23 Oct / Fragments of Horror by Junji Ito, translated by Jocelyne Allen
So it wasn’t even dusk yet and already the spine was tingling as soon as I opened the book. I kept looking around to make sure what was on the page hadn’t somehow escaped and was about to pounce on me. With Halloween just over a week away, you couldn’t go wrong with scaring yourself (and/or your loved ones!) with this standalone collection of creepy, macabre tales from Junji Ito, one of Japan’s best known horror manga artists (with good reason, egads!).
The eight “fragments” here are definitely inspired in part by morality tales of long ago: greed and betrayal lead to all sorts of horrific consequences. Two tales – “Futon” and “Tomio • Red Turtleneck” – share the same two characters, although the timeline is somewhat unclear; that said, when the crime is adultery as it is in both, beware of the one you cheat with, not so much the one you’re cheating on.
Lurid violence is never far from most of the stories here: an attractive architecture student moves into a heritage site and insinuates herself into the hearts of the father and daughter who live there in “Wooden Spirit” and causes gruesome ends; a girl grows into a desperate woman determined to flay innards, including her own (!), in “Dissection-chan”; a lone hiker with debilitating injuries stays alive for a month by being fed mysterious flesh in “Blackbird”; a writer collects fans in her dungeon in “Magami Nanakuse”; and a caretaker grooms her charge for the ultimate (justifiably) vengeful act in “Whispering Woman.” The single gore-less story is not without its many ghosts, in which the dead have decades to leave the living in “Gentle Goodbye.”
As frightful as these stories are, even more grisly are the images – this is a graphic title, after all. The panels are absolutely of the ‘once seen, can’t be unseen’-variety: closing your eyes to these visions isn’t going to be enough, especially since lurid eyeballs abound throughout! No doubt you’re being watched!
And now you’ve been duly warned. Scared much? ‘Tis the season indeed!
Readers: Young Adult, Adult
Published: 2014 (Japan), 2015 (United States)
© Junji Ito
Original Japanese edition published by Asahi Shimbun Publications Inc.