Why Junji Ito Stories are Unmatched

    Junji Ito is regarded as the master of horror, and he truly lives up to his name. He perfectly blends disturbance and shock factor into one unique storyline. His talent for incredibly detailed drawings adds elements of gore, which makes each story all the more unsettling.  

    Take Uzumaki, probably Ito’s most notable work. Uzumaki takes place in Kurouzu-cho, a small sea-side town. The story starts off with Kirie Goshima and her boyfriend, Shuichi Saito, whose father develops an unhealthy obsession with spirals. At first, Kirie thinks nothing much of it, but after Shuichi’s father’s spiral-induced death, she’s thrown into a variety of horrific situations all caused by the demonic spiral. 

    Image by Junji Ito

    The 20-chapter manga is beyond disturbing. After every arc, I just had to put it down and take a moment to completely process what I just read. The scenes Ito draws are so explicit that they’re completely etched into my memory. Two scenes that I continuously think about are when we see half of Kurotani Azami’s head consumed by the spiral and when the people begin turning into snails.

    The drawing of half of Azami’s head is iconic, as the detail drawn into her eyes and eye sockets make you not want to look away, and has been used for a variety of Ito merchandise and marketing. Uzumaki also ups its intensity with every chapter. It feels like you’re reading a 60-chapter series and the ending leaves you saying “What the f–.” 

    Ito’s lesser-known stories have also been adapted into an anime, titled Junji Ito Collection. The first story introduced is Souchi’s Convient Curse, which really isn’t a great first Ito story for people who’ve never read his works before. Souchi’s Convenient Curse follows Souchi, a student with a god complex and knack for curses, and his journey to hurting people who’ve wronged him in the slightest way. Souchi is extremely petty and sits on a high horse, which causes him to enact his revenge in ways that are just too extreme. For instance, he attempts to traumatize his classmate by posing as a horrific, thin-limbed monster. Why did his classmate deserve this? He didn’t thank Souchi for hurting his friend.

    Image by Studio Deen

    Souchi’s Convenient Curse occupies a majority of the two-story episode, leaving around five minutes for Hell Doll Funeral. The second story follows a family whose daughter completely transforms into a doll. In the society they reside in, it’s normal for children to turn into dolls. However, parents immediately burn their children once they turn into dolls. The family in focus for the five minutes don’t burn their daughter, and quickly learn why it is that families burn their children in the first place. Hell Doll Funeral is more close to a typical Junji Ito story rather than Souchi’s Convenient Curse. It would’ve been better to have Hell Doll Funeral take up more time within the episode since its tone is most similar to Ito’s more well-known works.

    Episodes following, according to fans, don’t hold up to their manga counterparts. This difference is primarily due to the lack of shock factor from the art style. Within Ito’s manga, he shocks the viewer with explicit drawings, such as detailed drawings of guts, veins in the eyes, or people breaking their own spines. His work almost seemed three-dimensional. When adapted into the anime, this realism was stripped away, leaving a sub-par rendition of Ito’s masterpieces.

    However, that is not to say that the Junji Ito Collection is terrible. There are some great stories in the show, such as Tomie, but it shouldn’t be a point of entry for new fans. 

    Lucky for us, there is an anime adaptation for Uzumaki in the works for Toonami in 2021. Directing the anime is Nagahama Hiroshi, who’s known for directing Aku no Hana and Mushishi. Ito has also had a hand in the script, and has said that he likes the direction it’s going in.

    Regardless of the substandard anime adaptation, Ito’s horror stories stand out among others. The plots of his stories are special in their own way and will leave you completely horrified and wanting to read more.  

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