Things are amiss in the world. People are growing holes in their bodies, the deceased are singing scat, and models are gurning themselves into taxidermy, and the one behind this descent into madness is none other than Junji Ito.
The Spooky Monsters:
The sole reason Junji Ito’s stories are a worthwhile investment. Back when I first began reading Ito, I wasn’t too patient with his stories. I just wanted to hurry up and get to the page-turn where a pet cat catches a multi-eyed demonic insect from Amataratsu-knows-where, but I’ve since matured to where I understand the reason that page-turn is worth it is because of the slow build-up of anticipation. It’s delayed gratification at some of its finest.
The Mixed Bag:
Just about all of Ito’s stories are stand-alone chapters, but not all chapters are created the same. While collections like Shiver contain some of his best works, others like Fragments contain stories about a ghost who’s horny for wood, and by wood, I mean literal tree wood. Generally, you can’t go wrong with Ito, but keep in mind that there’s a hierarchy to his collections. Crowned at the top is Shiver, with tales like Hanging Blimps, and buried in the bowls of hell is Dissolving Classroom, which features two of the most annoying, irritating antagonists I’ve ever seen in a story.
The Continuity Errors:
Ito’s stories are meant to be enjoyed as they are, but sometimes, I can’t help but wonder how in the world some of these monsters and phenomenon haven’t made international news. For instance, one story has a family whose head has a line of literal family heads attached to their skull, and it’s beyond me how Edo-period villagers didn’t get together to send the household up in flames.
While Ito’s humans have one of seven hair styles and two personalities, the imagination which goes into his monster designs is something to behold and admire. Personally, I don’t find any of his stories frightening in any manner, aside from the sobering realization that we might die unexpectedly for any reason at any time, but picking up one of his collections is like purchasing tickets to a museum through the surreal and the cool to gawk at.