Saturday, December 10, 2016

Exploring Horror Manga of Junji Ito

This week I was stuck studying for finals so I didn't have time to watch an anime, but I did have enough time to read some horror manga from what appears to be Japan's foremost horror author, Junji Ito. I was originally going to only read one manga and write about that but after I finished the first one I looked up another one of his and saw that it was only twelve chapters long and decided to read that as well. I found the first manga I read, Gyo, from a list online of strange horror manga and they described it as being about fish that grow legs and come on land and that isn't even the weirdest thing that happens. Afterwards I searched for more work from the same author and found Tomie, one of his most famous works in America and decided to read that as well.

Gyo is indeed a story about scary fish monsters, but it is also much more than that. It is the story of a couple on a trip in Okinawa that happen to encounter these mysterious creatures. The girl has such a sensitive nose that she won't even kiss her boyfriend unless he brushes his teeth first so the rancid smell that comes with the fish pretty much drives her insane. She orders her boyfriend to get rid of them and he tries his hardest to do as she wishes but he finds that these creatures are a lot harder to kill than he thought. We later find out that this is because they are just corpses that are being used by strange mechanical legs powered by germs that fill up their hosts with an insane amount of gas that is basically the battery for their legs. If it sounds confusing, that's because it is. There's also a backstory about the war and a mad scientist gets involved and a bunch of stuff happens that basically results in humans then becoming the hosts for these creatures and the girlfriend dying.

I thought this manga was creepy and it reminded me of something like Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark but more adult themed. It was definitely entertaining and the art was wonderfully grotesque. Another thing I appreciated was that it was only 20 chapters long and an extremely quick read. At the end there were also two short stories, one about a man becoming trapped under the main post in his house and then dying there supporting it forever and the other one which I thought was really really creepy told the story of a mountain that after an earth quake revealed a mysterious fault line that happened to have a bunch of human shaped holes carved into it. People then flocked to the site claiming to have seen a hole in their exact image on tv when it was shown. They go crazy trying to find their hole claiming it's calling to them and then they go inside never to be seen again. (Or do they?)

The second story I read, Tomie, is an anthology about a beautiful girl named Tomie who meets men, enraptures them, drives them insane to the point where they will do anything for her and then want to chop her into little pieces. But she then regenerates from the pieces they have chopped up seeking revenge. I liked this story far more because it was more interesting to me and it was really weird. One of the stories is about how someone finds a box of Tomie's hair and transplants it into their hair only for their mind to be taken over by her and have hair explode out of every orifice in their body and die. There is also a story about Tomie and a teacher she drove insane taking over a mansion and conducting insane experiments on the daughter of the man who lived there before they took it over. I read that Junji Ito was heavily influenced by H.P. Lovecraft and I think this series of stories definitely showcases that.

What I thought was interesting about Ito's work was that it was grotesque in a psychological kind of way. From what I read, a lot of the characters were driven insane by the things happening around them and there were no protagonists trying to change what happens or go against the evil forces. (Granted the guy in Gyo does try and go to his mad scientist uncle for help but that kind of backfires and he just tries to get out alive after that.) I know that there is also another major story he's written called Uzumaki that I've wanted to read for a long time, but the length was just too much for the time I was able to allot to this so I won't be able to read it until I'm done with school (It's also been made into a live action film, so maybe I'll watch it and write about that instead. Gyo also has an animated film that I wanted to watch so I'll have to check that out too.)

Fun side note, I checked my bookshelf and I saw that Junji Ito actually wrote a really cute story about the two cats he and his wife had! It's called Junji Ito's Cat Diary: Yon and Mu and it was really heartwarming but also really strange because of the way it was drawn and probably also because of who the author is. It made me cry because of how touching it was so you should also check that out too. I'm really glad to have finally read a lot of his works because he's definitely a leading figure in Japan's horror scene and his stuff was really fun to read. If you're looking for some weird Goosebumps/Lovecraftian manga to peruse through, then I recommend you check out his library of works, it will not disappoint no matter what you choose!


1 comment:

  1. Junji Ito is amazing! There is also a series of Tomie movies from Japan that were pretty interesting.