CriminOlly thinks: Marvellously eerie weirdness from the master of horror manga, Junji Ito. 4/5
Somehow, I’ve managed to go this long without reading any Junji Ito. Given his popularity amongst horror fans that might almost feel like an act of deliberate omission. It wasn’t, just another example of the “too many books” problem. What’s probably less surprising is the fact that I absolutely loved Shiver, a collection of some of his best stories.
I tend to think of manga tales as being epically long, multi-part series that go on forever. Shiver is the opposite of that. Packed into the volumes 340-odd pages are 9 stories, each of which takes a bizarre concept and runs with it. Many of the tales are truly weird, and the fact that Ito manages to make them feel complete in a relatively few pages is very impressive. There’s great variety here too, from the haunted vinyl of Used Record, to the disgusting surrealism of Greased which features oil gushing from the faces of its characters.
It’s hard to describe exactly what it is that makes these stories so disturbingly creepy. It’s something about the blend of Ito’s wild imagination and the skill of his penmanship. The pages turn filled with simple frames that move the story along and then he hits you with an image so utterly weird that it takes your breath away. One story (Fashion Model) is essentially a simple monster tale, but it features a character whose appearance is so disquieting that I haven’t managed to shake it from my mind. There’s a nightmarish quality to the whole book that’s reminiscent of Lovecraft or some other true original.
Ito picked the stories for the collection himself, and each one is accompanied with commentary on its origins. Despite the macabre genius of his imagination, he comes across as a genuinely likeable guy in these short pieces of prose. They really add to the book and make for an interesting insight into the creative process that spawned such disturbing tales.
Title: Shiver | Author: Junji Ito | Publisher: VIZ Media | Pages: 400 | Publication date: 7th October 2015 | ISBN: 9781421596938 | Source: Purchased
This volume includes nine of Junji Ito’s best short stories, as selected by the author himself and presented with accompanying notes and commentary. An arm peppered with tiny holes dangles from a sick girl’s window… After an idol hangs herself, balloons bearing faces appear in the sky, some even featuring your own face… An amateur film crew hires an extremely individualistic fashion model and faces a real bloody ending… An offering of nine fresh nightmares for the delight of horror fans.
1. Used Record or Second-Hand Record (from House of the Marionettes, あやつりの屋敷 Ayatsuri no Yashiki), a story about people fighting over the ownership of a record that has a singer’s singing as they died recorded on it.
2. Shiver (from Slug Girl, なめくじの少女 Namekuji no Shoujo), a story about a cursed jade stone that causes holes to open up all over a person’s body if they’re around it.
3. Fashion Model (from Souichi’s Diary of Curses, 双一の呪い日記, Sōichi no Noroi no Nikki), a story about an oddly ominous fashion model.
4. Hanging Balloons (from The Face Burglar, 顔泥棒 Kao Dorobou), a story about balloon headed dopplegangers out to hunt their counterparts the moment they go outside.
5. Marionette Mansion (from House of the Marionettes, あやつりの屋敷 Ayatsuri no Yashiki), a story about a family who rather than deciding what they do or how they live, they instead hire puppeteers to control their actions via strings from the attic of their home.
6. Painter (from Tomie), a story about a strange but beautiful woman named Tomie who wishes for an artist to accurately capture her beauty, and all the misfortune that happens as a result…
7. The Long Dream (from The Story of the Mysterious Tunnel,トンネル奇譚 Ton’neru kitan), a story about a man who claims that the length of his dreams are becoming longer and longer and about how he begins to change as his dreams extend farther and farther.
8. Honored Ancestors (from The Face Burglar, 顔泥棒 Kao Dorobou), a story about an amnesiac girl and the encounter that caused her to lose her memories and about carrying on the family line. At all costs.
9. Greased (from Voices in the Dark, 闇の声 Yami no Koe, a story about oil and grease.
10. Fashion Model: Cursed Frame [new]
Content Warning: Excessive weirdness