The Hanging Balloons is the third episode of Junju Ito Maniac, and definitely the strongest episode from the first three. It should have been the opening episode, to give a really strong start to the anthology series, instead of the underwhelming The Strange Hikizuri Siblings. It’s a post-apocalyptic story that’s almost a zombie story. Instead of the dead coming back to life, there are giant balloons shaped like people’s heads that float down with ropes attached to them and hunt and then hang the person they resemble.
The idea of balloons that look like us and won’t stop hunting us until they kill us is really creepy and works really well in the episode. At the beginning a teen idol dies at the height of her popularity and people originally think that she committed suicide, it’s only when others die as well that people start to catch on. Suspense is built up really well throughout the story as you try to figure out what’s going on. The balloons are left as a mystery throughout with no explanation for them at all. While the story isn’t that scary, the balloons are definitely nightmare fuel, especially the image of the bodies of their victims dangling about as they move through the air.
It’s probably no surprise that some of the moments in the episode come across quite funny, even if that’s unintentional. The big looming heads, waiting outside people’s windows. There’s a moment when a news reporter is broadcasting while on the roof of a building as his balloon comes closer and closer. It’s strange and absurd.
The story is self-contained and does have a nice ending, but it does leave you with wanting more. Everything’s wrapped up, but the idea is so creepy you just want it to continue. It’s still the creepiest episode of the series so far and definitely worth watching for any horror fan.
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