Junji Ito's masterful horror manga showcases a nightmare world of body horror

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Junji Ito's masterful horror manga showcases a nightmare world of body horror

The Japanese manga artist has become famous for stark and terrifying imagery, portraits of warped body horror, and ceaseless Lovecraftian terror.

You have never read anything like the work of Junji Ito. 

This mangaka – Japanese comic book artist – has captured the imagination of fans around the world for his nightmarish illustrations and strangely imaginative stories. Whether the tales revolve around a town consumed by spirals, a beautiful succubus who inspired passion and bloodlust, a hole in a rock wall that calls to doomed souls, or a reinterpretation of the venerable tale of Frankenstein's monster, Junji Ito has already become well known to his native Japan by lovers of the macabre and will soon reach a wider Western audience thanks to both a Quibi adaption of his story Tomie directed by Alexandre Aja and his upcoming Uzumaki anime on Toonami.

Ito's work is famous for a few things. In terms of his art, his style is stark black and white with very little shading used for his human characters, while the dark shadows and intricate linework of his monsters contrast the effect and makes the very pages seem to be corrupted with evil. Most of the monstrous images of the book dealt with themes of body horror. Bodies twist and unravel and melt in horrific parodies of humanity. His stories are also known for being bizarre and nightmarish. Most of the strange fates that befall his characters are not explained, nor can they be stopped. This combination makes for unforgettably dreadful stories. 

Junji Ito's career started when, in 1987, he submitted a story to a contest in the magazine Gekkan Halloween. The story earned an honorable mention and he later expanded it into a longer form work that became Tomie. The title character is a strange creature, a woman of unparalleled beauty who would drive men to madness and violence. Whenever it backfired on her, she could regenerate her mutilated body. 

Since then, his work has become acclaimed around the world. His adaption of Frankenstein earned him an Eisner award in 2019.

When interviewed by BarnesAndNoble.com, he was asked about why he thought people liked to read horror: 

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.


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