The Horror World of Junji Ito

Junji Ito horror world cover face stealer

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.

Junji Ito horror manga hair raising

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.

Junji Ito horror manga Tomie

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.

Junji Ito horror manga Souichi

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?

Junji Ito Love Sick Dead horror manga

Junji Ito horror world manga Oshikiri

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.

Junji Ito horror manga heads

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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44 Responses to The Horror World of Junji Ito

  1. strawberry_hana says:

    Hmm… I only a few of Junji’s works, I must check out the rest, they all look pretty cool ^^

    By the way, where you get the other Junji’s mangas? I tried lookin for them, but there’re only Uzumaki and Tomie, and Gyo… where you get the other ones??

    • chi do says:

      u can look for them on mangafox.com or mangareader.net( english version). for short stories they re scattered on the internet. i m reading lovesick dead right now. Cant wait to be scared!

  2. Fallen_Lilith says:

    His works are very famous, but I haven’t read any of them…~ Hehe~~

  3. Yi says:

    @strawberry_hana: The other ones were really hard to find. I read them in Chinese.

    @Fallen_Lilith: I hope you give it a try sometime. ^ ^

  4. Okinawa R. says:

    Aww there are few books i didnt get…i only have Tomie 2, Flesh-Colored Horror, Uzumaki, and Gyo😦

    have you read Gyo ?? its not really as good as Uzumaki or Tomie series but its good nonetheless…

    Is there any online web to read the short story series ??

    might want to look at Hideshi Hino books too ^_^

  5. yurigirl29 says:

    I love Junti Ito and I have read almost all his books. I find all the stories to be both weird and interesting. I agree. Uzumaki is by far the best of all his works.

  6. Ningyo says:

    Ah, he was the guy behind Uzumaki? I don’t know most of these, but I have heard of Tomie. I thought the premise was genius; it does manage to tell a lot. It extends past simply scaring the audience and really puts the key idea out there.

    Horror is very effective, with fear being a great narrative channel, but those works that can tell a story larger than primitive fear, with a purpose larger than just scaring your pants off are truly commendable. Power to Ringu.

    Long Dream is also really clever. If only the Nobel Prize of literature wasn’t so Westernly orientated. Imho Japanese writers easily steamroll over the likes of Jose Saramago.

  7. kluxorious says:

    that covers are scary… =\

  8. rockleelotus says:

    2nd image freaks me out to where im not sure i wanna read this lol, it kinda reminds me of the game Fatal Frame😄

  9. glothelegend says:

    I’ve heard of Junji Ito, but never read any of his works. I don’t think I’ve ever read something that scared me, certainly not a horror manga like this. I might check out Uzumaki.

  10. By the pics, it sure seems creepy…

  11. Ruby says:

    I love horror stuff!😀 I never read or heard about Junji or his stuff xD hopefully I don’t get nightmares, the balloon heads are so creepy o_o

  12. Reltair says:

    Looks like some good reading material for the future.

    I just have to make sure not to read it at night. >_>

  13. shijima says:

    Scary… 0__0
    Thanks for the information.
    I’m one of the people who gets scared really easily so I’ll have to pass on this.
    I do like the plots of some horror stories. They’re really interesting.
    I just try to read all the plots online. =)

  14. Yi says:

    @Okinawa R.: I’ve read Gyo. Agreed that it’s a bit subpar compared to Uzumaki and Tomie, but it is nevertheless yet another fantastic horror manga.
    Because Junji Ito is a bit old school, it’s hard to find places to read his manga. I guess you could try Manga Fox or just googling.
    I would also suggest Souichi’s stories especially. It’s a bit more light-hearted than the other stories, but the dark humor is brilliantly executed.
    Will definitely check out Hideshi Hino books. Thanks for the suggestion.

    @yurigirl29: Glad you love his manga too. Some stories really expand your mind and challenge you to consider realities.

    @Ningyo: Exactly. I think you explained the horror much better than I did!
    Anyways, Long Dream was only a one shot but it has made me think a lot. Many of his other short stories are just like that. Truly a mind exercise as well as horror.

    @kluxorious: Yea, it scared me quite a bit as well.

    @rockleelotus: Haha. I was reading the chapter. I turned a page to this full spread. And I think I peed a little.

  15. Yi says:

    @glothelegend: I think Uzumaki is his flagship work and very representative of his genius. It’s really pretty awesome.

    @Ghost In The Shell: Yea, it’s very creepy and scary, but in a fun way. ^ ^

    @Ruby: Give it a try. It’s both creepy and beautiful, and definitely very enjoyable if you like the grotesque and the bizarre.

    @Reltair: Yep yep. Junji Ito’s mangas are amazing. Uzumaki especially.

    @shijima: I think Junji Ito’s works are not necessarily scary in the traditional shocking thrilling sense, but more in a bizarre thoughtful way. I suppose the images I posted are a little bit misleading. They’re not so much scary and gory, but more just plain freaky, creepy, and weird.

  16. lylibellule says:

    Only the illustration get you in the mood … and almost froze you blood.
    I enjoy everything close to terror and the description you do of his masterpieces give me a great desire to read them. Dive in the unknown and shake when you imagine a chaos situation, i like it🙂 (even if after i have some troubles to sleep… looool)

  17. Sellers says:

    Since the very beginning of your post, I have endlessly pondered how I may eloquently respond. And, drawing upon my vast mastery of the English language, I have determined the appropriate response.

    Meh.

    Definitely not absolutely, mind-debilitatingly horrendous works by any means. But, not exactly the best in my opinion. I will now duck into the trench, in an effort to avoid being riddled by everyone else who has posted. Excuse me.

  18. Yi says:

    @lylibellule: Agreed. I love how a good horror stays with me for a long time after reading it, even if it causes me to lose some sleep. ^ ^

    @Sellers: I have not read many horror manga besides Junji Ito and a few random one shots here and there by various authors, nor am I very exposed to the genre in different media. As such, I don’t claim to be a connoisseur of horror. There is probably an even better horror mangaka out there. But I did thoroughly and truly enjoy many of his stories and I do think some, like Uzumaki and others I have briefly talked about, are quite mind bending. To take a simple mundane theme and turn it into a horror motif that raises hairs is brilliant.

    Of course, all of this is subjective. I think everyone here, including me, can always appreciate a different opinion. ^ ^

  19. 2DT says:

    My personal favorite must be the “zit-face” comic. Just because it would have never, ever occurred to me to make that something horrific. And oh, does he ever.

  20. Yi says:

    @2DT: Forgive me, but I don’t actually know which one you’re talking about. Still, agreed about your sentiments.

    Edit: I just remembered the zit one… Such unpleasant and gross feelings after reading it.

  21. Shin says:

    There needs to be a proper Junji Ito anime; I can’t shit my pants to manga.

  22. Yi says:

    @Shin: Agreed about Junji Ito anime. However, not being the man you are, I do pee my pants to manga…

  23. lovelyduckie says:

    I’ve recently started going after Horror manga myself, I really got into Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service. But then I caught up…and started looking for other series to fill that creepy void while I wait for more volumes. I bought Museum of Terror Volume 1 by Junji Ito. Although I haven’t read it yet, I will soon. I tend to get a nice big pile of unread manga, and then on a slow day I devour it all.

  24. Yi says:

    @lovelyduckie: I would also really recommend Uzumaki by Junji Ito. It’s his best and most defining work.
    I also liked Franken Fran by Katsuhisa Kigitsu, although it’s not so much horror as just plain creepy.

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  27. René De Beaumarchais says:

    Big fan of Mr. Ito.

    I read most of his North American published works like Gyo, Soichi 1 and 2 (very funny) Flesh something, Remina, Uzumaki (first work from him, very very good, snail people were horrible!), Tomie online and “Face thief”.

    He must have made even better mangas in his native Japan that are still unpublished here.

    Right now, I’m reading the late Dr. Tezuka’s Shumari, which is incredible.

    • Yi says:

      @René De Beaumarchais: I loved Uzumaki. The chapters in the hospital really made me scared and the image of the dad in the barrel still haunts me. I also like Tomie too, which is another one that really scares me. Souichi is also another one I really like. I think there are several stories about Souichi.

      I tried tracking down most of his works, but I think I’m still missing a huge chunk. It’s a bit unfortunate.

      I should check out Shumari. Dr. Tezuka was a really amazing mangaka, and Shumari is a work I have not read. Thanks for the suggestion!!

      Anyways, thanks for visiting and commenting. ^ ^

  28. chi do says:

    Ito junji’s work never ceased to amaze me! Uzumaki is one of his best stories. I m not that interested in tomie since the story doesnt make much sense( not that his other stuffs do). So yea recommendation would definitely be uzumaki, hellstar remina, gyo, … By the way i m looking for a website to read souchi;s diary of delight and curse. anybody knows a safe website for those?

    • Yi says:

      Uzumaki is also my favorite. It created such a hopelessly scary atmosphere. I love it a lot.

      Can’t help with Souichi’s Diary… I don’t remember where I found them. It’s been a while. Sorry.😦
      Hopefully someone will post a link.

  29. Carol says:

    Nice article, it’s amazing how well-known his work is. I just wish it was more easily available in English.

    • Yi says:

      Yea, it’s a shame that it’s so inaccessible to the English speaking audience. Licensed works are hard to find and scanlations are scattered.😦

  30. MyHatsOffToYou says:

    I wonder if the author ever had nightmares; maybe these creation are based on them. No insults intended, but I hope the author is just extremely creative instead of suffering from insanity…….

    • Yi says:

      I don’t know if he had them, but that does remind me of something pretty interesting. The film series, Aliens, was based on the artworks of H. R. Giger. Giger suffered from regular extreme night terrors. His works are largely influences by these scary dreams.

  31. Nia says:

    I was scarred for life by Uzumaki.
    Also what’s with Ito-sensei making long hair seem evil?

    • Yi says:

      I think it follows a more general trend of the Japanese/Asian concept of ghosts and horrors. (Think The Ring and The Grudge.) Long dark haired women have been part of the Japanese horror lore long before Junji Ito.

      Also, agreed about Uzumaki. Some of the chapters are so intense… I wrote a review for it a long time ago if you’re interested: https://listlessink.wordpress.com/2009/01/23/uzumaki/

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