Another anthology book by the genius Junji Ito features a large number of short stories that are illustrated and written in his distinctive way. Even Ito’s most unimpressive works feel like supernatural horror mainstays that should be cherished once you’ve read and evaluated enough of them, so there’s always the concern that certain things will become redundant. As an illustration, despite the fact that I have no interest in horror in the slightest, I keep being driven to this artist’s work to see what additional ghastly facets of the human psyche he can depict in exquisite detail.
It goes without saying that this book’s artwork is stunning and a major highlight. Backgrounds are extremely meticulously detailed, with textures that can pick up even the minute details. Ito nevertheless manages to make up for the fact that many of his human character faces and models are beginning to look the same (especially with the women), by putting these bodies through emotional and physical hardships. Violence and body abnormalities are especially visceral, with blood truly striking out. Even if it’s not quite realistic, Ito keeps pushing the limits of what he can get away with in an exaggerated form of art. I have to give the author credit; even after reading dozens of his pieces, I still wriggle in my chair.
Despite the consistency of his artwork, not all of his stories share the same level of overall narrative intrigue. Some tales can have the trite moral of “bad things happen to bad people” and be exceedingly simplistic. Others, on the other hand, can be quite thought-provoking regarding how we, as humans, view the world or relate to one another. Unfortunately, this book has quite a few pieces that seem a little underdeveloped. Others believe that Ito simply had a spooky image in mind and then worked backward to create a story that justified the build-up to that image with varying degrees of success. The book’s longer stories, which had a good setup, twist, and payoff, included the one about the town with the tombstones and the final one about the doctor visiting the anemic village. However, the length of them may have something to do with it.
It can be annoying when Ito seems to be building up to something specific yet quickly ends the story once we reach that point, even with the wonderfully detailed artwork. For instance, in some tales, a disinterested observer merely witnesses awful things happening to another character. Then, when the observer is unintentionally drawn into that event in a specific and unsettling way, the narrative just…ends. Or perhaps it would be more accurate to say that the story ends and we quickly move on to the next one, with a narration bubble typically providing what seems to be an obligatory conclusion. Of course, the bite-sized nature of some of these pieces can make them among the better entry points into Ito’s work. However, it also seems like there should be more to some stories than what is shown, making it feel like the literary equivalent of blue balls.
But as I’ve already shown, even Ito’s least impressive stories have plenty to recommend them. Even if I preferred some stories over others, every single one of them left me with an image that I will remember for at least the next few weeks. There’s a good probability that this is already in your online purchasing cart if you enjoy horror films or have a soft spot for scary images. I advise individuals who are more inquisitive to read the first three stories and observe how they affect them. Just remember not to read the stories an hour before bed as I did!