The Enigma of Amigara Fault. Slug Girl. Uzumaki. Tomie. Horror fans will recognize these titles for the sheer alienness and singular beauty of the artwork. This is the horror stories of Japanese manga artist Junji Ito.
Ito's work is best known for the shocking final image. His hyper-detailed linework and macabre imagination has created some of the most chilling monsters ever seen on the page. The characters are haunted, living in gloomy nightmare worlds where bad things happen for no reason. These are depicted by Ito's pen as simple, elegant design, which emphasizes the contrast between beauty and annihilation.
The universe Itō depicts is cruel and capricious; his characters often find themselves victims of malevolent unnatural circumstances for no discernible reason or punished out of proportion for minor infractions against an unknown and incomprehensible natural order. These go well with themes of jealousy, the poisonous effect of fear, the breakdown of societal order, and the inevitability of death.
In an interview with Barnes and Noble , Ito shared his views on the horror genre.
How has your view of horror changed over the years? Are there things you used to think were scary that you wouldn’t use in a story now? Are there things you think are scary now that wouldn’t have been 30 years ago?
Basically I think my perspective of horror, my view of horror hasn’t really changed at all. As always, ever since I started writing, I have struggled for story ideas and I am always working to try and look at the world and turn it into something, and some of those things don’t fit the idea of “horror,” but really, I will use anything I can. As for things that didn’t used to scare me, but scare me now, I can’t say there are really that many things.
But as for things I used to be afraid of that I’m not so much now, I guess that would be other people’s eyes—their gazes. I used to be quite scared of that, and so when I would be walking down the road and people would look at me, I couldn’t meet their eyes. It was just a scary experience. I think I don’t have that so much now. And I think in horror the eyes are really important. How you draw them can totally change how scary a story is. I think the scariest part of the body is probably people’s eyes.
Why do you think people like to read horror stories? What do you like about writing them?
I think a lot about why people want to read horror or look at horror and what is the value of seeing something scary, why do we want to write something scary? I do think about that, and my thinking is that life is kind of uncertain. The future is uncertain; we don’t know what is going to happen. Maybe something bad is waiting for us, like, we don’t know, and there’s that uncertainty and that anxiety that comes from that. So if we see something scary, if we look at these scary things, then maybe we can prepare mentally for that. Maybe it’s some kind of readying our minds for possible future terrors. That’s the theory I have, and I think that’s the value in horror and seeing something scary. It’s just my personal thinking on that, though.
When I was little, all the horror was stuff like ghosts and monsters and creatures like Frankenstein, Dracula and things like that. I had a lot of contact with things like that, and I still really like that stuff. I think that basic horror stuff is really to my liking. I like it.
There are some delightful horror tales by Ito out there. Below is "Enigma of Amigara Fault." Read from right to left, Japanese-style.