Fragments of Horror (book review)

Junji Ito, to a J-horror fan, is probably best known for the film adaptations of his mangas Tomie, Uzumaki, and Marronnier. I recently discovered the joys of horror manga with a Grudge comic, but Ito’s artwork leaves it in the dust. His illustrations are wondrously eerie, and his stories are both disturbing (in a good way) and highly original. If you’re bored with J-horror movies featuring silent, crawling dames with their hair hanging in their faces (wonderful though they may be), look no further.

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Stories include “Dissection-chan,” about a girl obsessed  with dissecting and being dissected, “Magami Nanakuse,” an eccentric author with a dark secret, and “Futon,” the story of a man who refuses to leave his bed because of the nightmares in his waking world. It’s hard to pick a favorite of the eight stories. “Tomio—Red Turtleneck” has a lot of flesh-crawling imagery, like a woman putting a cockroach in an open wound. “Blackbird” probably has the creepiest villain, a harpy who force-feeds her victims rotten meat of questionable origin.

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Occasionally the dialogue comes across as a bit stilted, like in “Wooden Spirit” when main character Megumi’s father asks whether their prized house is really wonderful after all. She exclaims, “That’s out of the blue! What are you talking about? It’s a tangible cultural asset, and more than that, it’s the house we grew up in.” Also, this is the villain’s typical evil laugh: “Ho ho ho!” There are some occasional WTF moments, like what the heck is going on with Ruriko in “Dissection-chan”? She complains of pain in her stomach, which is attributed to…nothing that makes a whole lotta sense. But overall, the eight stories are solidly written and exquisite. A quick warning: if you’ve never read manga, be prepared to learn to read right to left. Also, this book’s artwork is nowhere near safe for work; don’t make the same mistake I did. Ho ho ho, enjoy!

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Why yes, that is a woman doing a house

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