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A frightening original concept and striking imagery make this a great horror short.
This recap of the Netflix anime anthology Junji Ito Maniac: Japanese Tales of the Macabre Season 1 Episode 3, “Hanging Balloon”, contains spoilers.
The third episode of Junji Ito Maniac is my favorite so far, a hauntingly horrible bit of work adapted from the fourth volume of Horror World of Junji Ito, The Face Burglar.
Junji Ito Maniac Season 1 Episode 3 Recap
“Hanging Balloon” primarily concerns Kazuko, the friend of a young idol who is found dead, apparently of a suicide by hanging. The celebrity seemingly had no reason to kill herself, so there’s a degree of public interest, including copycat suicides among her young fans. Soon, reports of Terumi’s ghost begin to circulate, but they all follow the same pattern — her giant disembodied head floating through the sky.
Some incisive commentary about idol culture aside, this is a terrifying prospect on its own. But it only becomes more frightening when it is revealed gradually that the giant head is a balloon, and from it hangs a noose. The balloon ensnares its victim, hangs them to death, and then floats around with the corpse dangling beneath. Terumi was the first victim but the rope snapped off on a power line, making it look like she had committed suicide.
Pretty soon kids are being chased by their own floating heads, which try to lure them to their deaths. It makes for an eerie visual, with the kids fleeing and hiding from their own giant, contorted visages, eventually to be lured to their deaths by them. After a while, the sky above Japan is infested by these giant heads, hung corpses dangling beneath them. The matter is complicated by the fact that any attempts to destroy the balloons, say by burning or bursting, results in the damage being done to the corresponding, still-attached head of the victim.
“Hanging Balloon” opens with Kazuko alone, starving to death, hiding in her room, which as the episode progresses we learn is because her entire family has been ensnared by the balloons. The episode ends with Kazuko being tricked into opening the window, and a noose dangles tantalizingly in front of her.
You can stream the Netflix anime anthology Junji Ito Maniac: Japanese Tales of the Macabre Season 1 Episode 3, “Hanging Balloon” exclusively on Netflix.