‘Junji Ito Maniac’ Episode 3: Hanging Balloon – Recap And Ending, Explained

Junji Ito’s goal is to take an ordinary object of everyday life and change the way you see it. His art style makes you question whether the object you’ve been using all your life isn’t a cursed object out to get you. Ito challenges the way people see the world, making even the most harmless objects into terrifying weapons of doom if they’re drawn with just the right disturbing aura. The third episode in the animated version of his horror manga on Netflix, “Japanese Tales of the Macabre,” titled “Hanging Balloon,” is no different as we’re introduced to balloons that have the ability to kill. The helium-filled playthings that children ask their parents to get when taken to parks turn into devious killing machines with minds of their own in this episode. So, let’s jump right into it.

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Spoilers Ahead


The Death Of A Star

Narrated in a non-linear fashion, the episode begins with a young girl named Kazuko, who’s hiding inside her room as tapping outside her window continues. Another girl’s voice asks her to open the window and eat something, but Kazuko refuses to be tricked into it. A month back, a teenager is seen hanging off a rope from the cable lines outside her room. With people flocking outside her house, a journalist reports that the hanging body of Terumi Fujino was found outside her window, and although no suicide note has been recovered yet, her parents did complain that the teenage pop star stayed disturbed with her career in the entertainment industry. An interview with Terumi is broadcasted on TV as an exposition to present her as the beloved celebrity of the town. Ito uses the character of Terumi in the previous episode as well, particularly in “The Ice Cream Bus” episode, where Sonohara and Tomoki watch Terumi give the same interview on live TV. This interview is watched by Kazuko and her mother, and the women shudder since Kazuko and Terumi were close friends.

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On the day of her funeral, a bustling crowd of Terumi’s rowdy fans arrive outside the monastery where her funeral rites are being performed. Fans, especially young men, can’t deal with the reality that the pop star they loved is dead. Outside, Kazuko and three other girls who were friends with Terumi are upset over her death when they overhear some men corner Terumi’s boyfriend, Shinya Shiraishi, and blame him for the worries she faced in her career. They almost strike the young man when the girls step in, and Kazuko warns the men that they need to leave immediately or she’ll call the police. She tries reassuring Shinya, who says he did cause her a lot of emotional troubles. A couple weeks after her death, a program on TV announces that following Terumi’s “suicide,” many others have hanged themselves, and to top it all off, some have claimed to have seen Terumi’s ghost. A journalist interviews two men who admit to having seen her head floating around the town like a massive balloon. Several interviews are held in the following days, with psychologists claiming that this phenomenon of seeing Terumi’s ghost can be sparked by a collective feeling of loss by the people, while others present pictures of Terumi’s balloon-like head floating around. News reports claim that the pop star’s fans saw her ghost and that led to the entire group losing consciousness. 


Ghost Sightings 

At her school, Kazuko is irritated with everyone talking about Terumi’s floating head, and they’ve made it into the town’s gossip. She shares her woes with Terumi’s boyfriend, Shinya, who confirms that he regularly sees Terumi’s floating head in his yard and even promises to contact Kazuko the next time the floating head appears. One night, Shinya calls Kazuko to tell her that he has spotted Terumi’s head. Kazuko reaches the location but finds nobody around until she looks up and spots the eerie-looking giant head of her friend floating in the sky with a dead expression on its face. Curiosity gets the better of her, and she chases the balloon to the area where Shinya is standing on a tree and pleading with it. Kazuko’s warnings fall on deaf ears as a noose appears out of thin air that slips into Shinya’s neck, and hangs him, breaking his neck instantly. Kazuko hasn’t been able to digest this shock when the floating head of Shinya appears, with his dead body hanging under it. The two balloon heads with dead expressions on their faces bump together in a macabre attempt to kiss while Shinya’s body moves around like a marionette.

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Rise Of The Killer Balloons

The next morning, Kazuko and her friends are walking to school when she narrates the bizarre incident to the girls. While discussing the event, they suddenly spot some floating objects in the sky that seem to be advancing toward them. Kazuko realizes they are four balloons with the girls’ heads, and they have nooses hanging from them. Each balloon has a psychotic look on its face as it rushes toward the girls. Taeko and Miharu get caught by the nooses, and they’re hanged as their bodies float upwards, tongues sticking out. Chiharu and Kazuko run inside a narrow alley that the balloons can’t reach. The terrified screams of the girls bring a man to the window, who shoots a crossbow at Chiharu’s balloon. While the Kazuko balloon escapes with a concerned look, Chiharu’s real face starts shriveling up the same way as the helium-filled object until her face is a withered mess of skin with the eyes popping out. By the time Kazuko stumbles over to her home, the sky is filled with giant balloons with people hanging from them, and her own house has three balloons designated for her parents and her brother.

After a cut to the present, where the requests outside Kazuko’s windows keep getting impatient, the scene from five days back is broadcasted. All that’s visible in the sky are dead bodies hanging from giant balloon heads, and the reporter who was speaking about it gets his neck yanked in a rope and joins the floating dead army. A newsreader warns people to stay home and if under tremendous need, to use only cars for travel, while another journalist cautions people against attacking the balloons lest the person whose face it resembles suffer the same fate too. However, Kazuko’s father has to go to the office, and he leaves despite requests from the family pleading for him not to. The balloon with his father’s face fails to trap his neck, so it grabs him by the body and drags him up. Kazuko, her mother, and brother watch in terror as the balloons of their faces gleefully peer at the people from across the window. Yosuke, Kazuko’s brother, can’t sit still any longer and rushes out to arrange some food for the family. When his balloon approaches him, he throws his umbrella at it, and the instrument gets stuck in the noose as Yosuke flees. Another scene of voices outside Kazuko’s window begs her to open the window.

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Three days back, Kazuko’s mother willfully steps out and is hanged to death by her balloon as the girl gapes in horror. At present, Kazuko is trembling in fear as a girl’s voice pleads with her not to be so stubborn and come outside when Yosuke’s voice is heard. He begs Kazuko to open the window so that he can enter and that he has brought food. Kazuko rushes to the window to find her brother hanging, all scratched up, and the umbrella broken. His balloon head thanks her for opening the window as Kazuko’s balloon approaches her. Kazuko stares at the noose.


‘Junji Ito Maniac’ Episode 3: Ending Explained

A world where balloons with people’s faces pop up with nooses hanging from them with the single goal of hanging people to death is only possible in nightmares. And Junji Ito’s horror manga, where the biggest absurdities are made commonplace because of the presentation. In this story, the balloons with nooses appear after Termi Fujino’s death, and it can be assumed that the collective grief of the people gave rise to her floating head. Nobody was being hanged, however, until Shinya approached the balloon and got his neck stuck in a noose. With Shinya’s death, the balloons developed minds of their own and started going after people. The loss that people felt when Terumi died got ingrained in the balloon’s “minds,” and they tried giving the people the same fate as their idol. It can’t be said where they came from—much like most of the horrors in Ito’s stories—but they seemed to adapt to circumstances. No matter what people did, the balloons couldn’t be held off, and they’d grab people one way or the other. By the end, they started talking as the ultimate form of adaptation and beguiled Kazuko into sliding the windows open. It’s unclear whether Kazuko wilfully stepped into the noose or not, but there wasn’t much point holding out either.                                                                                                               


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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