‘Junji Ito Maniac’ Episode 2: The Story Of The Mysterious Tunnel And Ice Cream Bus – Recap And Ending, Explained

When you think of horror manga, the name of Junji Ito sounds synonymous to the genre. The man with love for all things beautiful in real life has managed to creep us out with his dark, disturbing, and sometimes downright appalling horror manga that spans from disgusting body horror to straight-up absurdities that could not have been thought up by the normal mind. Yet, his matter-of-fact way of presenting such bizarre elements and situations that characters in his manga keep finding themselves in makes for such an interesting read. His ideas creep you out, and his art style makes you paranoid, but you keep coming back to Ito’s horror manga because it’s unlike anything you’ve experienced before. Now that Netflix has released the much-awaited anime adaptation of Ito’s horror stories, people are jumping into the series. The second episode in this season is a compilation of two of his short stories, “The Story of the Mystery Tunnel” and “Ice Cream Bus.” But Ito’s manga can be, at times, hard to grasp and too confusing to make sense of, so let’s get right into it.


Spoilers Ahead

What Happens In ‘The Story Of The Mysterious Tunnel’?

In a flashback, a child tries catching snow in his tiny palms when he notices a woman, probably his mother, walking into a tunnel. He calls for her, and she partly turns, but we don’t see her face. The child, now an adolescent, is jolted back to the present, to hear his friends talking about exploring the same tunnel. The leader of the group advises everyone to bring flashlights and meet near the entrance of the tunnel, and also includes the protagonist, called Goro. One of the kids blurts out something about Goro’s mother heading into the tunnel, and the leader thinks it’s all the more reason for Goro to join. Later, the boys gather and head inside the tunnel, and the leader, Hide, announces that there’s something strange near the tunnel’s middle. Suddenly, they spot weird scratches on the ceiling of the tunnel, and all four boys are creeped out when a drop falls on Hide’s head. The bravest of them all, the leader Hide, starts panicking in fear and asks if its blood. Goro spots a strange figure standing in the distance, and it looks like a young girl. The other boys freak out and shove Goro on their way out, and he stands up and walks towards the figure to realize it’s his little sister Mari. She’s terrified and says she has no idea how she ended up in this freaky tunnel. Later, in their home, Mari runs a fever, and their father says that rumors say that the tunnel has powers to lure people inside. Goro asks if he has spoken to Mari about their mother’s disappearance, but the man says he hasn’t. It starts snowing, and it’s supposed to snow heavily by the next morning. A flashback reveals Goro’s mother walking into that tunnel, from which a steam engine emerges as the child shakes in terror. The funeral ceremony of Goro and Mari’s mother is held, and some are crying as her body is carried away for cremation.


The next day, the afternoon looks like night because of the heavy snowfall, and when Goro returns home, he finds his father leaving. Mari, who was supposed to stay in because of her fever, is missing from her room, and their father is heading out to look for her. Hours have passed, and neither their father nor Mari has returned. The snowfall has stopped, so Goro heads out and reaches the tunnel to find two sets of footprints entering, and he follows. A little further inside, he finds his father’s flashlight lying on the floor and calls out to his father, and his voice echoes. Something drips on his face that he rubs off—blood. He keeps walking until he finds a door with a signboard that says it’s a laboratory to study cosmic rays. He enters to find several machines, and Mari sits quietly as three people in white coats stand around her. He informs them that Mari is his sister, and he’s looking for their father, but the people inform him that they haven’t seen anyone, although there’s no harm in looking for him. The woman among the researchers points to the blood on his cheek before taking him around the tunnel to show that nobody is around. On their way back, she explains that in the lab, they’re studying the cosmic rays that reach the earth from space.

The next day, Goro gets a phone call that Mari is once again at the tunnel, and when he arrives to take her home, Koyama, the woman researcher, suggests they leave the town until their father returns. Suddenly, the head professor screams that the data is all jumbled up and that neither he nor she has been feeling very well ever since they entered the tunnel. The other researcher shows a photograph of the three people being surrounded by strange, spirit-like entities all around them in the photo. Realizing that these might be cosmic rays that are passing through their bodies by the minute and how harmful that can be, the laboratory is shut down. An unannounced period of time later, Goro returns to find Koyama holding on to Mari as the other two researchers are seemingly getting absorbed by the walls and the floor. The head professor says that the entities that were seen around them were humans, and now he’s sinking into the ground. He sinks into the floor, and then it’s Mari’s turn. Goro tries saving her, but her body is no longer palpable, and she sinks to the floor. Realizing the horror of the situation, Goro and Koyama start running, but the spirit-like bodies of the two researchers and Mari pursue them. One of the researchers falls on Koyama and drags her down to the floor as Mari’s corpse falls on the floor, barely missing Goro. He keeps running, but the tunnel doesn’t seem to end, and exhaustion sets in as Goro falls on all fours, only to notice his hands are being pulled in. There’s utter silence outside the tunnel as snow falls the same way it did all those years back when Goro’s mother disappeared inside the tunnel.


What Happens In ‘Ice Cream Bus’? 

Sonohara and his son Tomoki have just moved into a new neighborhood, and they spot a big ice cream bus with human-like eyes for its headlights outside their apartment, crowded with children as the dreamy-looking seller hands out the desserts. Tomoki wants ice cream, but his father says it’s time for dinner. The seller says that he’ll take the kids on tour around the town while they eat ice cream as a treat. The mothers are too smitten by the charm of the seller to stop their children from queuing up for dessert. Back home, Tomoki throws a tantrum, wanting ice cream and wanting to go stay with his mother. The ice cream man returns next Saturday, and Sonohara takes his son for dessert because he’d like to keep Tomoki with him. He also allows Tomoki to take a ride on the bus. Returning home, Tomoki says that inside the bus, there was a huge pile of strawberries that all the kids licked, so much so that Tomoki’s tongue was red. He’s too full to have dinner. Sonohara returns home from work to find several children’s shoes on the doorstep and finds Tomoki playing with friends he met on the bus. He no longer wants to stay with his mother, but the reason is that the ice cream bus doesn’t go there.

The next time Tomoki boards the bus, Sonohara asks the seller if he, too, can take the bus ride, but the seller refuses straight away. But he does get a peek inside to see the children gathered around two piles that they’re eagerly licking. At home, the floor, the building blocks Tomoki would play with, and the furniture seemed sticky. The next time Sonohara returns from work, he finds the children’s shoes, but he discovers something far more horrific inside. Tomoki is licking an entire room full of gooey substances of several colors as the bodies of other children melt into different colored piles. Some have already melted away with just their clothes left, while the husk of one kid is left. Sonohara demands Tomoki stop licking that pile, as the boy’s face looks like it’s melting too. The father runs in and tries pushing the kid away from that horrid pile when the boy’s head comes off, and it falls with a distinct splat to the floor with a greenish substance oozing out. Sonohara’s scream of pure panic mixes with the impassive ice cream seller driving in the bus as the mechanized voice announces its arrival. The eye-like headlights emitting pink light blink and look at the audience.


‘Junji Ito Maniac’ Episode 2: Ending Explained

If it’s a Junji Ito story, “expect the unexpected” is the mantra at all times, as his horror borders on the absurd, and ordinary items like ice cream can be turned into terrifying objects. In the first animated short, the tunnel where cosmic rays used to be studied became a beacon that drew people in and then absorbed them into its walls. It’s easy to assume that the scratch marks that the boys had spotted on their trip inside the tunnel were of the ones who have been absorbed over the years and the marks of their struggle as they sank into the seemingly permeable surface of the tunnel. Now they haunt the tunnel as ghosts, and it probably has nothing to do with cosmic rays. In all probability, the tunnel is cursed, which is why it lures people to their deaths. It’s possible that Goro’s family was targeted by the tunnel, and the first to die was their mother. The blood that Goro wiped from his skin when he entered to look for his family was probably his father’s blood, who had been trying to reach him like the spirits at the end of the story. Anyone who touches the surface with their bare skin gets absorbed, going by the fact that Goro got sucked in when he laid his palms on the floor. The tunnel sucks people in, who get turned into ghosts, and they, in turn, drag the living people inside.

The ice cream bus in the second short, along with the driver, is the root of evil. It’s possible that the pink lights from the eye-like headlights seek out children, and the piles inside the bus are substances that affect the children’s bodies. The ice cream that the seller handed out would addict them to the bus, and they’d happily climb the bus to lick the piles. Additionally, the gooey mess that the children had turned into could be the pile of ice cream that the seller would be taking to the next town. The children over there would keep licking “ice cream” that used to be children until they, too, would turn into the same piles of desserts. The accursed ice cream bus driver and his dessert bus from hell would go from town to town selling children-turned-ice cream to other kids, and this nightmarish cycle would continue.

Indrayudh Talukdar
Indrayudh Talukdar
Indrayudh has a master's degree in English literature from Calcutta University and a passion for all things in cinema. He loves writing about the finer aspects of cinema, although he is also an equally big fan of webseries and anime. In his free time, Indrayudh loves playing video games and reading classic novels.

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