The tenth episode of Junji Ito Maniac: Japanese Tales of the Macabre depicts a bully as not just a cruel figure but also as a truly frightening figure, comparable to the worst of ghosts. The anime series is now streaming on Netflix.
Junji Ito Maniac: Japanese Tales of the Macabre features some of the stories by Junji Ito, a horror manga artist. Ito’s stories explore bizarre and horrifying incidents, and sometimes he does not need supernatural elements to invoke fear.
‘The Bully’ is one such story that brings out the horror that is present in the human world. Bullying can be a traumatizing event for the victims, and the story shows just how frightening humans can be.
Ito’s story depicts the physical manifestation of the image of the bully that lies in the mind of the victim for all to witness. In the end, while taking her son to the park, Kuriko bears an uncanny resemblance to the way her character used to look while bullying Nao.
Who is the bully?
Kuriko confesses her past sins to her boyfriend, thinking it might change his feelings for her. She tells him that when she was a child, she wanted to play with a boy in the park, but he never played with her.
One day, seeing her alone, a woman asks her to play with her son, Nao, and gives her chocolate in return. While she was initially nice to him, she slowly starts bullying him when he comes to play with her every day.
It starts with small acts like pulling his ear and pushing him in dirty water, and then it turns uglier. She starts beating him with sticks, asking him to jump from a height, and getting him attacked by a dog.
At the end of this story, her boyfriend tells her that he still has feelings for her, as this happened in the past.
How does the bullying start again?
Kuriko meets Nao again as an adult. He introduces himself as Naoya. He tells her that he has a lot to talk to her about and asks her to come with him to the park, where they used to play.
When she apologizes for bullying him in the past, he tells her that he was in love with her. She was the only person who talked to him and spent time with him. That is why he kept coming back to her and clinging to her. Even as an adult, he never stopped thinking about her.
Kuriko keeps meeting Nao after that and falls in love with him. She breaks up with her boyfriend and marries Nao. She gives birth to his son, Hiroshi.
However, Nao abandons her and their son. Kuriko keeps believing that he will return eventually and does not leave her house.
As her son resembles her husband, she starts calling him Nao. While reminiscing about their past, she confesses that, for some reason, she always wanted to bully him. The memories of the past make her want to do it again.
She starts bullying her son and calling him Nao, even though he keeps correcting her. She comes to the realization that Nao planned and took his revenge on her by abandoning her.
Confusing her crying son with Nao, she tells him she is going to play with him in the park at night. She dresses up in clothes she used to wear when she was young. Her makeup and her two pigtails make her look like a figure from children’s nightmares.
She finally leaves her house and takes her son to the park. Although she promises not to do anything to him, the implication that her son will now be subjected to her cruel antics, perhaps even worse than before because of her anger at Nao, is clear.