Junji Ito is a famous name among horror mangaka. I absolutely love his works. After reading Uzumaki, I went out and searched for many of his other stories.
I came upon fifteen volumes of Junji Ito’s works, collectively called The Horror World of Junji Ito (The Junji Ito Horror Collection). These contain mostly one shots and occasional episodic series with recurring characters. The longer series span a few volumes while the shortest stories are only several pages. Most of these are really quite mind blowing and world-driven. Like Uzumaki, these stories often set up an impossible world for the characters. Some are really quite creepy and truly raises hairs (like the above image… haha?), while others are plain shocking and disturbing. Still others have a touch of irony and dark humor. Almost all though kept me thinking for a long time afterward.
Junji Ito succeeds in making the reader imagine herself in the same situation as the character, analyze desperately the various outs to the terrific world, and finally realize the impossibility of escape. Perhaps the most disturbing aspect is that Junji Ito rarely explains anything. The characters, or even entire towns, are sometimes just placed into a cruel bizarre situation and that is that. He has been criticized for this, but for me, the unexplained and potential for imagination is truly scary. It makes me think for days to come.
Tomie is one such story. Tomie is a gorgeous girl with an unfailing ability to charm men. Unfortunately, her admirers always eventually dismember her bodies only to have the pieces each regenerate into another Tomie. They go on to attract other men into doing their biddings before getting killed again. The men, and sometimes even women, are so infatuated with Tomie that they are driven to do insane things and all go crazy eventually. There is no exception to this outcome. Tomie, like many of Junji Ito’s stories, deals with an unhealthy obsession with beauty.
Other stories I really liked in the collection include Souichi’s Diary of Delights and Souichi’s Diary of Curses. Both, while at times intense and creepy, are really pretty lighthearted… relatively. I also really liked some of the short stories. Long Dream is about a man’s problem of having long dreams, lasting at first days in the dream world, but only a single moment in reality. With successive nights, these dreams eventually grow to last years and eons, but still only a single night in this world. What is reality for him then? Which life is the dream?
There are many more stories that I really enjoyed, such as Falling, Lovesick Dead, Oshikiri’s stories… etc. There are just too many mind boggling stories to name. Some prey on our phobias, while others are so far removed from our accepted reality that we have never even considered such things. Many take a simple mundane theme and twist into a gross abstraction. Balloon heads appear to kill everyone and replace humanity; children eat delicious ice cream made from each other; a man literally turn inside out as the another from his dream attempts to come to this world. The imagery, the originality of the stories, the atmosphere… The collection is not so much dependent on shock, gore, or thrill (although there are those elements), but rather on really consuming the readers into its brilliant world. I have had more than one nightmare about Tomie.
Junji Ito is a master at writing horror.
As a side note, I often see panels of his manga show up on random forums and sites. I guess this is a testament to his genius and grotesquely gorgeous imagination.
Also, I would highly highly recommend reading Uzumaki. It is brilliant and beautiful beyond most manga I have read.
This is an updated post (Aug. 2007) from my abandoned old blog.
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