Some of the master of horror's spookiest tales have been brought to life in Netflix's Junji Ito Maniac: Japanese Tales of the Macabre. In addition to focusing on "The Alley" and the ghouls seeking retribution, it dealt with the demonic Tomie. Although the anime doesn't quite strike the right balance between what should have been changed from the source material and what should have remained the same, it nonetheless does a serviceable job.
That is due to the fact that Ito's manga stories cater to a wide audience. "Unendurable Labyrinth," another story that has been adapted, delves into the concept of a perverse cult. It should have had its own episode, though, given the run-time and how brief it is (clocking in at under 15 minutes).
Episode 10 of Junji Ito's Maniac Tells an Unsatisfactory Tale
Maniac's "Unendurable Labryinth" follows Ito's 1990 "Unbearable Maze" story to a tee. It deals with two girls, Noriko and Sayoko, venturing into the woods and falling into a cult. The monks are actually training and practicing self-mummification, eager to please their deity. The ladies are fascinated how they're starving themselves, the discipline it takes, and how the monks think they're transcending into a higher plane.
They meet a girl by the name of Aya, who's undercover. She wants to find her brother, which results in the trio following a procession of gaunt monks in the forest. They go beneath a Buddha statue, only for Aya to find her brother in the catacombs below. She stays with the man while the other girls wander off. They get lost, however, and as the temperature drops, it seems like the starved bodies are coming to life.
The girls begin to feel guilty, as the short ends with them having a psychotic breakdown. Now, it's quite cerebral but pretty unsatisfying. The episode ends so abruptly, leaving Maniac fans with many questions over what's real and what's not, as it's obscure which monks were really alive, dead or perhaps ghosts.
Unforgiving Labyrinth Deserved Additional Development
Instead, Netflix should have given "Unendurable Labryinth" a half-hour journey, detailing more about the cult, why they've warped Buddha's teachings, and shown more benevolent rituals that would've convinced the girls to stay on. As it stands, it's ridiculous to think they'd just enlist when there's no reason to. More so, it's never explained why they go missing for days, yet no one tracks them down or attempts a search. Had there been more air-time, the girls could have seeded out a fake story, or the cult could have done it, hinting they're trickier than assumed.
This adds depth, paving room to determine if the ladies really lost their minds, whether Aya really found her brother, and why he wanted to join the cult. Maniac fans could also have gained insight into why Noriko and Sayoko went to the woods in the first place, with the short hinting they had problems back home and at school.
This is a psychological trip that requires a bit more foundation for these characters and their lapses in judgment, especially as they sought divine enlightenment amid some depression. A longer story would have developed motives better, added nuance and made their journey even more interesting -- which is sadly a flaw found in other Maniac shorts, such as Ito's evil Willy Wonka.