Teenagers do silly things, don’t they? They come up with rituals, spread rumors, and invent urban legends - all in the service of the hormone-soaked bottle of drama that is high school relationships.
The third episode of Junji Ito Collection leads off with the first chapter of The Lovesick Dead, entitled “The Crossroads Pretty Boy”. Local teenagers have taken to crossroads fortune-telling, a form of fortune-telling that has much older roots in Japanese culture. On foggy days, someone waits at an intersection and asks the first person that walks by to tell their fortune. A mysterious figure known as the Crossroads Pretty Boy is often encountered in this way, but the advice he gives is taken to the extreme - often leading to obsession and suicide. Our protagonist, Ryuusuke, returns to the town after many years away, and finds himself caught up in the drama surrounding this urban legend.
This adaption absolutely nails the slow burn and gloomy atmosphere of the original tale. The mostly grey color palate brings forth the isolation of walking in heavy fog. Also great was the CGI effect of blood spraying out into a mist that became part of the fog itself - foreshadowing events in a later chapters. I would have liked more detailed character work to show characters’ mental deterioration, and the story would have benefited from certain explanations like the rules of crossroads fortune-telling and the fact that there had been more than one recent suicide.
I wonder if there are plans to adapt the rest of the Lovesick Dead story in future episodes. But seeing as how it features Japanese broadcast taboos like full-body tattoos and a brutal self-inflicted abortion, I doubt it.
The second story is an on-point adaptaion of “Slug Girl,” in which a girl’s tongue begins to transform into a giant slug. Her parents try a home remedy with disastrous results. This tale is quintessential Ito body horror: short, disgusting, and to-the-point. (Full disclosure: Slugs and snails creep me out, so I refuse to reread the original manga to compare accurately. )
Lovesick Dead has previously been loosely adapted as a live-action film in 2001. I have not seen it, but it can be found under the alternate title of Love Ghost. Here is the trailer:
So it looks like the story order in The Horror World of Junji Ito has no baring in the series’ numbering system. *womp womp* Regardless, I will continue to list the corresponding chapters, however incorrect, due to the the series’ lack of proper episode previews. Next week brings us Collection No. 034 and 060, which have a small chance of being “Fun Winter Vacation” from Vol. 5 Souichi’s Diary of Delights and “Penpal” from Vol. 9 Hallucinations. Don’t ask me why, but I have a hunch the first tale will actually be “Hanging Balloons”.