This review will be a little different. Although I usually talk about specific productions, it has been such a long time since I’ve seen such a talented artist as Junji Ito. This Japanese mangaka, who went from being a dental technician to becoming one of the most recognized and unmatched horror authors in his country, has more than 70 stories where through his strokes we see how he sees reality in his day to day life. With his twisted mind, Junji Ito drives his characters completely crazy through inexplicable circumstances that inflict painful and exasperating punishments on them.
People not only die: they are upset before they do (or they already were from the beginning) and both animals and plants are a resource that the author uses to create disturbing scenes that leave us with an unforgettable image of what repulsion is.
But what I like the most about Junji Ito is not only his macabre and original stories but the art itself. The mangaka, apart from showcasing exact and explicit pieces about mutilations, tumors and a lot of disgusting things in full detail, also has an incredible beauty to the drawings. This stands out a lot in the character design, which cannot be called anything other than “beautiful”. Although they are horror stories, Junji Ito not only shows the growing madness in his works but also gives a reason for each circumstance. You can connect with each of the characters in a deep way until you have an internal conflict about how you like the murderer and how you hate the victims.
The most pleasant thing about this author’s horror is that he often omits the human factor to focus on the inexplicable. Novels like Gyo or Uzumaki start with circumstances that are caused by bacterial curses whose objective is not to kill, but to make all of the characters suffer. And since they cannot be solved, we know the ending in advance, although this doesn’t detract from the visual fascination and the development of the plot. Each plot of Junji Ito is original and cannot be compared with the works of other authors, but he always clarifies where his inspiration came from, which includes some Japanese mangakas of the same genre and literary authors such as Edgar Allan Poe and HP Lovecraft.
Apart from these two works, other individual stories by the author include Black Paradox, which deals with four people who organize a collective suicide; The whimsical curses of Soichi, which shows a psychotic child who loves to curse and Hellstar Remina, the story of a newly discovered planet that is a threat to the universe. In addition to these volumes, you will find many compilations of short stories that tell incredible tales that escape human understanding. Some such as Terrifying Tales, Fragments of Evil, Dead Angle, and Ghost Stitches, are compilation books in which Junji Ito has placed all of his leftover stories.
I had the opportunity to read one of Junji Ito’s most famous works and perhaps the first that made him known internationally. Tomie is a beautiful high school student who stands out among her peers for being attractive, intelligent and popular. For some reason, men are always attracted to Tomie, and she drives them crazy and manipulates them to do whatever she wants; but Tomie always ends up mutilated and dismembered by her lovers. Over the course of the story, we find out that Tomie wants that to happen, and so appears over and over again in different places as a captivating young lady. Beneath her appearance, a strange and immortal being hides, surviving each of the murders she inflicts upon herself.
Tomie and each of the scenarios that the author offers us are simply beautiful. Until now, I hadn’t seen such a detailed manga; one that shows expressions and emotions visually in an accurate and understandable way even for the least experienced reader. But what impressed me the most is how the author contrasts beauty with revulsion. In the same painting, you can see an exhibition of Tomie’s beauty, with a demonic tumor emerging from her. In another, you see a beautiful beheaded woman or violent attacks that demonstrate great skill with his strokes. It’s difficult to find works of art in the horror genre that will take your breath away, but Tomie is one of them. Addictive, captivating and disturbing; in Tomie, you will find a good story that will surprise you with each story arc and that will shatter all of your preconceived ideas about the reason for its existence.
Despite what many believe, Junji Ito, both in Tomie and in many of his other works, displays an absolute awareness about the nature of human beings. Even if some of the circumstances don’t come from them, we can see how the characters suffer, break and are manipulated by terror. The author shows us how fragile our human minds are. That, even if there is no enemy, we will always look for one that imprisons and enslaves us, even within ourselves.
Reading Tomie was a great experience. I had not found this quality of horror in a manga before, much less in the Body Horror category; therefore, I will continue to follow the works of Junji Ito. I really recommend these works to anyone who is passionate about this genre; but only to those with a stomach of steel and an imperturbable mind. However, if you want something lighter and less repulsive, you can read Junji Ito’s Cat Diary: Yon & Mu; a series of short stories about the author’s experiences with his fiancée and their cats. Yes. Their cats. As you can see, Junji Ito can kill you with terror or with laughter.
Thank you for reading. Please share your thoughts on this mangaka below. If you’ve read it, please feel free to give it your own rating.
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