JUNJI ITO’S WEIRD NIGHTMARE WORLD
Firstly, we need to be clear from the start that I am NOT an expert on Japanese manga or anime, and have never claimed to be. There are folks out there who live and breathe this stuff, and at best I am a random dabbler. That being said, since this blog is a celebration of quality horror in the lead up to Halloween (less than a week now!), there is just NO way we could skip the mad manga maniac Junji Ito. He is to uncomfortably odd creepiness as Dr. Octopus is to being only one sniper headshot away from defeat. But, I digress (and also just exhausted most of my current comic book understanding. Spiderman is still a thing, right?).
Let’s get down to business…
Junji Ito was born in 1963 and has been writing and drawing his EXTREMELY bizarre manga work since the late 80s, starting with the Tomie series.
The Tomie stories all deal with an immortal girl (named Tomie, natch) who drives boys (mostly, but several gals, too) to madness and murder. Weirdly, it’s usually her murder, but then she springs up again in a different story as if nothing ever happened. Pretty great. They’ve been made into a series of average-to-bad horror films, which for my money don’t really “go for it” in an Ito way.
Before we get too caught up in a couple of his other major works, here are a few links to some sample short horror pieces from the guy, which will give you a pretty good idea of what we’re up against here. The first one is a true classic in my opinion:
If you like what you see and want to lose a few hours, go here and promise not to curse me.
There has only been one film made that captures Mr. Ito’s insane combination of body horror, philosophical weirdness, dream-logic plotting and disturbing-as-eff drawing style. That movie is called Uzumaki. More on that utterly brilliant film in a moment. First, Uzumaki the manga series. Holy cow, where to begin? If I told you that the main plot of the three-volume manga is what happens when the idea of spirals invades a small coastal town in Japan, you might be tempted to think huh? And then, A) How can a town be invaded by a concept, and B) How could that ever be scary?
The answer to A is “Via Junji Ito’s disturbingly feverish imagination.”
For B, I’ll let the following images do the talking:
Does that help at all? The three-volume story is quite a read–you can spend hours just geeking out at all the fiendish detail he puts into his drawings.
It would seem a COMPLETELY UNFILMABLE story to most mortals. Fortunately for aficionados of weird cinema, this did not stop the eccentric Japanese director Higuchinsky from giving it the old college try in 2000. The movie version of Uzumaki is a total blast and one of the weirdest things I’ve ever seen. It only covers some of the events of the first book, but holy crap does it do it well!
Check some of these stills out:
Ito’s other most famous work is called Gyo. Wikipedia refers to it as “a two-volume story where fish are controlled by a death stench.” LOL! If you’re anything like me, you often daydream about all the dead fish of the ocean one day rising against mankind on mechanical legs powered by their own putrefaction. Who hasn’t give that at least some thought, right? Well, this story takes that shit all the way to its completely illogical, utterly effed-up end game, and then some. Pop a gander at these bad boys:
There you have it, ladies and gentlemen. Junji Ito is pretty dope, in that “I want to claw my own eyes out” sort of way that we all love. Check him out some night and hope the spirals don’t come…