wounded, decide to use this opportunity to one-up each other.
Not much to change here. The animation is a bit jerky, and the Nessie looks half-baked, but overall a decent adaptation of a fun story. Tsukano’s happy-go-lucky nature comes across perfectly.
“Kakashi” or “Scarecrows” is one of the quintessential Junji Ito tales. [I mentioned early-2000s J-horror earlier. This story was very loosely adapted as a live action movie in 2001 by the director or Ring 0. It’s just ok. Here is the trailer.]
A man in a small town has come to bury the ashes of his dead daughter, Yuki. It seems he disapproved of Yuki’s choice of fiancé, and it may be implied that she killed herself. (It is much clearer in the manga.) He spends his days mourning over her grave, and the fiancé comes to pay his respects. In his anger, Yuki’s father blames her fiancé for her death, grabs a nearby scarecrow, and plants it in her grave, saying that it will keep away vermin like him.
As time passes, the scarecrow loses its traditional “He No He No Mo He Ji” face and begins to look more and more like Yuki. Her father is convinced that her soul has come to inhabit the scarecrow and has dressed it in her clothes. Soon, all the townsfolk begin to plant scarecrows in the graves of their loved ones in hopes of being reunited with them. However, there are always consequences to messing with the supernatural – which I believe to be theme of this episode.
Another faithful adaptation, but they left out a bit of dialog in which two women talk about the recent deaths in the village. They gossip that Yuki killed herself and speculate foul play in the death of a young boy. I love that they decided to go with bright sunlit colors for this. The azure blue of the sky, often the only background to character animation, shows their loneliness while saving on budget.
Ultimately, I think this is why these two stories were chosen. They are popular Ito stories that don’t require a large budget in the form of action or detail work (not that it ever affected their cost-cutting before). Could it be that low ratings have further slashed their budget, or are they saving up for a grand finale? I really hope it’s the latter.
I know the episode it already out, but I am waiting a bit to watch and review the final episode. Here is my final incorrect prediction: Collection No. 116 “Anything But a Ghost” (I am fairly sure of this) and No. 071 “The Bully” (not really sure but it’s a great story). But I say why not “Hanging Balloons” or “Enigma of Amigara Fault”? Because apparently we can’t have nice things. Whatever. As Ru Paul would say, “Don’t fuck it up.”