Maniac: Japanese Tales of the Macabre shows what’s wrong with anime adaptations


Junji Ito is an author famous for his chilling, otherworldly collection of horror manga. While his works have been translated into anime many times over the years, the newest adaptation, Maniac: Japanese Tales of the Macabre, is one of the most uninspired of them all. The series simply lacks any artistic connection to the masterpieces it’s based on.

Fans of Ito most likely know him for his extremely distinct and highly detailed style of drawing. However, his attention to detail is completely washed away in Maniac. While this is extremely common to see in anime adaptations, it’s much more disappointing to see here when compared to the source material. It comes off as lazy and unattentive. It assumes that just because a big name is attached to the show, people will watch it no matter what. Even if it looks like every other anime and provides nothing new to the genre.

Another fault of this show is the pacing. Ito’s manga is masterful in many ways, but pacing is absolutely one of his strongest talents. Every page leaves you more on edge than the last and jumping at the idea of what might be coming next, so this is a major problem with being translated to TV. You just can’t get that same lurking thrill when you’re packing two full stories into one 22-minute episode. Every episode feels rushed, and at its worst, leaves you confused and utterly baffled at what you just saw. The quickness of the stories not only diminishes the scare factor but makes them seem like afterthoughts the writers only put in to fill time.

One of my biggest complaints is the crop of stories they chose. This show is a big compilation of some of Ito’s most popular stories, including shorts from Tomie, Deserter and Horror World of Junji Ito. While it may sound like a good idea to compile his more popular stories into the show, it fails to land the way it intends. Part of what makes stories like Tomie so good is the perpetual buildup throughout the book. You learn about the characters and backstory as the book progresses. In Maniac, however, each story feels completely out of place and leaves the audience with no understanding of the characters or what the overarching story might be. Mostly because there isn’t one.

In short, Maniac: Japanese Tales of the Macabre is one of many shows that has failed to appropriately translate Ito’s work into anime. It doesn’t properly show the effort that went into making these beautiful stories, and comes off as cheesy more than any kind of scary. If you’re interested in Ito, I recommend reading his book Tomie as a starter rather than this cookie-cutter lullaby of a show.