Warning: One of the stories discussed in this article features attempted group suicide and suicidal ideation.
Now that I’ve explained numerous aspects of Junji Ito’s works (and why I love it so) I would like to provide readers with a few recommendations of Junji Ito works to read, so that you might continue reading further… at your own peril.
So without further ado, let’s start off with:
Spirals, spirals, everywhere.
Undoubtedly one of Ito’s most well-known works (and the first one I ever read), Uzumaki manages to take a seemingly innocuous shape and turn it into an object of fear. Spirals play into every single bizarre thing which occurs in the town of Kurôzu-cho, home to Kirie Goshima. From obsessive parents and undead stalkers to face-eating vortexes and hair-growing competitions, it all comes back to that same simple pattern. Uzumaki will make you love, and hate, spirals.
One fish, two fish, red fish, SHAAAAAAAAAARK.
More bizarre than terrifying, Gyo is the tale of decades-old biological weapons finding their way to the surface, moving under an unusual force: Sealife. Yes, the enemy is seafood. Small fish, big fish, sharks, and even whales all rise from the ocean and begin rampaging through human cities, acting as retribution for man’s past sins. Calling back to Japan’s biological research during WWII (such as Unit 731), Gyo is a weird, introspective, and surprising entry in Ito’s library. Whether you find it scary or not, it’s well worth a read.
I can’t stop killing, I mean, loving you.
One of the few Ito stories to feature a recurring villain, Tomie is a rather odd collection of stories focused around an undying girl named Tomie. Every man who lays eyes on Tomie falls madly in love with her, and yet feels compelled to kill and dismember her. Unbeknownst to them, however, Tomie is an immortal being who relishes in toying with those who fall for her deception. She can come back from even the smallest scraps of leftover flesh, and she always gets the man of her dreams. For those who displease her, however, nothing but death and destruction awaits. A strange character-focused tale, Tomie is well worth a read. Just don’t fall for her bewitching eyes…
Eye see you…
One of the most difficult parts of writing science fiction is creating a convincing alien landscape. Something which can be understood and comprehended by humans, but which feels totally and completely unnatural and strange. Junji Ito manages to do so with ease in Hellstar Remina, a series about a planet-sized being from another dimension. If the murderous mobs don’t kill you, life on Remina will…
Actually, it’s Frankenstein’s Monster.
Frankenstein is an oddity among Ito’s works in that it’s an adaptation of another story. Not only that, but it’s a rather faithful adaptation of the original Mary Shelley novel, down to the monster being able to talk, the monster asking Frankenstein to make him a wife, and Frankenstein himself admiring the works of Agrippa and Paracelsus. Frankenstein is what it is: a more “classic” adaptation of Mary Shelley’s novel.
The Black Paradox
I’m not sure this is what they meant by “losing face.”
The Black Paradox is easily one of the strangest Junji Ito stories I’ve ever read. The series starts off with a bang, as a group suicide attempt derails due to 3/4ths of the group being doppelgangers. The series gets even weirder as the second attempt results in a portal to the afterlife opening up in someone’s stomach, causing countless souls to fall out in the form of dazzling gems. Always increasingly weird and unorthodox, the Black Paradox feels less like a horror story and more like a self-parody of Ito’s works. Whatever it is, it’s well worth a read.
That concludes our look at the themes and works of Junji Ito. I hope you’ve all enjoyed this, and I certainly hope this has helped communicate why I hold Ito in such high regard.
Amazon links have been provided in the titles of works which have been localized. Those which have not been localized have simply been underlined.
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