Mysterious Tunnel / Ice Cream Bus
Episode 2 of Junji Ito Maniac starts with a flashback to a young boy standing before a tunnel as his sister looks set to be plunged into darkness. In the present, Goro and his friends arrive at that very same tunnel and walk through. The tunnel is well-known for being a scary place, with scratch marks all up the walls and ceiling.
As they press on, the outline of a figure sees all of them rush away and leaving Goro alone. The figure in question happens to be Goro’s missing sister, Mari. She doesn’t remember how she got there, but rumours are rampant that this tunnel has a strange way of luring people in.
In the morning, Mari has gone again and with the wind blowing a gale and snow whipping around, their father decides to head out and try to find her. He believes she may be at the tunnel. After being gone all day, Goro deicides to investigate. He heads forward and finds footsteps and a torch on the floor. Unfortunately, a drop of blood drips on his face but he believes it may be water and doesn’t think much of it.
The other side of the tunnel however, holds evidence of a Cosmic-Ray Observatory. Opening the door, Goro is shocked to find electrics everywhere and Mari sitting before three scientists. They haven’t seen his father but do agree to drive him to the other side to see if e ended up there. The only find tyre tracks though.
There’s definitely something spooky going on here, especially when the commemorative photo of the scientists comes back developed. It seems there are ghosts floating around, and it doesn’t take long for everything to go wrong. The Professors all begin sinking into the ground and walks, sucked into hard surfaces and left with a puddle of blood. The only one left is Koyama, the nice woman who drove Goro to the other side of the tunnel.
Next, Mari disappears, slipping right through Goro’s hands. The spirits float overhead and call out for Goro and Koyama, who watch in stunned shock as the ghost dogpiles Koyama and slips her into the depths of the tunnel. Goro dodges Mari and continues to run. Only, that run soon turns to a walk and eventually, he slips into the tunnel too.
Ice Cream Bus
The second part of this episode switches up the tone as we see children enticed by an ice cream bus driven by a strange vendor. Sonohara is the newcomer in town and he questions the ice cream truck and its regular appearances. His son, Tomoki, slowly becomes entranced by the truck and ice cream, eating huge piles and refusing to eat the food Sonohara has made for him.
Tomoki doesn’t even want to go back with his mum either, despite earlier desires to do so. When Sonohara questions what Tomoki is doing, he spies the ice-cream truck and heads inside. When he arrives, he finds all the kids licking large wads of ice-cream together. However, it turns out these are actually people. And it doesn’t stop there.
Back home, Sonohara finds his son entranced and licking a large wad of ice-cream in the living room. Only… it happens to be his new friends. They’ve turned into ice cream! With piles of clothes dotted around the floor, Tomoki giggles and turns toward his father, revealing that he too is actually melting. Uh oh!
The Episode Review
The second episode of this anthology is an interesting one because it’s ultimately a tale of two halves. The first, delivers an excellent story about a tunnel and the simplicity around this is that the horror comes into focus and does an excellent job of gripping you from start to finish.
There are so many positives to be had with this story, which is great and very reminiscent of that eerie Junji Ito style of horror. The ice-cream bus? Eh, not so much. The story itself is fine but it feels tacked on and rushed. It’s one of those stories that could have benefited from an extra 5 minutes or so to flesh everything out.
However, there’s enough to enjoy with this and if there are more tales like Mysterious Tunnel ahead, this could be one heck of an anthology!