Junji Ito Maniac: Ranking the Stories From Creepy to Downright Terrifying

Junji Ito Maniac: Japanese Tales of the Macabre brings terrifying folklore to Netflix. Here is every scary installment ranked.

Junji Ito Maniac
Photo: Netflix

Junji Ito is undoubtedly a mastermind of the macabre. Merging his own monsters with Japanese folklore and tentacles of Lovecraftian inspiration, Ito’s graphic novels, such as Gyo and Uzumaki, have gripped horror fans worldwide with claws of fear. The things that creep in the darkest alleys of his imagination will easily take up residence in the back of your head rent-free—if they don’t devour your brains first.

Netflix’s Junji Ito Maniac: Japanese Tales of the Macabre is the J-horror answer to Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, an anthology that is haunted by everything from restless spirits to undead entities that only appear human. Ito’s stories are just as unsettling in anime form as they are in manga. While they are all nightmare fuel, some of them might leave you with one eye open at night while others will have you sleeping with the light on for weeks.

You have been warned. Enter the bizarre and terrifying cosmos of Junji Ito Maniac

19. The Strange Hikizuri Siblings

Season 1 Episode 1

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There are some serious Addams Family vibes going on with this creepy, spooky, mysterious and kooky family who manage to convince a paranormal photographer and her boyfriend to come to a bogus seance. Vomiting out fake ectoplasm is gross, watching it grow mold is grosser. Watching an amorphous green haze of actual ectoplasm take shape into a ghost would give anyone the creeps. However, this episode is a bit more lighthearted than the darkness to come, and unlikely to give you nightmares—unless you can’t get the two siblings who both look like Uncle Fester out of your head.

18. Four x Four Walls

Season 1 Episode 4

Is it a poltergeist, or just your sadistic little brother? This is the same question Kôichi is asking himself every time he tries to study and his younger brother, Sôichi, bangs around and then blames it on a poltergeist. The solution? Hire a sketchy carpenter to soundproof the room, only to find out he enlists Sôichi to help him remodel Kôichi’s room into something of a prison cell with four layers of walls. What could be crawling in those walls? They are only haunted by Sôichi. Claustrophobics might get the chills, but the rest of us will need earplugs.

17. Bullied

Season 1 Episode 10

While this might not rank up there with all the supernatural and body horror Ito is best known for, just try imagining your kindergarten self being terrorized by another kid at the playground. Even worse, this girl, who is only a few years older than the little boy who is her target, is actually trusted to play with him by his own mother! Nao is lost and friendless after just moving somewhere new. Kuriko seizes the opportunity to be a sadistic monster, beating him and shoving his face in the water fountain. Spoiler alert: the psychopath doesn’t grow up.

16.  Soichi’s Beloved Pet

Season 1 Episode 12

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Soichi is back, probably to everyone’s chagrin, and this time he has a sidekick. A stray kitten his sister brings home is an innocently cuddly ball of fur—until it ends up under his influence. Turns out this creature is a bakeneko, a yōkai (supernatural being) of Japanese lore that shapeshifts to look like a normal tabby until it can reveal its powers to Soichi. It sinks its fangs into unnaturally huge insects, licks up blood, and unleashes crackling bolts of lightning right in the house. This episode might have ranked higher if Soichi wasn’t so unbearably annoying.

15. Ice Cream

Season 1 Episode 2

It starts out so innocently. Like any other kid on a sweltering summer afternoon, Tomoki begs his dad for something from the ice cream bus that comes around, even if it does have unsettlingly huge lashes on headlights that could easily double for eyes, never mind the demon-esque driver. None of that seems to faze Tomoki. Soon, he won’t eat anything but ice cream, and then his friends all start morphing into ice cream that he greedily licks up. If they’re on that bus every day, and it happens to them…you can see where this is going. Shiver.

14. Mold

Season 1 Episode 6

Does your refrigerator ever turn into a science experiment? Try your entire house. After leaving the country for a while, Akaska returns to find that his old middle school teacher’s family, who he reluctantly leased the house to before he left, has let it fall into disarray. He then realizes the noxious odor coming from the bathroom is mold, and pretty soon, mold takes over the entire house until the house itself becomes it. Half alien takeover and half body horror, this episode insidiously creeps into your body until both you and Akaska realize there is no cure.

13. The Thing That Drifted Ashore

Season 1 Episode 8

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When an unidentified creature washes up on the shore, beachgoers aren’t just running from the smell. It brings back trauma for a woman who lost her fiancé at sea years ago. Researchers start the autopsy as soon as possible, since the thing is already beginning to rot, and they want to find out what those strange bioluminescent bumps along its sides are for. Hundreds of human corpses flood from the bowels of the creature when it is cut open, except they haven’t been digested. Just think for a second. If something dead doesn’t decompose, it zombifies.

12. Alley

Season 1 Episode 11

Renting haunted rooms for a reduced rate is actually a thing in Japan. That said, this one is more haunted than Ishida, a student looking for an affordable place to live, ever bargained for. It is rumored that several kids were murdered in the alley below, blocked off by a barbed-wire fence. They don’t seem to listen when he shouts at them to keep it down. But wait. There are no kids, only shadows. Then Ishida starts hearing voices, but who committed the murders? He obviously has no idea what his landlady’s tween daughter is capable of. 

11. Library Vision

Season 1 Episode 6

Goro takes having a favorite book way too far. His mother’s copy of Renee of the Winter Wind (almost lost in his enormous library) echoes melancholy Victorian romances like Wuthering Heights, except Cathy isn’t going to claw her way out of the grave to haunt you. An undead vision of Renee appears at Goro’s door one night in a ghostly white gown, staring at him with empty eye sockets. His father’s copy of Hell of Thorns is supposed to be the most terrifying book ever. Don’t open the cover, or you might end up becoming the main character.

10. Unendurable Labyrinth

Season 1 Episode 10

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The self-mummification practiced by the monks in this episode is actually not fiction. However, an entire cult brainwashed into mummifying themselves definitely is. This religious order seems like salvation to two girls who lose their way while hiking. They soon find out there is something vaguely unsettling about this order, though it seems to promote peace. Their roommate admits she plays along just to find her vanished brother. She finally does among rows of these mummies, or sokushinbutsu, in an underground labyrinth, but wait … they only look dead.

9. Whispering Woman

Season 1 Episode 12

Mayumi cannot decide anything for herself because of a mysterious mental illness. While her wealthy family can afford to hire caregiver after caregiver, none of them last until Mitsu. It seems that Mayumi will listen to anything Mitsu whispers in her ear. None of these things are remotely sinister, but the bruises on Mitsu’s face and neck betray something suspicious. Turns out she lives with an abusive boyfriend who eventually beats her to death—but her spirit continues to guide Mayumi all the way to a knife meant for something far beyond the kitchen. 

8. Long Hair in the Attic

Season 1 Episode 5

This is why you should never control anyone, not even your significant other. Chiemi (who used to have a pixie cut) grew her hair out for her boyfriend. He still ditches her. She now has feet and feet of hair that everything gets tangled in, including one of the mice from the attic, but when her sister brings scissors, she hears a scream and finds a headless Chiemi bleeding on the floor. The tentacles of hair on her bodiless head keep growing after her death. If they can haunt her ex with phantom phone calls, bloodier things can happen.

7. The Sandman’s Lair 

Season 1 Episode 4

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Can dreams really manifest into reality? Yuji can’t sleep for this reason. Little does Mari, the girl he seems interested in, know this is beyond anything manageable with sleeping pills, until she witnesses what happens when he enlists her to watch over him one night so he stays awake. He doesn’t, but something inside him obviously does. It’s his inside-out self from the dream world—that’s right, his body turned inside out—crawling out of his mouth and coming for Mari. Yuji has no organs and this entity that is and isn’t him wants them. Guess how Mari vanishes.

6. Tomie: Photo

Season 1 Episode 9

Tomie Kawakami is one of those mean girls who makes your average high school bully look tame. Maybe she’s beautiful enough to capture the attention of Yamazaki, another heartbroken girl’s crush, but she is hideous on the inside, and in more ways than one. This isn’t just because she tries to sabotage the other girl, Tsukiko, an aspiring photographer she accuses of selling photos at exorbitant prices. Tomie isn’t even human. When a second head shows up on the negatives of Tsukiko’s photos, that is anything but revenge editing. Heads will roll.

5. Hanging Balloons

Season 1 Episode 3

When an adored pop idol dies suddenly and is found hanging from a phone wire, everyone assumes it was a suicide. Fans mourn until enormous floating heads with nooses attached start clouding the skies of Japan. Your face is out there, searching for you, and when it finds you, there is no escape. The murderous balloons are why Kazuko refuses to leave her room and hasn’t eaten in days because she has nothing left. Is her brother really telling her she can go outside, or is she hallucinating because he’s dead? Death may be the only way out.

4. Intruder

Season 1 Episode 5

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Many of us wonder whether parallel universes exist and what our hypothetical selves who live in them would be like. This episode might make you never want to think about that again. The thing is, the other you in another universe has just as much of a chance of being a serial killer as a celebrity. This is what Oshikiri unearths when he feels something is haunting his own house when he hears footsteps. However, the entity behind those footsteps is his own doppelgänger who has apparently gone on a murder spree. Some things are best left buried.

3. The Story of the Mysterious Tunnel

Season 1 Episode 2

The deeper you venture into this episode, the weirder it gets. Haunted tunnels are rumored to be everywhere in Japan, and Goro (no relation to the Goro whose books came to life) is a teen boy who wanders into one on a snowy night when blood drips on his head out of nowhere. Wherever the blood came from, it gets entangled with the sudden death of his little sister and scientists who swear there is some sort of cosmic ray phenomenon happening there. There are bodies, ghosts, and above all, a fear that will leave you frozen.

2. Tomb Town

Season 1 Episode 7

The last thing anyone expects is to be derailed by a tombstone in the middle of the road. Unfortunately, Tsuyoshi and his sister Kaoru swerve into a little girl who shows no signs of life afterward. Try hiding a body in your trunk only to realize it is the little sister of the friend you’ve come to this peculiar town to visit. How the tombstones even get on the road in the first place is a mashup of the type of body horror and absurd chemistry that can only happen in a Junji Ito story. The girl’s restless soul isn’t about to let them get away with manslaughter, either.

1. Layers of Fear

Season 1 Episode 8

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What goes on here as the layers are (literally and otherwise) peeled back is so horrific that even horror veterans and Junji Ito fans may have trouble keeping their eyes on the screen. What starts out as sibling rivalry takes an unexpected turn, with the mother who pits her two daughters against one another is the source of her own demise. After a car accident reveals Reimi’s head is only layers of skin her mother realizes a younger version might be in there somewhere, she does the unthinkable. What Reimi turns into is far from what she expects.

All 12 episodes of Junji Ito Maniac: Japanese Tales of the Macabre are available to stream on Netflix now.