Junji Ito’s monsters range from diabolical ice cream sellers, murderous balloons and hair to deadly mold, but what makes this episode so different is that one of the monsters in this story is a human in every sense of the word. However, despite being human, the diabolical traits drip out of this villain and make them a despicable character through and through. The 10th episode in the Netflix adaptation of Junji Ito’s horror manga series “Japanese Tales of the Macabre” features a story where two girls witness a religious ceremony and another where a little boy befriends an older girl. Sounds pretty harmless, considering it’s an Ito story, right? Well, let’s find out what happens in this episode.
What Happens In ‘Unendurable Labyrinth’?
The episode opens with scenes of a dark corridor, a massive Buddha statue, two young girls looking up to see rows of shriveled and withered corpses in monk garb, and a woman wheezing from pure panic as the title card rolls. Two girls who had hiked up a mountain realize they might be lost, but one of them, Noriko, assures her friend that they can just climb down to reach the city. While walking, they come across a clearing with several statues of Buddhist culture, some of which look a little unsettling. The girls discover a massive Buddha, and just as they’re commenting on how creepy the statue looks, several people in monk garb and sticks at hand march past. Noriko tries talking to them, but each of them glare at the girls, who later find them standing under a waterfall and chanting something. They’re even more surprised to find some monks hanging upside down from a cliff while praying when another monk approaches the girls and says the monks are training at the moment. He realizes that the girls are lost and informs them that their sanctuary is hard to locate and even harder to leave before inviting them to stay the night at the temple because it’s dangerous to leave after dark.
While climbing up the stairs to the temple, the senior monk informs the girls that their sect is a branch of Esoteric Buddhism that is unique to them. He continues that their religion is extremely old and has over a million devotees across the globe, and he also requests them to spend a few days to meditate in the temple. While Noriko respectfully declines, her friend Sayako asks her to give it a try. While meditating, Sayako thinks about her classmates saying foul things about her until her trance is broken by the senior monk hitting Noriko awake. That night, the girls meet their new roommate, Aya Kuramoto, who’s here to cure her anthropophobia but actually, as revealed to the girls, she has come to look for her elder brother, who joined the sect five years before and has been missing since. In the morning, the senior monk tries persuading Sayako to join the sect, and she asks for a little time to think about it. She later overhears three junior monks talking about the hundred-man chorus that shall be organized in the central temple. That night will be the “hundred-man contemplation,” a three-yearly event where 100 monks enter underground coffins and undergo the self-mummification process, and their diet strictly consists of raw vegetation that cleanses the body from fats that lead to decomposition. Aya, while explaining the process, notes that self-mummification is illegal, be it for religious purposes or not, but the monks who’ll be heading for the process look so gaunt already that it doesn’t seem like normal fasting and not something sane people would wilfully participate in. Before planning to leave with the monks in search of her brother, Aya advises Sayako and Noriko to leave and never return, else they too shall go missing. However, Noriko argues that they should tag along.
While following the monks, Noriko keeps asking questions about the several dangers that might befall them, when the senior monk and another one spot the girls, but choose not to do anything. While walking past the giant Buddha statue, they spot the torches the monks were using, put out, and abandoned. They also discover a hidden door behind the statue and start going down when Noriko’s incessant questions make Aya shout at her. While they’re arguing, Sayako spots something further down: rows of dead monks who are standing but have all died and bear the same withered resemblance from the ones in the first scene. Aya finds her brother and wants a little time alone, and shoos the girls away. Sayako wants to get out of this place, but Noriko quickly realizes that they might be going around in circles in a maze with no exits. Sayako soon feels unable to continue and crashes to the ground, and when Noriko tries to get her up, she says that she can’t bear the mummies staring at them. Noriko tries consoling her by saying that mummies don’t even have eyes but when they look up, all the dead, shrivelled mummies with wasted away eyes are staring at them with big, hounding eyes. One of her greatest fears is realized; eyeless mummies are looking at her as if she’s the freak.
What Happens In ‘The Bully’?
This happens to be one of the most disturbing stories among all the horror manga by Ito, although there’s nothing supernatural, extremely graphic body-horror, or exploration of a previously unknown theory. Instead, a very commonplace and usual topic becomes the central point of Ito’s “The Bully.” The story deals with bullying, and the reason Ito doesn’t need to bring in monsters is that the evil is within a human who’s even more dangerous than the rest of his creations because the evil in this story is actually out there in the real world, unlike flesh-eating zombies.
The story opens with a little girl standing in a playground while a few boys are playing with the slide and the swings and are making fun of her when she’s approached by a woman with a little boy by her side. Kuriko, the girl, is entrusted with the boy to be his play partner and even given a chocolate as compensation. The boy, who’s even younger than her, says his name is Nao, and Kuriko agrees to play together. The boys make fun of her for being a girl and playing with a child before leaving, and it seems they’re bullies. Kuriko notices the swings are empty, and they can play there, as Nao hugs her from behind, calling her elder sister, and wanting to play. She initially refuses but gives in to the sweet little boy’s request, and they end up having a lot of fun. When Kuriko returns home, she finds a gift box full of cakes that Nao’s mother has sent, and her mother adds that Nao’s family has recently moved to the town and the kid has nobody to play with. She advises Kuriko to keep playing with him.
Nao quickly becomes attached to Kuriko, whom he thinks of as his elder sister, and hugs whenever he can. Kuriko, however, grows tired of this kid who follows her around like a puppy and tries having fun—or what she considers is fun. It starts innocently by yelling in his ears, making stories that some insect will eat his brain, and pulling his ears until he cries in pain as she skips away happily. She’s standing near the slide watching the boys play when Nao comes back smiling, and Kuriko stares at him, confused. She thought pulling the boy’s ears would scare him off. It starts getting worse from here. Nao watches Kuriko drink water from the water fountain in the park and wants to drink too, so she pushes his face into the sewer water and starts deriving sadistic pleasure from watching the boy thrash around, struggling to breathe. Her modes of bullying keep getting more and more twisted as she keeps inflicting pain on the child, like hitting him with a stick while he cries and manipulating him into jumping down from the slide. Nao escapes from mortal danger because his mother rushes in just at that moment, and immediately Kuriko, the sadistic psychopath that she is, says that Nao has gone up there and won’t come down no matter what she says. The next day, she interrogates if the child has confessed to his mother all the horrible things she does to him, but he says he hasn’t. As a way to test his loyalty, Kuriko throws a ball near a chained dog and pushes him near the dog to retrieve the ball. As the dog tears into the child, Kuriko runs away, laughing.
Years later, a couple is sitting at the park, and it’s Kuriko and the elder boy who used to make fun of her, Yutaro. She wants to come clean, which is why she’s confessing, but Yutaro says that she’s a grown woman now and she’s no longer the same person. She says that this story has a sequel: she met Nao, full name Naoya, now a young man, who still bears the stitches from the time Kuriko threw him to a dog. While she feels embarrassed, he heartily recalls the days as happy memories of days gone and even asks her to accompany him to the same park Kuriko used to torture him at. She apologizes for her actions and says that she always found him cute, while he says that he had always loved her because she kept him company. Back to the present, she says that Naoya’s words liberated her from the stress she has carried around all these years and adds that she met him several times later on. Moreover, Naoya arrives at the park at that moment; Kuriko goes to him and ends her relationship with Yutaro, saying she loves Nao.
Nao and Kuriko eventually got married and even had a child, but he left her and Hiroshi, their son. The child wants dinner and whines to Kuriko, hugging her from behind, exactly how his father used to, and this doesn’t escape her. At dinner, Hiroshi is whining—like children do—to eat something tasty when Kuriko asks him to stop whining and eat, addressing him as Nao. When he reminds her that he’s Hiroshi and not Nao, she says that since he’s a spitting image of his father as a child, she gets confused. She adds that during their childhood, Kuriko used to bully him daily, and watching him cry, which was very enjoyable for her and that Nao probably used to enjoy being treated that way, which is why he kept coming back. Thinking about it makes Kuriko excited, and she starts feeling like wanting to bully him again when her glance falls on Hiroshi. The boy is seen crying as Kuriko pulls his ears. Kuriko dresses up while thinking of Nao’s revenge. She keeps scolding Hiroshi while calling him Nao, even after he reminds her of his name. Kuriko complains that Nao would keep coming back even when he knew that she wanted to play with Yutaro and would always get in the way, so she’ll play with him. Hiroshi says it’s night now, but Kuriko says night is more convenient for her and steps out in the same dress she used to wear as a kid. It’s hideous, and she looks vile—not counting the awful makeup and hair that finally makes her look like a monster from an Ito story. She carries Hiroshi off to somewhere while he asks for assurance that she won’t pull his ears anymore and she promises not to do anything, while cackling.
‘Junji Ito Maniac’ Episode 10: Ending Explained
The episode leans more towards psychological horror as opposed to the regular kind that Ito dabbles in. The first story is a lesson on staving one’s curiosity when every sign advises you to. Noriko and Sayako ventured into an underground crypt and spotted mummies that were every kind of freaky, and that should’ve been their first sign to run. But they didn’t, and when they lost their way inside the labyrinth, they thought the mummies were alive. Sayako was a troubled girl, and several references were made about it from the start—Noriko mentioned that she stopped coming to school, the senior monk said that she would benefit life in the temple, and even Aya suggested for her to escape. She always felt pursued and that people would look at her and judge her, so she stopped coming to school because she didn’t want to be stared at. It was this fear that made her go almost insane inside the maze, as she thought the dead mummies were looking at her. We don’t know if the girls ever escaped from the labyrinth, but it should be common knowledge that if you see rows of mummified monks, you run the other way.
The second episode takes the spotlight in the tenth chapter because of the issue it deals with. The ones we originally thought of as bullies, the elder boys, were just children having fun, while the real bully was the girl a woman entrusted her son with. Not only did she physically abuse him and psychologically torture him, she left him with a dog that could’ve ripped him to shreds. This desire to torture gave Kuriko a sadistic pleasure, one that she couldn’t let go off, even after becoming a mother. Nao grew up to be an equally horrible human who intentionally abandoned his family, knowing how much Hiroshi resembled him and what that triggered inside his monster of a wife. In all probability, he proposed to Kuriko, having planned it all along to avenge the torture he faced. It was to happen sooner or later, and she notices the resemblance, and the urge to torture a helpless child returns to her after all these years. Even if it could be forgiven because she was a child at that time, the fact that she’s a mother who derives sadistic pleasure from torturing her own son shows that she’s every bit the monster that she used to be. The gaudy makeup does justice to how she is actually, a demented woman dressed like a child dragging a child to a park at night to torture him the ways she did with his father. This woman deserves to be chained up and thrown into a cell for the criminally insane, and she’s the worst monster in the series because people like her exist in real life.