Halloween is just around the corner. Earlier this year I discovered Junji Ito’s works when Netflix released Junji Ito’s Maniac: Tales of the Macabre and I’ve been awestruck since. The anime adaptation of the short stories does not do it justice. However, the original manga are absolute masterpieces with the immense detail that is put into the panel drawings alone. Not only that, he is greatly inspired by H.P Lovecraft who popularized the cosmic horror genre. You can see the Lovecraftian inspiration in many of his most well-known publications that I will be recommending to you to read at least once. This is a brief warning that some of the topics of these stories can be heavy subjects for some people, so viewer’s discretion is advised. There won’t be any spoilers mentioned.
1: tHE enigma of amigara fault
In this short story, human-shaped faults appear on Amigara Mountain after an earthquake. As spectators travel to the mountain, people start insisting that one of the holes is perfectly shaped for them to enter. A story of desperation for a predestined identity, people start to go missing as they start entering these holes that are “definitely made for them”. The final panel will haunt you a good while after your first read when archeologists discover something on the opposite side of the mountain a while later.
2: Long dream
A man goes to a hospital complaining of having dreams that last for days and are gradually getting longer every time he falls asleep. Soon enough, the dreams start to feel like years. They never stop getting longer, and his body starts to change because of the lives lived in those dreams. What makes this story so unsettling is the lingering thought that we too might experience a dream that lasts that long someday.
3: Slug girl
In this very short but iconic tale, a typical family deals with a slug infestation in their garden. Eventually, they discover their daughter’s tongue has become a slug itself. This nightmare scenario gives you a deep sense of despair of isolation without being able to actually communicate or do anything about the problem. You can feel the teenage girl’s loneliness and grief for the life before her condition. More common theories online about this story are that it’s an allegory for being different, such as having a disability.
4: HELLSTAR REMINA
Taking place a few decades into the 21st century where there are flying cars and all, a new planet is suddenly discovered by a scientist. The scientist eventually named this planet after his daughter Remina. Soon enough, they find out this planet is not only moving, it is coming towards Earth at a rapid rate. This Lovecraftian apocalyptic manga book demonstrates the final days of Earth, with the whole world losing their minds believing Remina must be sacrificed to save the world from being swallowed by the approaching planet that appears to be sentient. However, there are just things you can’t do anything about.
In this story, a young man named Yuuji lives next door to a family who has a daughter named Rina. Rina can’t leave the house due to a serious medical condition that causes her to have holes all over her body. Every day she points out the window, looking directly at the backyard, but no one seems to know why. Yuuji and his friend Hideo discover a diary from his grandfather who also had a similar condition, writing about a mysterious piece of jade.
6: Honored ancestors
This psychological thriller is considered to be one of Junji Ito’s darkest stories. It entails a woman named Risa who has lost her memory. She is found by her friend Shuichi while she was wandering alone, and he takes her back to her parent’s house. She eventually visits Shuichi’s home to meet his father who was asking to see her, During her visit she begins to remember why she developed amnesia in the first place.
7: Fashion Model
Out of all the horrific imagery in Ito’s work, the unknown humanoid monster named Fuchi was the first to actually scare me. It feels like she is staring into your soul when you stare at her portraits. To summarize, a young college film student finds this particular model in a magazine that haunts him for months. Once he starts to forget about her, she auditions for a student film directed by him and his friends. The tension she provides is immense, as they record for the film in the middle of nowhere.
This is one of the stories Junji Ito is most famous for, with huge hype for the anime adaptation that is going to be released on Adult Swim. To summarize, this manga is about a town that appears to slowly become affected by a supernatural curse related to spirals. Somehow, Ito makes something as simple as spirals extremely menacing and terrifying. In this town people start to obsess over spirals, fearing spirals, turning into spirals, and even snails. The artwork in this story is absolutely astonishing, and many of his most iconic panels are from this particular story.