Looking for something creepy to read? Ready for something different? Here’s the definitive guide to the very terrifying and spectacular horror mangas of Junji Ito.
The Life of Junji Ito
Junji Ito is a renowned manga artist and horror writer hailing from Gifu, Japan. Born on July 31, 1963, Ito grew up with a deep fascination for horror and the macabre, which he would later draw upon for his unique brand of horror storytelling.
After studying dental technician at a vocational school, Ito pursued his passion for manga, eventually gaining recognition for his short horror stories in the magazine "Gekkan Halloween".
In 1987, Ito published his first book, "Tomie", which featured a beautiful, immortal girl who drives men to madness and obsession.
Ito’s Brand of Horror
In An Introduction to Studying Popular Culture, Dominic Strinati defines horror “as a genre that represents the need for suppression if the horror shown is interpreted as expressing uncomfortable and disturbing desires which need to be contained.”
Horror fiction brings the reader closer to a sense of fatal exhilaration from a safe distance.
Here, we get to experience the bizarre, the paranormal, the unthinkable, and as Stephen King puts it, we possibly crave horror because somewhere deep in our minds we want to experience it first-hand – we want to give in to what the French call l’appel du vide.
The work of Ito betrays the traditional affective elements in horror fiction by situating the abnormal in everyday life. His mangas don’t feature archetypal nemeses such as the ghost, demon or the vampire.
Instead, they centre on ordinary and familiar setups, like furniture and grocery stores. But if one looks closely, there is evidence of eeriness.
This eerie affect is produced both through dialogue and visuals. Ito pulls it off by employing a careful understanding of horror as an emotional response instead of a physiological one (eerieness as opposed to jumpscares).
The Definitive Guide to Read Junji Ito's Manga
This is Ito's first published work and a great introduction to his style. The story follows the epynomous character, a beautiful and immortal girl who drives men to madness and obsession.
Considered one of Ito's most iconic works, Uzumaki tells the story of a town plagued by spirals. The manga is divided into several interconnected chapters, each of which builds upon the growing sense of dread and horror.
Gyo is about a grotesque invasion by a land-dwelling fish. The story is filled with body horror, unsettling imagery, and a growing sense of unease that builds to a shocking conclusion.
Shiver is a collection of short stories, with each tale exploring a different aspect of horror, from a haunted house that slowly drives its inhabitants mad, to a mysterious fog that brings death and destruction to a small town.
The Enigma of Amigara Fault
The Enigma of Amigara Fault tells the tale of a group of people who become obsessed with exploring mysterious human-shaped holes in a mountain. It is deeply unsettling, and its eerie imagery is sure to linger with you long after you finish reading.
Are you a fan of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein? Then you would surely love Ito’s adaptation of the iconic tale of a scientist who creates a monster from the dead – a careful exploration of identity, loneliness, and the price of ambition.
Fragments of Horror
This collection of short stories features some of Ito's most chilling works. Each story is self-contained, and together they offer a diverse range of horror themes and imagery.
Ito has written and illustrated numerous other manga, including Black Paradox, which is about four people intent on killing themselves who meet through a suicide website; Hellstar Remina, which is about about a giant planet-consuming creature from another dimension; and Junji Ito's Cat Diary: Yon & Mu, for those who are interested in his life, a collection of comedic and heartwarming tales of Ito's own experiences with his two pet cats, but not without his signature unsettling style.
Keep an open mind though: Ito's works can be disturbing and graphic at times, so read them with a willingness to confront a different side of horror.
If you're easily frightened or disturbed, Ito’s manga may not be for you.