It’s possible that I’ve found one of my least favorite fictional figures ever, which says a lot given how much media I have to watch for work. Like the other Junji Ito books I’ve talked about, Soichi is made up of separate parts that each have their own beginning, middle, and end. In other collections, each chapter would have a totally different cast of characters, setting, and events. But Soichi is all about one little boy named, well, Soichi. Soichi, an eleven-year-old boy, is very strange. He talks to himself all the time and loves to chew on his nails, often putting them in his mouth in a certain way to make it look like he has fangs. He says that he hates everyone, even his own family, and he has the strange power to curse people.
One of the best and worst things about the book is how much it focuses on Soichi. One of Junji Ito’s strengths is that he often builds on a single idea, like this child who seems to have endless evil power. In his earlier works, Ito often needed more time to play with many of the creative ideas that were shown. Soichi thinks that Ito is doing everything he can with this one-of-a-kind character by balancing the supernatural wonder with confirming where he came from. There is no explanation in the book for how Soichi learned to use curses or if he is a magical being. One part talks about the strange events that led to his birth, but it doesn’t answer all of your questions about Soichi. Also, the book doesn’t say much about what Soichi can do. You know that he’s behind most of the bad things that happen in the book, but you don’t know how he does it. Some things, like voodoo magic, are talked about or hinted at. Sometimes, though, completely new characters show up to help Soichi, and you start to wonder if these characters are people that Soichi is directing or if they’re even people.
Soichi: The Junji Ito Story Collection also has a lot of classic Junji Ito images and figures that are kind of creepy because they are both monsters and people. The backgrounds are beautiful, and Ito must have had this thought for a while about making teeth out of nails. That picture runs through the whole book and will stay with readers long after the story is over, whether they want it to or not. Images and themes that people are familiar with can naturally repeat themselves, making a collection of stories that people will remember.
The way the collection is put together, on the other hand, is strange. Even though many of the chapters take place in the same places and have similar people, they are still put together in a way that is similar to many of Ito’s other short stories. Do not read this book thinking that the story will move forward. There are some characters that show up more than once, and there’s a general sense that time is passing (I think all the stories happen over the course of a year), but there aren’t many times when one story flows into another. There is a character who tells the story for each chapter, and each chapter also has a story about how that character interacts with Soichi. When the narrator is not Soichi, they are just watching. Other times, they are Soichi’s supernatural target. But almost every story ends in a way that is sudden and leaves you wanting more. Most of the time, the major supernatural problem will be solved on its own. Still, the part will end, and sometimes there will be a voiceover to wrap things up.
The main problem isn’t that there aren’t long reasons for why things happen the way they do; as I said before, leaving things vague helps keep things interesting. The characters in this book, ranging from family members to classmates, deal with Soichi over and over again. The problem is that, except for one character, no one seems to know what Soichi is doing in other stories. You could say that it’s hard for anyone to directly blame Soichi because the details of what happened aren’t clear, especially when you think about how crazy some of the details are. On the other hand, there are many times in the book when it’s clear that Soichi did something or is at least at the center of the situation, even if you don’t have a clear reason.
Anyone else think it’s weird that when a character goes into the attic to talk to Soichi and comes down looking like a weird animated doll, that Soichi did something while they were up there? After chasing a classmate through the forest, Soichi’s brother gets him in a big black suit that makes him look like an alien. Why is the tone only that Soichi got caught with his hand in the cookie jar? Soichi’s loved one comes back to life to build something for him. Why does that never come up again? I was waiting for the surprise where the family was involved in all the bad things, but in many stories, they are the ones who are hurt. Many times, though, when someone in fear goes to the family, they are told that Soichi is just weird and likes to be alone. How much Soichi actually gets away with is stretched to the breaking point in the book. At the end of some chapters, he will get what’s coming to him, or fate will take its course. Still, it’s a big problem with the story that no one learns anything from any of the events in the book, not even Soichi or the people he hurts.
This is where I start to lose interest in the book, which is a shame. Any of these parts could stand alone as a good, interesting story, but when you read them all at once, you start to see how the supernatural elements and how the characters act don’t always match up. I care less and less about what’s going on after a while because I feel like nothing of it means in the end. Instead of this, I’d rather read more collections of stories by Junji Ito that don’t connect with each other. It seemed like Ito was trying to stick to the style of his usual short stories, but all of the stories were about the same thing, and it didn’t work. There may be other parts of his work where this is handled better, but right now I’m very unhappy with it.