The Spider’s Thread: Aoi Bungaku 11

Aoi Bungako 11 is the story “The Spider’s Thread” by Ryunosuke Akutagawa, supposedly a tale for children. From a translation or maybe a synopsis I found online I expected some Buddha, and lovely colors, and a story about a bandit trying to get out of hell via a spider’s web. Well, I got the colors all right, and the web. But Aoi Bungako likes to embellish, so we get numerous scenes at the beginning showing how the bandit, Kandata, earned his way to hell before he is caught and executed.

Not an anti-hero, just a psychopath.

We get a lot of this, roughly half the show, and the story’s events haven’t even started yet. It’s extremely violent and gory, definitely not for children. Though, as in every episode of this show, it’s great to look at. They even throw in a big parade that reminded me of something Satoshi Kon would do. Through it all, the lights and colors are dazzling.

In the story, Buddha sees that Kandata had performed one act of kindness in his life, not killing a spider. So he lowers a web to hell, but as Kandata climbs so do all the other tortured souls. He tries to kick them off, the web breaks, and down he goes. This version chooses to see it all from Kandata’s point of view, and the hell he gets is both beautiful and terrifying.

I was tempted to use many more screenshots to get my point across, partly because I have very little else to say about this episode. Their handling of the story is straightforward, the only real change they make is in the point of view. What makes it remarkable is the sheer style. Every other story this series has told shares this sense of wild imagination. This particular story is, so far the simplest.

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