With Halloween only a few days away, instead of continuing with my weekly manga reviews, I thought I’d introduce one of my long-time favourite horror mangakas – Junji Ito. We previously briefly covered him in this list of most disturbing artists and for good reason, his work really keeps you up at night.
Ito’s works have been adapted into a myriad of (unfortunately mediocre) films, OVAs, games and most recently a fully-fledged (also unfortunately mediocre) anime series. In fact, he was originally teaming up with Hideo Kojima and Guillermo del Toro for a truly horrifying game called Silent Hills (unrelated to Silent Hill) but was unfortunately cancelled. The trailer, however, was made and can be seen below.
Originally a dentist by trade, Ito was always into drawing manga and in (x) won an award prompting him to become a full-time artist. His unparalleled control of visual layout coupled with incredibly detailed artwork and suspenseful writing makes him undoubtedly one of the greatest current living horror artists and one with a massive cult following too. Ito is highly inspired by cosmic horror in particular the works of H.P. Lovecraft (which he often does fan art of) and shows this clearly in his stories which often feature young protagonists battling against indescribably and impossible horrors, destined to lose. Another inspiration is his hobby of people watching (literally what it sounds like, I do it a lot as well). By being perceptive to people in their every day lives, Ito is able to reflect what truly makes us scared – our own insecurities and abnormalities.
Combining Lovecraftian horror in a reflection of modern society isn’t easy, we’re no longer in an age where cosmic, godly horror is believable and yet he manages to scare us all the same. The below panel is from Tomie – The Artist. One of his most famous creations, Tomie is an incredibly pretty girl who has the power to make men insane for her eventually both her and others to show their love. Men that have been put under her spell are able to see through her human exterior and see her as the hideous, otherworldly horror that she really is, but it’s often too late – they’ve gone truly mad. Tomie never truly dies, she’s able to regenerate and regrow into multiple copies of herself with each clone deathly jealous of the others. Possibly the scariest part about Tomie is that we don’t know where she’s come from, the extent of her powers or her purpose. Even in stories where Tomie herself is absent, she’s able to corrupt others through body parts and fluids. In one short story, Tomie manifests herself in hallucinations seen only through people who have strands of her hair. One of the plots where she’s able to control women, schoolgirls begin to attach Tomie’s hair on their scalps eventually succumbing to her control and becoming clones of her.
Ito’s works are scary not simply because of the shock value (though he is certainly a master of the jumpscare) but because he combines incredibly grotesque art with stories that breaks down what it means to be human both physically and mentally. Obsession, guilty and greed are frequently skewed by his hand into horrifying stories where the simplest object – a spiral, a schoolgirl, a mirror – becomes a conduit for bodily and psychological metamorphosis.
My next review will be an in-depth review of a single short stories. Happy lead up to Halloween.