Everything is Oll Korrect!

An eclectic bibliophile's journal…

Tag: Ito Junji

Frankenstein (Actually, it’s Ito Junji’s Monster)

When I pick up a story by prolific horror artist Ito Junji, there are two things I expect: It’s gonna be good, and it’s gonna be gross. There are a few exceptions at least to the latter point, but his adaptation of Frankenstein delivers on both fronts. If you’re looking for a manga to read for Halloween but want something more classic than Uzumaki or Gyo, this will be a solid choice.

Since comics are a visual medium let’s start with the art. Every panel is filled with detail, and the heavy linework and monochrome colour make the whole story feel appropriately dark and uneasy. Panel layouts are effective throughout the work, and the design of the monster is excellent. Perhaps this sentiment comes from reading it so recently, but thinking through other designs for Frankenstein’s monster, like the 1931 film or Hammer’s movie series among many others, this may be my favourite. He looks appropriately terrifying and obviously stitched-together, but also strong and agile as he is in the novel. I was less excited by the human characters, who all look good but not particularly special. I suppose that’s fine, though, since Frankenstein is best kept relatively realistic to aid suspension of disbelief, so wild character designs aside from the monster may call too much attention to themselves.

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Gyo (75 Books – XXIX)

If you enjoyed Uzumaki but didn’t think it was gross enough, have I got a comic for you. Whereas in Uzumaki artist Ito Junji only gradually ratcheted up the grotesque horror, in Gyo we encounter a rotting fish whose mechanical legs are powered by farts (not in those exact words, but it’s gas released from the animal’s orifices) within the first several pages. Really, most of what I have to say about Gyo is the same as what I thought of some of the later chapters of Uzumaki.

So, again, the art is detailed and could be gorgeous if it weren’t depicting so many rotting fish (and later, other animals).

The plot is intriguingly absurd, centering around masses of dead fish with mechanical legs coming ashore. Obviously, Ito isn’t taking himself too seriously, but there’s no winking at the audience, and I’m impressed at his ability to create a full graphic novel out of such off-the-wall concepts. One thing Ito doesn’t do in his stories, though, is explain much of anything. Where did these fish come from? There’s a hint, but nothing at all in the way of a full answer. This also holds for the two short stories included in Viz’s (very nice) omnibus edition, though whether this is a problem or not is largely a matter of personal preference.

My main criticism is that Gyo just isn’t very scary. It’s certainly gross, and does have some tense moments that make it serviceable as a horror story, but if you’re interested in reading Ito’s work I’d definitely start with Uzumaki and only move on to this if you really feel like you need more.…

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Uzumaki – Spiralling Into the Grotesque

uzumaki4I’ll give Uzumaki this: I’ve never seen anything quite like it. Author Ito Junji’s concept sounds like one hell of a creative writing challenge: the town of Kurouzu-cho is cursed by spirals. Every chapter repeats the “spiral” motif somehow, and though some episodes succeed more than others, I have to tip my hat to Ito just because he could write a three-volume comic using such an odd hook.

The first few stories are the most effective, in part because the supernatural elements only appear late in the episodes. So, in the first story, a man becomes obsessed with spiral-shaped objects, like snail shells or whirlpools, which causes his wife in to develop a phobia of spirals in the second chapter. Throughout each of these chapters the characters look like they’re simply crazy, and the horror is more effective because the bizarre events in this town are ratcheted up gradually in each succeeding story arc. So, the audience isn’t shocked at the outset and desensitised for the rest. Also, a series of stories taking place in the same town like this runs a risk of straining the audience’s suspension of disbelief with questions like, “Why doesn’t everyone leave?” Because of the gradual escalation, though, it’s plausible that, at the end of each episode, the town’s residents would assume they’ve seen the worst and choose to stay.…

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