Originally working as a dental technician before becoming a manga artist, by all appearances Junji Ito looks like a normal person. But, appearances can be deceiving.
In the past decades, Ito has produced several long horror series as well as stand-alone short stories. His horror inspirations range from sinister spirals, sharks with legs, fast food grease and holes in a mountain.
Many fans outside of Japan have found his work through the internet with uploads of his story “The Enigma of Amigara Fault.” After an earthquake, numerous holes in a mountain are revealed, each hole shaped like a person. Many come to see the surreal landscape, but some seem drawn to a hole — their hole.
His stories take simple elements and mix them with fantastically detailed illustrations, body horror and existential dread. His first hit was “Tomie” — a girl who everyone falls in love with, but then feels compelled to kill. “Tomie” is a horror even to herself, disrupting the lives of everyone she encounters while being resurrected just to be killed again — sometimes by copies of herself.
Other stories of his, while still horror, have comedic or heartfelt elements. “Gentle Goodbye,” featured in his “Fragments of Horror” collection of stories, is beloved by fans for its touching story.
Another favorite among fans is about his life with two cats — “Junji Ito’s Cat Diary: Yon & Mu.” While these diary entries are based on real life, his style as a horror artist creates an interesting humor throughout the manga. Notably, he draws his actual wife without any pupils — but she is no monster, just a woman that loves cats. His wife, Ayako Ishiguro, is also an artist herself and mainly draws illustrations of cats.
Ito has also made two adaptations of existing classics. A British horror classic, “Frankenstein” by Mary Shelly and a classic in Japanese literature, “No Longer Human” by Osamu Dazai. “Frankenstein” is a more faithful adaptation of the source material, while “No Longer Human” has Ito’s trademark horror aesthetics mixed perfectly with the protagonist who is stuck in an apathetic existence.
The majority of Junji Ito’s stories have been published in English, giving them a wider audience. Recently, Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim has announced that Junji Ito’s “Uzumaki” will be adapted into an animated series.
The trailer for the series is gorgeous, as it retains the style and black and white inking of the original manga while adding a mystical score. It was originally scheduled to debut in 2020, but has since been moved to debut in 2021.
Considering that his works were originally published in a magazine called “Monthly Halloween,” this month is the perfect time to enter the world of Junji Ito.