Netflix’s Junji Ito Maniac: Japanese Tales of the Macabre has a demented bully story that holds a common thread to a dark Jason Bateman flick.
One of the most intriguing aspects of Junji Ito’s body of work is how many diverse stories he told. The master of horror also touched on romance and drama, mixing so many genres together to carve out some of the most chilling manga adventures ever. It’s why fans are intrigued by Netflix’s Junji Ito Maniac: Japanese Tales of the Macabre adapting a few.
For instance, the shorts tackle the Hikizuri siblings as a séance backfires, as well as an evil Willy Wonka destroying children, among several others. Interestingly, there’s one disturbing story in the form of “The Bully” that tells a revenge story. Ironically, given what transpires, some have wondered if it actually informed a grim movie Jason Bateman starred in — The Gift.
Junji Ito’s The Bully Is About Vengeance Through Kids
In Episode 10 of Maniac, titled “The Bully,” young Nao was bullied through his entire childhood by Kuriko. She pretended to be nice to everyone so nobody suspected a thing, but mentally it did immense harm to Nao. However, he got her to leave her boyfriend years later, seducing her and eventually getting married. Nao shockingly abandoned the home, though, leaving Kuriko to care for their child alone.
Nao knew the boy looked like him, so he’d represent that abusive past Kuriko tried to leave behind. More so, she’d be driven to abuse their son, which could land her in trouble down the line. It was both a mental and physical dagger, with the cold Nao not caring about his son, so long as it drove Kuriko insane. And so it did, breaking her to the point that she slapped makeup on, become a Joker-like figure and tortured her child.
The Gift Had Gordo Breaking Bateman’s Simon
The Gift focused on Jason Bateman’s Simon being stalked by Joel Edgerton’s Gordo, shifting the comedy Bateman was known for at the time. Simon’s wife, Robyn, would find out Simon bullied Gordo when they were teens, spreading rumors that got Gordo’s dad to set him on fire — and Gordo then shipped off to military school. He came back years later, attaining revenge by getting a corrupt Simon fired from work. The most despicable twist, though, came when Gordo left Simon a video insinuating he sexually assaulted Robyn after drugging her.
The finale had Robyn giving birth to the kid, with Simon broken on the inside as he couldn’t bear to let her know. Mind you, he didn’t know the real paternity, as it was left vague whether Gordo did go through with the act. However, Gordo knew once he left the baby behind and planted that seed, it would remind Simon of all his past sins. This sadistic move has a similar energy to Junji Ito’s Maniac, albeit remixed, in what Nao thought his son embodied, although Simon was a lot more caring.
They were mirrors, holding up the reflections of evil parents, except Nao was more of an undercover agent and Kuriko was vile. As for whether Ito’s story did influence The Gift, the latter came out in 2015 while Ito’s tale debuted in ’97. Nothing has been found officially connecting the two, but both have similar beats, bitter tyrants and revenge plots that make the audience sick to their stomachs, reminding viewers how men can be made into unforgiving monsters.