Horror Manga by 伊藤潤二 [Itou Junji] (Review)

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This isn’t a review of any single manga but rather an overview of all of Itou’s work to date. If the title of this post didn’t get through to you, this guy primarily does horror manga — with a few exceptions, most notably his Cat Diary (which I have yet to find anywhere…) Anyway…

If you are squeamish at the thought of mechanized methane-powered zombie sharks, a beautiful girl everyone loves (to kill), or simply twisted (physically and mentally) human beings, turn back now.


Still with me, eh? First off let me say, this review is a bit skewed in favor of his newer works; some of the older work is a bit less refined art wise but nonetheless entertaining.

Well, I’ll start with his art style. Characters tend to be realistic, often with well detailed hair. Despite the simplified features, which we’ve come to expect from manga, they very well could be modeled after real people; there are no insanely spiky rainbow colored hair (though, a lot of the manga is black and white…) and bodily proportions are in check. If something about a character seems unnatural to you, it’s probably for good reason.

Backgrounds, and scenery too, are decent enough. Nothing is left completely voided out; everything will be detailed or at least properly shaded. Overall, not bad, but where Itou truly shines is…

…scary and or…

creepy content. (Actually, this is quite a romantic scene, in context) Please note, some imagery can be quite gory; I’ve specifically avoided posting anything overly bloody on here.

Anyway, enough talk of art; these tales aren’t fully reliant on gruesome, shocking imagery. The stories are about as realistic as those you’d get from The Twilight Zone, The Outer Limits, or (just for comparison sake) Goosebumps; by this I mean, some make sense if you give in to the distorted logic but many are simply unfathomable. There is a decent mix of one-shots and continuous stories, the former being more prevalent in his earlier works.

One-shot plots range from acts of revenge from beyond the grave, to face burglary, to a man who spent his dreams living. Tomie, which I’ll be lumping into the one-shots category, is a collection of shorts starring a beautiful girl who can neither stay alive nor dead for very long. Despite appearing multiple times, there isn’t any definite continuity behind her life, just a lot of incidents where she doesn’t quite die.

Later works such as Uzumaki (1997), Gyo (2001), and Hellstar Remina (2005) manage to maintain a plot over many chapters. Uzumaki is a bit of a bridge between one-shot and continuous; faced with seemingly weekly spiral-related misfortune, the city’s people ignore the voice of a reason and stay for the escargot. Gyo on the hand focuses on a single issue and it’s progression over time, after all you can’t go wrong with steam-punk zombie fish. Hellstar Remina is another long single focus story about… well in short, people suck.

As for now, he’s got an ongoing manga by the name of Black Paradox. Can’t say too much, as only two chapters have been released, but it looks promising.

Hopefully I’ve gotten some others interested in Junji Itou’s work. Some of his work has been officially translated and can be found for sale, some more can be found online with a little scavenging, and the rest I’ve either yet to find or have only found in Japanese.

Oh by the way, did I mention he likes cats?

Itou’s Manga (That I’ve found / read)

  • Back Alley [Part of Collection Vol. 12…]
  • Black Paradox (Ongoing…)
  • Face Burglar [Collection Vol. 4]
  • Flesh Colored Horror [Collection Vol. 3]
  • Gyo
  • Hellstar Remina
  • Frankenstine
  • Long Dream [Part of Collection Vol. 14…]
  • Lovesick Dead
  • Museum of Terror
  • Thing that Drifted Ashore [Part of Collection Vol. 7…]
  • Tomie 1 & 2
  • Uzumaki
  • Voices in the Dark (and New Voices in the Dark)
  • Junji Itou Collection 1-16 [Japanese… must translate >.>]

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