Spoiler Warning: The following article features spoilers for The Enigma of Amigara Fault, alongside images from various other Junji Ito short stories.
It’s a bit late in the year for spooks and scares, but in lieu of other article ideas I’ve decided to spend a few articles focusing on one of my favorite manga authors: Junji Ito.
Junji Ito’s library of short horror stories is so massive and varied, it’s somewhat difficult to discuss exactly what I love about his work in one article. Thus, I’ve decided to break them apart into several articles, each focused around an aspect of Ito’s work. The first will be focusing on probably the most well-known aspect of Ito’s work: Body Horror.
I would not normally describe myself as a fan of body horror, as it tends to focus more on glorifying blood and gore than actually scaring the audience. Blood is not scary in and of itself, and excessive gore tends to disgust me more than it scares me. Ito’s works, however, focus less on the gore and more on the deformation of the human body, something which actually triggers a psychological response in people.
Ito’s stories often feature the human body being stretched and twisted in ways that are physically impossible, while the victim somehow manages to survive long after their life should have ended. Sometimes this is due to supernatural or otherworldly causes, other times done with no reasonable explanation. The end result, however, is an inhuman creature that triggers some part of our brain which says “this is wrong. something about this is profoundly wrong.”
This deformation is demonstrated exceedingly well in the short story The Enigma of Amigara Fault, which is arguably one of Ito’s most infamous short stories in the west. Focusing on a mysterious set of human-shaped tunnels that appeared following an earthquake, the story suggests that ancient civilizations punished criminals by forcing them to traverse a tunnel made exactly in their shape, which would gradually twist and deform their body as they went along. At the end of it all, they emerged as something which could no longer be considered human, and could barely be considered alive.
Now Ito has definitely gone the blood and gore route before, but gore in Ito stories is usually used to accentuate the horror of body deformation, instead of being the centerpiece. It’s something very few horror authors have managed to get right, but it’s what keeps me coming back to Ito’s stories time and time again.
Next up: Ito & Psychological Horror
Image 1: Long Dream
Image 2: The Groaning Drain
Image 3: Den of the Sleep Demon
Image 4: The Enigma of Amigara Fault
Very few of Junji Ito’s works have been localized. However, of those that have been I’d highly suggest picking up Uzumaki, one of Ito’s few long-form stories. In addition, a number of Ito’s stories have been included in the collection Fragments of Horror. The Enigma of Amigara Fault is included at the end of Gyo, one of Ito’s other long-form stories.
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