Years and years ago when I was still a teenager, I was reading manga. A LOT. And among my incursions into the now defunct MangaTraders.com, I found some weirdly disturbing horror series that kinda stuck into my mind. They were tales about a spiral – people going crazy in a town where even their smoke was a spiral, and their bodies morphed into spirals.
I saw it again years later in a movie and then in a TV show. I couldn’t get it out of my head. So for the last few months, I’ve been diligently gathering all of the horror visions that the author had in mind.
Junji Ito (born July 31, 1963) is a Japanese horror manga artist. He has been absolutely fascinated by body dysmorphia, standards of beauty, the collapsing morale of the Japanese society and hair.
Body dysmorphic disorder (BDD), or body dysmorphia, is a mental health condition where a person spends a lot of time worrying about flaws in their appearance. These flaws are often unnoticeable to others.
Junji’s work is different from most horror media. Most of it is unexplainable and borders on the line of “weird and unexplainable” rather than actually scary. He takes ideas from normal, everyday life and exaggerates them, crafting jumpscares as readers flip the page from horror to horror. But sometimes, his stories linger in the back of readers’ minds as they’re trying to sleep at night or enter a dark room.
Tomie (富江) and Tomie Part 2 (富江ＰＡＲＴ２)
Tomie Kawakami (川上 富江, Kawakami Tomie) is the main antagonist and titular character in the manga series of the same name. She is known for her beauty and ability to become clones and infect people, turning them into one of her, so much that Tomie is not a person and is simply the name every creature like her uses.
Flesh-Colored Horror (肉色の怪)
Everything in this series is about the body – the flesh, the hair, the nails, the eyes. Creepy as the imagery is deeply disturbing. Imagine if your hair became sentient and was just feeding off your body.
- The Long Hair in the Attic
- Dying Young
- Headless Sculptures
- Flesh-Colored Horror
The Face Burglar (顔泥棒)
- The Face Burglar
- The Red String
- My Dear Ancestors
- The Hanging Balloons
The reason Hanging Balloons is so terrifying is due to the inescapable nature of the plot. Balloons that double as their human counterparts hunt and track down their replica.
The balloons stop at nothing to try and tie their nooses around the humans in which they embody. Even if someone attempts to kill the balloon, the human whose face it matches dies as well. There is no way out of this story, and the main character reaps these consequences.
Souichi’s Diary of Delights (双一の楽しい日記) and Souichi’s Diary of Curses (双一の呪い日記)
After traveling through South America, a man named Ogi is given some nectar that the village he’s in use for religious purposes. They tell him to not get caught eating it. Ogi returns to Japan with the nectar and shares some with a friend who then goes on to tell other friends about it.
However, something bizarre and terrifying keeps happening to those who eat the nectar: Their entire bodies get smashed and flattened against the ground or wall. It’s truly an ooky, spooky story.
- Slug Girl
- The Thing That Drifted Ashore
- The Inn
- Groaning Drain Pipes
A young man caught up in strange events that may or may not be hallucinations. He has a short temper and is particularly sensitive about his height. He is very wealthy and lives alone in an enormous mansion while his parents are working overseas.
House of the Marionettes
A circus family grew up poor and the only things they had left from their parents were the desire to do better and for the older boy – a puppet. Years later, the brothers reunite and they find out that the older brother had himself and his entire family converted to sentient puppets, to be controlled by others – eating, dancing, walking, everything was done via puppet strings. It all turns bad when his sister wants to join them and his girlfriend gets murdered trying to escape.
- Ice Cream Bus
- House of Friends (Gang House / Club House)
- Tobacco Club (The Smoking Club)
- In Old Records (Second-hand Records)
- Den of the Sleep Demon
- Gift Man (The Gift Bearer)
- House of the Marionettes
The Town Without Streets
Immersive horror about an entire town where people live in each other’s lives as there are no streets to separate them. Powerful story about how family invades privacy of teenagers trying to assert their independence – but on a much larger scale.
- The Town Without Streets
- Near Miss!
- Road Map
- The Village of Sirens
- Occult Transfer Student
The Circus is Here
The Story of the Mysterious Tunnel
The well known story from Mary Shelley
Even though Uzumaki may be Junji Ito’s most popular work, it’s definitely not as horrifying as it is bizarre and enticing. This story is a tale about a spiral shape infesting a town, driving everyone within utterly mad. The horrifying aspect of his story is what it does to its characters.
It makes people show true signs of obsession and utter madness. It’s otherworldly and unexplainable and no one would want to be caught in the world of Uzumaki.
I cannot recommend this graphic novel enough, and if you’re a horror junkie, you’ve likely come across some of Ito’s other works. I read the entire thing for the first time last night over the span of about 4 hours. It deals with a high school student and her boyfriend who live in a town that progressively becomes infected with mysterious spiral shapes. There are 20 chapters, and this image is from the first. As with some of his other works, things become progressively more horrifying as the story develops. It’s a long read, but utterly worth it for the story and the art.
Gyo is a combination of real-life fears (such as sharks) and Lovecraftian horror combined. Parasites take over the bodies of sea creatures, granting them legs to walk onshore, through cities and modern-day civilization.
For beaches, it becomes a mess, but once the parasite takes things into the mainland, things begin to get horrifying. The bodies of the sea creatures end up slowly decomposing and the parasites end up setting their sites on the next living organism it can find, humans.