Category: Manga

  • ๐Ÿ“‚

    Butterflies (Uzumaki part 14)

    The flapping of a single butterfly’s wings can create a hurricane on the other side of the world. That’s what’s happening in this town.

    Chie Maruyama describes the “Butterfly Effect” to Kirie.

    Butterflies — Synopsis

    Butterflies is the continuation of the story of Uzumaki. It follows on some time after the shocking events of The House — after an unknown period of time. We begin by following the car journey of a set of new characters — a news crew sent to Kurouzu-cho. We learn from their discussion that a number of further hurricanes have passed over the town. So we know at least a bit of time has occurred between chapters.

    On entering the outer limits of the town, the news crew’s car is flipped by a small whirlwind — a “twister” — that seemed to have come from out of nowhere.

    From out of the car wreckage only the lady is able to stand — the two men are left unconscious in the car. She quickly heads off into the town to try and find help. What she finds, however, is the once-picturesque town of Kurouzu-cho now mostly decimated by hurricanes.

    The place is no longer fit to live in.

    During her search she comes across three young boys that have been tied up to large posts — their mouths covered. Her first instinct of course is to help the boys out of their binds. However, she will soon regret doing so, as the boys have all undergone a very odd change.

    And not only that, but they also have their eyes set on further destruction — to both the town and the lady who has freed them.

    Twisters

    In Butterflies we see the return of something that was actually featured in the very first chapter of Uzumaki — albeit on much smaller scales — the twisters. Twisters are miniature hurricanes that would sometimes be seen whizzing through the streets of Kurouzu-cho. In fact, Shuichi warns Kirie of these in the opening pages of that first chapter.

    Of course it wouldn’t be Junji Ito if this theme of Twisters and Hurricanes wasn’t turned up to crazy. He shows us three young boys that are able to use the power of the wind for their own destructive ends. They somehow have control of the hurricanes and seem to just enjoy destroying for the sake of destroying. In fact, it appears that they are the ones that have demolished most of the town.

    What’s interesting here is how the old row houses — those run down and falling-apart wooden shacks — seem to be the only buildings that are immune to the hurricanes.

    From what I can remember of the later chapters (from my reading of Uzumaki about two years ago) I believe that these houses have a bigger role to play in the town’s curse with the spiral. And although there is no disease present, as in the previous chapter, the spiral’s influence is never the less still around.

    The Air Feels Heavy

    Kirie the protector

    I found it really cool to see Kirie come to the aid of the news lady from out of the town’s remains. She came across as a kind of vigilante, roaming the desolate wastes of earth’s future; helping those who are in need.

    Kirie has always been a fighter, and never at the mercy of others to help her — except perhaps the odd occasion where Shuichi would thrust his help upon her.

    It was great to see that fighting spirit was still there despite the chaos. She seemed to be the only one out on those dangerous streets savaging for food and supplies. Along with her younger brother in fact — that strength must run in the family.

    All of the other survivors we see look very weary and without hope.

    But not Kirie. She still picks herself up and does what she has to for her and the people around her.

    Kirie Goshima

    Kirie is a Queen. ๐Ÿ’š

    This chapter felt like a real change of pace for the overaching Uzumaki story. Mostly due to The Goshima’s converting their new home into a place of protection and refuge for others.

    The story of “Butterflies” really made it feel as though we’ve transitioned from an almost “monster of the week” feel, into a more overarching saga set amongst the wreckage of Kurouzu-cho.

    Almost a battlefield of sorts.

    A battlefield in the war against the spiral.

    A war that I am sure will claim much more destruction and many more casualties before the end.

    And I’m willing to bet that Kirie Goshima will be on the front line.

    Two of the Hurricane Boys

    In Summary

    Butterflies really felt like a turning point in the Uzumaki story for me; The beginning of the end. Until now we have seen many strange, outlandish events unfold that all relate to the towns ever-widening spiral curse. But with each new chapter the town still felt relatively normal overall. Each of the smaller story arcs felt somewhat self-contained for the most part.

    However, this chapter shows us the almost-complete destruction of Kurouzu-cho. The town simply can not come back from this.

    It feels to me like it has set us on a crazy course of mayhem and chaos, hurtling towards the collection’s huge ending.

    Definitely not a chapter I would recommend reading outside of the surrounding Uzumaki collection. None of it would be very relatable without the knowledge of what came before it. But as a part of the overarching collection, it does well to set us up for the war-torn events that are sure to follow.


  • ๐Ÿ“‚

    Blackbird

    I’ve been rescued… but She came… but I don’t need the meat anymore…

    Moriguchi wants the strange woman to leave him alone

    Blackbird — Synopsis

    In Blackbird, we join a young man who is bird-watching alone along a beautiful stretch of a mountainous forest. This man’s name is Kume. Along his walk he comes across another young man who is lying injured amongst the foliage — his name, Moriguchi. It seems that Moriguchi has broken his leg, and has managed to survive for a month or so on nothing but the rationed food from his own backpack.

    However, as the story continues we learn the deeper, darker truth to Moriguchi’s survival. On the first night of his rescue, he asks his new friend Kume to stay in the hospital room with him. He doesn’t give a specific reason, only that he is scared. That fear is soon realised by Kume during the night, when he witnesses a long black silhouette of a figure kneeling over Moriguchi with its face pressed against his.

    On a closer look, Hume sees that the figure is a tall woman with empty, dead eyes and puffed-up lips. After she has made her swift exit, Moriguchi wakes and coughs up a huge chunk of raw flesh. The raw flesh having been fed to him from the mysterious woman’s mouth to his; bird-style.

    Just who, or what, is this woman who has been helping, and still continues to help, Moriguchi in this very odd, stomach-turning way? Why did she choose to help him as he lay injured on that forest floor for a month? And will he ever be able to escape her shadow and her bird-like ways?

    A Faustian-like nightmare

    This story had the air of a faustian tale for me. A sort of “deal with the devil” in exchange for something that must be later re-paid. Re-paid with one’s soul and eternal damnation.

    The only difference here between The Blackbird and the more classical faust-inspired stories, is that Moriguchi seems to make this deal subconsciously during his fear for his life. As opposed to the more well-off people of a classical faust story; People who just want more knowledge and / or power.

    At least this is my interpretation.

    His own fear for losing his life could have somehow summoned this woman — this devil. The woman then taking him into a strange, almost recursive, nightmare from which he can never escape. But it’s only on finishing the story do you realise just how sealed Moriguchi’s fate really is.

    After we discover that it is in fact his own flesh, somehow from his future, that is being fed to him, I realised that this was a deal that had already been claimed. Yes, she saved him from certain death, but it was from the meat of his own body.

    So in essence he saved himself in that immediate moment, but at the expense of his future self.

    Moriguchi’s death was always inevitable.

    A shadow looms over Moriguchi

    An interpretation of Death

    Another interpretation I thought about with regards to the bird lady, was that she could be another manifestation of the Grim Reaper; Death incarnate.

    The inevitability of death is equal for all living creatures. No matter when or how that time comes, it is something that we all share. So when this woman entered Moriguchi’s life and took him into her twisted nightmare, she did so knowing full well that she would take his life in the future.

    In fact, from her point of view she had already begun.

    When you think about it, Moriguchi was already about to face death, regardless of the woman appearing. So in fact, she actually gave him more time on the living earth.

    Is the demonic winged lady truly an evil being? Could she even be responsible for Moriguchi’s initial state of injury? Or could she actually be something of an agent for good?

    Here’s a thought — what if she was some sort of angel, with the power of life and death. What if she was actually trying to give Moriguchi a bit more time in the world?

    Perhaps she knew that when death decides it is our time, then it is indeed our time. But maybe she had the power to prolong that person’s life, if only for a short while. But in doing so knew that the life in question was already chosen and must inevitably be claimed.

    In Summary

    The Blackbird was one of the first of Junji Ito’s stories I remember reading. It was one of the ones contained in the first of his collections that I bought — Fragments of Horror. And despite the fact that I have read a decent portion of his work up till this point, it still remains one of my favourites to go back to.

    It’s a circular nightmare that I love to re-enter again and again. The imagery of the blackbird woman leaning into Moriguchi on the hospital bed is one of my favourites of Ito’s. Although the panel itself isn’t hugely detailed — especially the woman herself, being only a silhouette to Kume’s eyes — I just remember the sense of wonder I got on my first reading.

    Being fresh to Ito’s work at the time it was something that really opened my eyes to his work and was one of the main catalysts in my wanting to actually write about that work. Too bad it’s taken a few years to actually get round to writing about this one.

    Fragments of Horror is an incredible smaller collection of stories and I fully encourage you to take a look — if only to read the awesome story that is Blackbird.


  • ๐Ÿ“‚

    The House (Uzumaki part 13)

    The floor where her son slept was covered with small holes. Now what was that about?

    Wakabayashi questions the strange goings on

    The House — Synopsis

    After the violent storm from the previous Uzumaki chapter, Kirie and her family have no choice but to find a new place to live. Their home, along with all others around Dragonfly Pond, have been completely destroyed by the Hurricane.

    The house that they are presented with is an apartment in one of Kurouzu-cho’s old row houses — the same kind of row house as featured in the earlier chapter Twisted Souls. Their new home is run down, dirty and barely hanging together. But it is their only option and they have no choice but to move in.

    Immediately upon moving in, it becomes apparent that something is not quite right with the place. Kirie should have probably expected this based on her previous adventures in the town. Strange howling noises at night and the rumours of a haunting and / or monster that devours nearby missing dogs, are enough to keep the family on edge.

    But will these rumours have any teeth? What are these strange markings that the family begin to show on their bodies? And will these markings become something much more sinister?

    Strange bodies

    In this chapter we return to what Junji Ito is perhaps most known for — his unique depictions of body horror. From the strange wart-like markings that Kirie’s father begins to first exhibit, to the grotesque protrusions that come later. Along with one of the most imaginative monsters in the Uzumaki series.

    I’m always impressed by just how much content and mystery Ito manages to pack into a lot of his stories. What we know is that the family is falling victim to some kind of local disease. And also that some kind of monster lurks somewhere within. But there is also a lot that we don’t know.

    Is that monster the only one of its kind, spreading its disease but devouring its victims? Or is it one of a line of them created by the town’s spiral curse? Are the families within the row houses becoming like the monster themselves? Or are they just catching the disease as a result of the close proximity to the monster?

    The answers to these questions don’t really matter — at least not to me. I always love it when a story opens more questions than it closes. It has the effect of deepening the world in which the story takes place. And there are few collections that I’ve read that are quite as deep as Uzumaki.

    The Old Lady Points

    Monster of the Week

    The House has one of my favourite “monsters of the week” in it. A monster of the week refers to a TV series that would have an overarching storyline, but would often have a different monster (or another enemy) each week for the protagonists to fight.

    (Kind of like The X-Files or Buffy the Vampire Slayer).

    The monster in this chapter is also one of Junji Ito’s most grotesque in my opinion. At least out of the stories I’ve read so far. Since we know where the monster’s spiral tentacles have originated from, and that the nearby people are exhibiting similar symptoms, it made it all the more creepy for me.

    The design of the monster as a whole was awesome too. Aside from maybe the blood-thirsty women of Mosquitoes, the monster of The House felt like Junji Ito’s most deadly creation yet. It even made me imagine some kind of later transformation of a creature from the Resident Evil game series.

    The way in which the monster’s spirals pushed their way in through the wall made me think of potatoes too. Stay with me a second. Those growths that potatoes get when left in the cupboard for too long. For the longest time those potato sproutings, although natural, really freaked me out. This monster pricked that same repulsion I think.

    On first reading I thought that the healthy neighbour was the monster all along. I thought that he was just playing the Goshima Family for fools. However, on re-reading I noticed how he asks himself what is happening with his own hand as he transforms. Leading me to believe that he is just as unaware as the others.

    What I found most interesting though, was just how his state escalated so quickly. He went from very early symptoms, to the fully-fledged spiral monster within moments. It seemed to me that it was somehow his lust for Kirie that became the catalyst for his transformation. His desires being revealed as he spies on her through his peep hole into their apartment. This being true, it would give the story a whole new subtext of a sexual nature.

    In Summary

    I wont lie, I found the monster in The House quite creepy to look at. Sometimes you see a particular image that just gets under your skin. For me, it’s creepiness was like that of another Ito story called “Greased” (which I’m yet to write about). There is just something about those little spiral warts that just turns my skin.

    This would be a great first story to jump into for a taster of Junji Ito’s style. The story is self-contained and gives just as much back story as is needed. And the body horror aspects, whilst being creepy and enough to almost turn my stomach, aren’t up in the realms of his more graphic depictions of horror.

    I definitely put this into the top half of my favourites from Uzumaki. Not quite the top five, but definitely somewhere close.


  • ๐Ÿ“‚

    Dissection Chan (Dissection Girl)

    Well, this is where you come to be dissected, right? I want to be dissected!

    Ruriko Tamiya has a very particular taste

    Dissection Chan — synopsis

    At a local hospital a group of medical students are preparing to start their curriculum on the dissections of cadavers. As each of the student groups opens their body bag they find the old, frail bodies of the dead. People who have graciously donated their bodies to the advancement of medical science.

    However, there is one group who conversely find a fresh-faced young woman. Fresh- faced enough that she could almost be mistaken as being alive. And then when she twitches a smile and opens her eyes, the students are stunned. They are greeted by a young woman who is begging to be dissected!

    She soon runs out of the theatre laughing to herself. The students are left in shock. All except one, who is sure he recognises the woman from his past. This trainee doctor’s name is Tatsuro Kamata. But just how does Tatsuro know this woman? And where will she appear again?


    Some spoilers below


    Journey of a psycho

    Dissection Chan is, for me, one of the more disturbing stories by Junji Ito. It is also incredibly original and takes a common backstory of psychopaths and gives it an interesting spin.

    When hearing those common backstories, especially in criminal investigation programmes, psychopaths often have a similar backstory. They would normally have been known to cut up small insects as children. They will often then graduate to rodents; then sometimes to cats or dogs; before becoming the vicious killer of humans that they are seemingly destined to be.

    In Dissection Chan, the title character Ruriko Tamiya journeys along that same path. She begins cutting up frogs, with the aid of a helpless young Tatsuro — the trainee doctor from the story’s opening, and soon gets a hunger for larger animals. Before long she is chasing her friend with a scalpel, looking like she’s almost ready to become the killer she is seemingly growing into.

    But what Ito does, very imaginatively, is take those psychopathic tendencies and turn them inwards. Ruriko becomes obsessed with wanting to be dissected herself.

    Peek-a-boo Ruriko

    Self destruction

    Human’s are often described as having a tendency towards self destruction. Now, I am not a psychology student — my levels of psychology knowledge come from films and Derren Brown. Specifically I remember in Terminator 2: Arnold Schwarzenegger saying to John Connor, about human beings, that “It’s in your nature to destroy yourselves”.

    I have also discovered this idea in other stories by Junji Ito. The one that springs immediately to mind is The Enigma of Amigara Fault. In it, people are drawn to the pitch black tunnels in an earthquake fault line carved out in perfect human silhouettes.

    Just like the people that are drawn to their own holes in the wall, despite it meaning certain doom, so to is Ruriko drawn to her own doom. Being dissected, if not already dead, would definitely kill you, and she is very aware of this. But maybe the very same “Death Drive” exists in her, making the last few panels of this story inevitable.

    The sickness inside

    The closing panel to Dissection Chan is one of my favourites of all of Ito’s stories I’ve read so far. The insides of Ruriko’s body are like something out of a living nightmare. It’s almost as if the souls of the things she’s dissected and killed over the years have become part of her.

    It definitely explains the stomach pains she suffers from.

    On a metaphorical level, it feels like it is the sickness inside her that is driving her obsession for dissecting. Something started long ago has being developing inside her. And by the looks of her insides, it is not only driving her to her actions and desires, but it is something she has been feeding too.

    It is almost as if her desires in her early days have made way for a biological need to be dissected as of late — in order to let out of her body the rotting, mixed-up living things that have developed inside her.

    Ruriko’s life and her physical body are definitely the result of a very grotesque vicious cycle.

    And then there is the sexual deviancy side to it all.

    Not only is this woman obsessed with dissection, but in her later years she becomes sexually attracted to it. Soliciting men and begging them to cut her open; then appearing at Tatsuro’s home, as naked as she was on that hospital table, screaming her mantra: “Dissect me!”.

    Junji Ito isn’t one to shy away from such sexual scenarios. I remember another character of his from Wooden Spirit, who was depicted as being sexually attracted to the old historical home in the story. Crazy stuff.

    In Summary

    Dissection Chan is incredible. It touches nerves that you possibly don’t know you have. It may even make you question what is possible in the realm of horror and horror manga.

    The depictions throughout the story get disturbing at times, but nothing so disturbing that would put you off any of Ito’s other works.

    In fact, I would argue that this story is one of the best examples of an Ito horror manga to give you an appetiser for his other stories. It is definitely one of the first I read in the Fragments of Horror collection, and is one I often re-read as well.


  • ๐Ÿ“‚

    The Storm (Uzumaki part 12)

    Didn’t you hear the wind last night? The voice of the storm was calling your name!

    Kirie is the target of the spiral that haunts Kurouzu Cho, as it seemingly controls a violent typhoon to hit the town hard. As her close friend Shuichi and Her sit on the beach together, Shuichi gets the feeling of the approaching typhoon before the weather forecasters soon confirm it.

    Before long the typhoon tears through the town, destroying homes and the streets surrounding them. Kirie does attempt to still take some food to Shuichi that evening but it looks that she is put off by the storm’s power — coupled with the fact that it seems to call out her name on the wind.

    All through the night the storm seems to be calling out to Kirie, which confirmed a long-standing theory of mine: the spiral curse is targeting Kirie for some strange reason. As she makes her way to Shuichi’s the next day, He finds her walking halfway there — to his horror.

    He warns her that the eye of the storm, the typhoon’s central point, is directly overhead and is watching her! What follows is a violent chase through the streets of Kurouzu Cho as they attempt to escape the storm’s focused eye.

    Dragonfly Pond

    Something about Dragonfly pond wasn’t right ever since those first chapters where it would pull in and absorb the cremation smoke from recent funerals. And now it makes its reappearance as it seems to be the very thing that pulled the typhoon into the town.

    Rather than the typhoon and storm being controlled by the spiral curse, it is more likely that something inside Dragonfly Pond is capable of pulling in surrounding things to its centre.

    Throughout recent chapters of the Uzumaki Collection, the power that the spiral curse has being displaying has been increasing somewhat. The gross transformations in The Snail; The violent, bloody events at the hospital and the resulting babies born in The Umbilical Cord. The stakes are getting higher and the surrounding people that are being affecting is increasing too.

    And at the centre of it all seems to be Dragonfly Pond.

    The storm causes lots of destruction

    There’s something about Kirie

    Kirie is front and centre the target of the typhoon, and by extension the spiral curse itself. But this is nothing unusual. She has always been around many of the strange occurrences in the town. This may even have led some to think she was a cause of them. However, this chapter seems to make clear that the spiral is actually targeting her.

    Could it be that all of the things that happened before were in fact ways that the spiral was trying to get close to her? The parents of Shuichi right back at the start; her father’s furnace in The Firing Effect; her admirer in Jack in the Box; even the boy who transformed into The Snail in her classroom.

    Part of my own theory about Kirie is to do with the location of her family home. She lives with her family right next to Dragonfly Pond — the place where a few of the occurrences of the spiral have happened. There was the cremation smoke in The Spiral Obsession part 2 being sucked into it; the pottery made from the pond’s clay in The Firing Effect; and now the storm being drawn into the centre of the pond.

    It just feels like too much of a coincidence for her to live next to this pond and then go on to be targeted by the spiral.

    The wind cries Kirie

    The art of the Storm

    Junji Ito’s art is always something to marvel at. His detail and imagination go hand in hand in creating some of the most awe-inspiring and disturbing visions from the world of Horror Manga.

    With The Storm specifically, I wanted to draw special attention to the amount of detail he puts into the chaos in the story. Half of the story is Kirie and Shuichi being chased by the storm across Kurouzu cho, as it tears open beings and local districts. The town really is starting to fall victim to this curse’s power on a much wider scale now.

    In many of the panels in this chapter you really can see the time and effort put into every frame. Into creating the believable, frantic journey that these two friends must endure. You can feel the biting storm; the unforgiving wind; and the utmost sense of urgency as they try to escape the eye of the storm.

    Shuichi helps Kirie in the Storm

    Conclusion

    The Storm gives a solid answer to something I had been thinking up till this point in the collection. That Kirie is in fact the target of the Uzumaki; that it seems to have some kind of designs on her.

    When viewed in isolation the events of this collection, although very strange, don’t seem to be targeting her as such. But when I was looking back after reading The Storm, the pieces seemed to start spiralling into place.

    I probably wouldn’t recommend reading this chapter alone, without knowing the surrounding story that is happening. Although it does stand on its own and shows Ito’s incredible skill, you should definitely read this as part of the collection as a whole. I think it deserves to be understood in it’s wider context.


  • ๐Ÿ“‚

    Ghosts of Prime Time

    …but we’re makin’ things happen with our comedy. We’ll take control one o’ these days!!

    Tasogare Kintoki says some strange things during their comedy routine

    Ghosts of Prime Time — Synopsis

    Keisuke and Tsuguo are two friends talking in a small cafe. Tsuguo is an every day regular young man, whereas Keisuke is more withdrawn and “gloomy”.

    Tsuguo tells his friend of a story of a recent local killing of an obscure comedian. The comedian was found in the street with an expression of equal parts suffering and laughter.

    Later that day, the two friends go to a local comedy club – Tsuguo wanting to cheer Keisuke up – to see the comedy lineup. One of these acts in the line up is the aforementioned duo Tasogare Kintoki.

    Tasogare Kintoki are objectively bad at comedy. Their jokes fall flat and most of their banter is regarding how they will one day “make it big” and live in a mansion. A very strange double act indeed.

    However, after a few moments of complete silence with the odd whisper, one audience member begins laughing uncontrollably. And then, just as Tsuguo comments on this strange occurrence, another person does the same. The effect starts to repeat through the audience until the entire club is in a vicious roar of laughter. That is, everybody except for Keisuke.

    There is no doubt that something is not right in that comedy club, but what is it? Keisuke is the only one not affected, but what does he have that the others don’t? And what might Tasogare Kintoki do when they realise that there is one person seemingly immune to their unique brand of comedy? Their sinister grins promise a future of pain and torment.


    Some spoilers below


    Horror and Comedy

    Horror and Comedy are very closely related. Both genres have a willingness to go over the top with absurdity and exaggeration. While comedy uses it’s exaggerations to poke fun and make its audiences laugh, horror conversely uses it’s own to scare and unsettle its audience.

    But what’s often more interesting, at least to me, is when an artist manages to combine the two into something often greater than the sum of the parts. Many people often cite Quentin Tarantino’s famous ear-cutting scene in his first major film, Reservoir Dogs. (Despite never actually seeing the cutting itself, audience members still tending to look away)

    What I think Junji Ito has managed to craft here though, is a different way of blending horror and comedy. Instead of taking the elements of both genres to make his story a “horror comedy”, he has actually taken horror and made it infect the comedy inside the story. I am referring to the fact that the laughter and enjoyment apparently felt by Tasogare Kintoki’s audience, is in fact the direct result of the phantoms/ghosts that they project out into the crowd.

    I think the blending of genres is always interesting to see. But I especially liked here how Junji Ito hasn’t necessarily blending the genres together. He has instead kept this as a horror story, but used the comedy within the narrative as the vehicle for that horror.

    Faces of Comedy

    Junji Ito has always been an artist who draws great facial expressions. Especially faces of pain and obsession. In Ghosts of Prime Time, he has on display some brilliant faces of extreme laughter and, of course, pain.

    The first example is actually on the very first page — the story of the obscure comedian who is found dead in the street. The close up of his face does indeed show laughter at the time of death. But so to it manages to put across pain and suffering from, I believe, the completely white eyes and taught muscles around the neck and face.

    And I can’t mention the faces in this story without mentioning Tasogare Kintoki themselves. Their expressions always that of faces on the cusp of laughter, sometimes without pupils in their eyes. Almost like they are being possessed at times. And despite their smiles, they are always projecting a sinister intent towards all those who see them.

    Poker face Keisuke

    Keisuke definitely takes on the role as the sane compass centre in Ghosts of Prime Time. He reminds me a little of Shuichi in the Uzumaki collection. Whilst all the craziness is going on around him, he seems to stay grounded and be able to look objectively at those things.

    Just as Shuichi seems to be able to detect and know of the spiral’s control within his town, so to does Keisuke in his town. He can see the spirits that leave the bodies of Tasogare Kintoki to tickle the audience into submission. He knows they are not to be trusted and warns his friend of that.

    I think these sorts of grounded characters are important to these stories. Without them we would just see the events unfold with no-one really to fight back. But Keisuke does fight back — and with gusto.

    In Summary

    I really love Ghosts of Prime Time. It doesn’t seem to be as well known or regarded as Junji Ito’s more popular stories like Tomie or The Bully, for example. But I want to change that! This story is, as are most of Ito’s works, wholly unique.

    I believe this one would be a perfect first story of Ito’s to read if you were looking to get into his stuff. Especially if you wanted to avoid the kinds of body horror that come with so many of his more celebrated works.

    And believe me when I say that it will become a journey for you. Because once you have read this story, you will most likely want to start exploring his other great works too.


  • ๐Ÿ“‚

    Human Chair

    …but I have a feeling that there really was a man living in the chair… and he leaves the chair every night…

    Is Yoshiko’s paranoia getting the better of her?

    What is The Human Chair about?

    When a lady author speaks with a furniture maker about getting a new chair, he goes on to tell her the story of an author from long ago, Togawa Yoshiko. Yoshiko had a large, soft writing chair bought for her by her husband — similar to the one that the Young Lady is being shown today.

    Yoshiko would often receive letters from new authors in the hope of guidance and / or exposure into the arts. One such letter details the story of a chair maker who decided to build secret compartments into the lining of his chairs — places for him to sit beneath those sat on the chairs.

    Yoshiko’s paranoia gets the better of her, and she becomes convinced that her own chair is the one spoken of in the letter. Whether that is the case or not, I will leave you to discover through reading The Human Chair for yourself. What I can say though, is that Yoshiko’s story has a direct effect on the lady author from the start of the manga.

    Whether that is good or bad, I will leave you to discover for yourself…

    Based on a short story of the same name

    In 1925, the short story “The Human Chair” was published in Kuraku literature magazine by Edogawa Ranpo. In Junji Ito’s manga adaptation, he has used the narrative of that short story as his backstory. It is very much a sequel to that original story.

    The chair’s history is actually described in more detail in the original short story, I believe. However, in the context of Ito’s interpretation, this isn’t as important. Instead he uses the basis of that original story as a spring board from which to explore the darker recesses of the tale.

    Apologies if I am wrong here, but I think I am right in saying that Ito seems to create his own additions to the end of Yoshiko’s legend. The original ends at the point at which the chair-maker’s confession letter turns out to be a short story manuscript from an aspiring writer. However, Junji Ito takes us further into Yoshiko’s paranoia and the horror that may just be hidden beneath her chair’s soft upholstery.

    Perhaps the original story was left ambiguous for the reader to formulate those possibilities in their own minds. Here we get to see how Ito interpreted that story, and just how he imagines it moving forwards.

    Horror in plain sight

    Once again, Junji Ito brings us a slice of horror that would have perhaps never been considered — chairs. Yes it was based on a previous work, but he obviously saw something interesting and creepy in that story that he wished to bring into his own world of Horror Manga, before sharing it with us — his fans.

    Although most of Human Chair is telling the back story of Yoshiko — it is an adaptation after all, I found the present day story interesting too. The unnamed modern-day lady author and the creepy chair maker / salesman. If I’m honest though, I’d liked to have seen a bit more story around the two of them.

    I myself have a history with chairs and horror, ever since I saw Ghostbusters when I was young. That scene with Dana Barrett in her chair… and those arms… damn still creeps me out to this day.

    Since then I can not really sit in a room with space and a door behind me. For fear of someone grabbing me from behind — especially when watching or reading horror. In fact I’d not even considered this to be an actual fear of mine until writing this post. ๐Ÿ˜•

    Perhaps this is a fear more common than I thought. Maybe that is what drew Ito to it for working on his adaptation.

    In Summary

    Human Chair is a story I will find myself revisiting now and again. I love how Junji Ito manages to find horror in the everyday things. Like with his own cats in ‘Yon and Mu’ or everyday shapes, such as the spiral in Uzumaki. Chairs are such ubiquitous things that to consider them as places of horror is perhaps not often considered.

    But Junji Ito considered it. And not only that, he has created a mystery that uses a classic Japanese short story as a basis from which to explore his themes of paranoia and a yearning for love.

    His artwork in it is just as great as I have come to expect too — detailed and demanding to be read multiple times. It’s a pity that the only versions I can currently find are small scans that have been roughly translated into English online. I would really love to own this story as part of an original collection.


  • ๐Ÿ“‚

    The Umbilical Cord (Uzumaki part 11)

    So it’s been born. I wonder what it looks like. A baby gorged with human blood…

    Kirie is curious about the newly born

    Some time after the bloody events of Uzumaki’s tenth chapter, Mosquitoes, Kirie is faced once again with the insidious spiral that seems to haunt her. The pregnant women who she saw feeding on human blood are about to give birth to their little bundles of joy. But what sorts of monsters will be born from such horrific actions?

    As it turns out, the baby’s are born and are all perfectly normal — the cutest baby’s ever, some would say. But you can trust that these baby’s are going to be very far from normal. In fact, each of them is hiding a gross deformity and a very strange desire to return to the womb.

    Of course, Kirie is alone in her suspicions and is still doubted about the events of the hospital massacre. But by the time this chapter reaches its own bloody conclusion, you can bet that there will be no room to doubt Kirie on the events that unfold.

    Some spoilers below

    The Source of Life

    The umbilical cord is the source of life for humans as their grow within their mother’s womb. What the mother feeds on has an effect on the kinds of nutrients that the baby will ultimately be absorbing. So is it any wonder that the feeding on human blood did strange things to them?

    The introduction of the mushrooms in the hospital food was equally inventive as it was disgusting. Our first feeding as humans comes from the umbilical cord so it was interesting how the patients were attracted to this strange new food without knowing its origin.

    I have heard of people actually eating their own placenta after giving birth. And whilst I would never dream of doing such a thing, I wont say bad things about those that choose to. I just love how Junji Ito, once again, takes this occurrence in real life and delves deeper into his strange imagination of “What ifs”.

    A Yearning to return

    Who has dreamed about just being able to return to the womb? To just leave all the cares of the world and struggles of life and just be taken care of once again. Many of us, myself included, even occasionally sleep in the fetal position — it’s a feeling of comfort very deeply rooted in the psychology of us humans.

    I love how Ito took this and had us witness these babies literally wanting to return back to their mother’s womb. With a deranged doctor willing to carry out the surgery!

    This led me to imagine this omnipresent spiral presence, the Uzumaki, in control of all of this — the spiral patterns in the regrown placentas no doubt being used to hypnotise him into carrying out this force’s will.

    Coming back to the spiral

    Let’s imagine for a second that we humans are all metaphorical spirals that begin at the moment of our conception. We grow into our fetal positions, almost as if we are trying to wrap around ourselves.

    Then we are born. If we are lucky we are soon held closely by our mother, who will hold us the tightest that they ever will, metaphorically speaking. And then, as we get older and older, we are held less and less. And even though the love is always there, for those of us who are fortunate enough, the gaps begin to form and we go out into the world on our own. Perhaps to start our own families.

    I can imagine this way of life, the growing apart yet still being connected, as the motions of the spiral as it continues round on its journey. Still connected to its origin yet moving further outwards into the world.

    The spiral really is all around, both in Junji Ito’s Uzumaki and our everyday lives.

    In Conclusion

    Umbilical Cord rounds off its three-chapter mini-arc nicely as it follows directly on from Mosquitoes and The Black Lighthouse. (The light burns Kirie received in The Black Lighthouse being the reason she was actually in the hospital as a patient).

    This chapter is also a daring one too, I would say, as it deals with the births of babies. And not just regular babies either — babies born after their mothers have been feeding on human blood. But Ito handles it with his expert pen as you would come to expect from him.

    Whilst I wouldn’t say there was too much in the way of violent horror in this one, there is a good dose of creepy body horror. Body horror that does a really good job in unsettling its readers. At least it did with me on my first time reading.

    I would probably not recommend this as a first time read for Ito’s work. Perhaps I would recommend reading Mosquitoes first followed by this one. But then again I would say that Uzumaki is worth it from start to finish.


  • ๐Ÿ“‚

    Fixed Face

    This is a facility made specifically to capture the features on the lower portion of the face.

    The Doctor explains the chair that makes Yagawa feel so uneasy.

    Synopsis — Fixed Face

    Fixed face is one of Junji Ito’s shorter stories, but is no less terrifying in its smaller page count.

    Yagawa is a young lady who has gone to a dental hospital for some unknown reason. We don’t know her treatment and, for the purposes of this story, it isn’t really important. On arriving, the doctor welcomes her to take the only seat — the dental chair — and to place her head between two ominous-looking clamps.

    These clamps, the doctor says, are to fix the person’s head in place to allow them to capture exactly the features of the lower part of their face. The clamp is made up of a huge over-arching machine. That machine reaches round a person’s head with pointed metal pieces that are to be placed inside the person’s ears.

    However, on fixing the lady in place, the doctor realises he needs to leave the room for a moment. Not long after leaving, he trips down the stairs on one of the hospital’s lower floors — killing himself.

    The location of the dental room is an area of the hospital not often covered by many people. So the lady is left alone, head clamped in place, without a word from the doctor or any other soul.

    She has no idea about the fate of her doctor. And has no way to get herself out of the place in which she is trapped. What will happen to the lady? Will she ever get out? And if so, at what cost will she manage to break free?

    Fear of never being found

    I remember hearing an urban legend when I was younger about a person buried alive and never being found. The thought of being trapped in a place where nobody knows where you are is scary in itself.

    But Junji Ito has created a similar story here, no doubt inspired by his own time as a working dentist. When Yagawa is fixed in place into the dental chair and then left, she is left in a very vulnerable position. But when we see how the Doctor ends up dying, she has no idea — however, we as the readers do.

    We have a power over her that somehow reinforces Yagawa’s increasing anxiety. As she freaks out in the chair, unable to free herself and with seemingly no one coming to her help, we are forced to just watch her struggle.

    What I found interesting too, was that there are no malevolent forces in operation here. There are no evil spirits, forces of nature, or a bad doctor trying to trick her. It is a situation of pure bad luck — for both Yagawa and her doctor. A situation that Yagawa must then try to escape from.

    Yagawa tries to get out

    It reminded me of Tomie: Babysitter and Amigara Fault

    In Tomie: Babysitter, the main character, Erita, falls into a similar situation. After being locked in a family’s baby’s nursery as a precaution, she ultimately finds herself trapped. With the only people who know she’s there unable to let her out. Although it is for very different reasons that her captors are unable to free her, the result is still similar.

    Perhaps this fear of been locked away, or being forgotten, is a legitimate fear of Junji Ito’s? And maybe it’s that fear that he lets feed into his work in these stories? Or maybe it is just that the fear of being forgotten is such a common human fear, that it naturally ended up finding its way into his work.

    Another similarity I felt in this story was of The Enigma of Amigara Fault. When we see Yagawa struggling and convinced that the ear clamps are pinching further into her head, it reminded me of the closing panels of Amigara Fault. Where we would see the tunnels gradually squeezing and bending the people who entered out of shape.

    That idea of being trapped and seemingly under the control of some outside force closing in on you is scary. And I think that similar theme was used well here in Fixed Face too — albeit without the human-shaped holes.

    In Conclusion

    I find Fixed Face to be a very effective little horror story that is light enough on its surface to make for an easy read. But I think there is a lot to admire in those moments where Yagawa is getting more and more frightened in her fixed position.

    There are some great examples of Ito’s penmanship on display. This is especially apparent where we see the lady’s close up face broken out into a sweat and panic. The fear is palpable and really jumps out of the page. Even the sense of motion as Ito draws her swinging to get out of her trap is really well done. Her increasing stress and anxiety is put across in a way that made it feel as though the pace was truly picking up. Almost as though I could hear the woman’s ever-increasing heart beat growing louder and louder.

    Despite the slightly-contrived way in which Ito sets up this situation — the man just having to leave the room and just so happens to trip and die — this is still up there as a favourite of mine. This is less of an evolving story per-se. It is more of a situation that this woman, and by extension us as readers, must endure.


  • ๐Ÿ“‚

    Mosquitoes (Uzumaki part 10)

    They needed raw blood for their babies!

    Kirie must survive a blood-soaked nightmare

    It is Summer time in Kurouzu-cho and Kirie Goshima is in hospital. She is still being treated for the wounds that she incurred when she and her brother escaped from the Black Lighthouse in the previous chapter. But what is not helping her heal, is the number of mosquitoes that have increased in numbers recently.

    In fact, during a quick walk around the outside of the hospital Kirie and her friend notice a huge, thick collection of mosquitoes all buzzing around in a tight circular motion. Her friend tells her about how this is called a “Mosquito Column”, and occurs when all of the males get together to try and attract a mate. But within seconds of them seeing the column, things go from curious to horrific very quickly.

    Kirie and her friend discover the body of a pregnant woman in the hospital grounds, with a face contorted into a look of pain and a body mutilated and full of holes. Soon after, more and more pregnant women get admitted to the hospital, as a result of mosquito swarm attacks. One of which is Kirie’s cousin Keiko.

    As the story moves forward, more strange and horrific things begin to occur within the walls of the hospital. But what will Kirie and her Keiko do when they find themselves at the centre of a hellish nightmare?

    Vampyric tendencies

    Vampires are a staple of horror and have been so for over a hundred years – arguably starting with the Bram Stoker novel Dracula. Many modern-day horror stories that tackle the idea of the vampire lean very heavily on the story of Dracula too. Especially with both his strengths and his weaknesses. But what I loved about Mosquitoes by Junji Ito, was how he has managed to create his own vampire-like story with absolutely no mention of vampires.

    The blood sucking women throughout the second half of the story are not controlled by some greater being that has sired them. Except, of course, if you consider the spiral at the centre of all things in Kurouzu-cho to be the controller. Instead, these women have simply taken on the attributes of the mosquitoes.

    And that is the stroke of genius that sits at the heart of this chapter: “What if people took on the same behaviours as mosquitoes?”. And in Junji Ito’s own unique way, he has explored that question with gusto. Here you have pregnant women drilling holes in people to drink their blood, in order to feed the unborn babies inside of them.

    The women are demonic looking

    Gripping and Horrific

    Mosquitoes packs so much into its thirty or so pages that I couldn’t help but feel wiped out by the end of it. This is possibly the most horrific night that Kirie has had so far in Uzumaki. Taking the deceptively simple premise of “what if people started becoming like mosquitoes” opened up a whole load of horror possibilities.

    As mentioned above, the similarities with vampires was a comparison that I couldn’t help but make. But so too there are similarities with zombie films. There is one panel in particular where Kirie steps out to investigate a strange noise that she hears in the corridors. That investigation takes her straight towards a group of demonic-looking women all after one thing โ€” blood.

    Despite them being mindful of what they are doing and how they are doing it, the horde of evil ladies drew big parallels with scenes I’d seen from zombie films. Such as the group pursuing as one demonic pack; the people who come out to investigate and get caught and devoured. But perhaps my favourite part was when Kirie manages to escape the horde and lock herself back in her own room, only to be locked inside with something already lurking in there.

    In Conclusion

    Without a doubt, Mosquitoes is one of my top three favourite Uzumaki chapters. I’m not quite sure if it’s my absolute number one yet. But I think it’ll be a close one.

    What’s great too, is that this story works great as it’s own standalone tale, separate from the surrounding story of the spiral nightmare. Junji Ito’s genius is on full show here with his gruesome depictions of blood-thirsty women being like mosquitoes. But instead of them just being pests as their tiny counterparts tend to be, these women are wild-eyed, demonic animals. And they will kill on site anyone who crosses their path.

    Despite this being able to stand on it’s own story merits, it is actually followed on directly by the next chapter, “Umbilical Cord”. I can’t remember the story itself, having only just read the next chapter’s title. But seeing as it deals with the babies that came as a result of that evil night, it definitely feels like it will be just as crazier โ€” perhaps more so.

    If you’re looking for a reason to start reading Uzumaki, or even just Junji Ito in general, please do give this one a read. You could even go to your local bookshop that has it in stock, and jump straight to page 299. I guarantee you will at least enjoy the experience. But you’ll more likely than not end up buying the collection then and there.