In this piece, PopTalk contributors will be discussing Junji It’s horror manga, Fragments Of Horror, a collection of short horror stories which is available now from Viz Media.
Aedan: Junji Ito has done it again, and by “it” I Mean he has created a strange and unique horror experience (to put light). After crafting seriously creepy works of horror, the master of horror in Japan creates bizarre and unsettling stories in his book fragments of horror, a series of short chapter length stories. Each individually has its own point of horror differentiating it from the others, but equally disturbing. Part of what makes it so work so memorable is the extreme art used to depict nightmare inducing images that are sure to rattle some. If you aren't familiar with his work, this particular book throw you right into the fold with little room to breathe In between.
The first story titled “Futon” tells the tale of a woman caring for her husband who has been recently stuck in a state of terror, refusing to surface from his futon. The woman cares for him all night while working endless hours during the day to maintain some sense of stability in their lives. When she finally reaches her breaking point, she wakes to a plethora of fear inducing creatures and images. The man tries to express remorse and shares that he was the reason for this nightmare, after a woman who claimed to be a witch arrived and slept with him and after a short while he broke off their fling. Being a witch, the woman seemingly cursed him and the woman fled, not knowing how to process her sheer terror. When she finally came back after a month to check on him (I don’t blame her!) she lifts the cover of his sleeping bag to find him clinging to life and covered in a thick spongy material that has covered him, and it is stated that it was later found to be a mold causing hallucinations. In a matter of pages the story finds a way to give you chills with the unfiltered images, and feel sadness for the woman. As an excerpt from a book, it’s one of the more instantly gripping tales in Fragments Of Horror.
Now the horror in Fragments is definitely different than typical American horror genre’s, and there is some downright odd stories involved as well. For example, one story centers on a house that has been around for so long it has become a “cultural property” that is often visited and admired for maintaining its historic presence. The home is owned by a father and daughter who are a part of the bloodline that originally owned the building. One day a strange woman appears with a fascination for the property, and asks if she could stay for some time. The daughter is rightfully reluctant, but the lonely man who owns it allows her to stay. Eventually they marry, and she takes care of the father and daughter, but over time, he feels something is different about his home. That same nigh, his daughter finds the woman completely naked and touching the walls, floor, and house in general as if she is seeking pleasure from it. Yes, this story is in fact that bizarre. When she finds her father, there are eyes covering the house from top to bottom and the woman sits atop a warped pillar, looking as if she is wooden and attached to the home. They leave the home, and the story ends abruptly. While the story brings a creep factor into it, there is a definite unusual story here, that honestly left me wondering “what the hell is going on?!” but if that is the point of Ito’s story, than you could call it a success.
Later stories involve decapitation, a whispering woman who influences people, and the afterlife, covering as many different horror tales as possible. The most consistent aspect to Fragments Of Horror is definitely the art, with each story containing uniquely scary images and creatures, or even detailed expressions of fear that will remain in your mind long after reading the story. There may be odd qualities to his methods of sharing horror, but one thing you must credit Junji Ito for is the fact that he surely knows how to leave an impression on his readers.
Amrita: Fragments of Horror, quite simply put, was the most bizarre set of horror stories I’ve ever read in my entire life. I read almost each short story, there are a total of 8, at least twice because I couldn’t fully comprehend what was going on. Ito’s portrayal of the horror genre was completely different then what I’m used to which is vengeful spirits (The Grudge) and serial killers. This was my first attempt at delving into the mind of horror-master Junji Ito, who has dished out horror-classics such as Uzumaki, Gyo, and Tomie. I tried extremely hard to not let Fragments of Horror affect me and although some of the stories didn’t exactly scare me per se, they did leave me with a deeply unsettling feeling that had me pause my reading and glance around my living room in paranoia.
The stories were certainly strange and shifted away from conventional story telling by providing the readers with a set of stories that explored rare and odd horror “myths.” From a woman who’s sexually attracted to a house, to a man who’s forced to keep his head attached to his body by constantly holding it down; Fragments of Horror provides a slew of peculiar horror stories that I guarantee you haven’t read before. Ito expands the reader’s definition of horror by going beyond the predictable paranormal ghost girl gimmick. A majority of the scares present in Fragments of Horror are purely physical; there is a ton of “body horror” present in Fragments which adds to the story-telling’s creep factor.
Out of the 8 stories present in Fragments of Horror, my overall favorites are “Gentle Goodbye” and “Whispering Woman.” “Gentle Goodbye” contained a subdued creep factor, instead focusing on much more real concerns and fears which set this story apart from the other 7. This particular story delves into themes of life, death, life after death and being unable to “let go.” I emotionally connected with this story because it explored elements that I’m curious about as well and it introduced a sympathetic protagonist whose ending was much more of a tragic one. I won’t spoil anymore of “Gentle Goodbye,” but it was definitely the hidden gem of Fragments of Horror and my personal favorite!
The next stand-out story was “Whispering Woman” which tells the tale of a young girl who constantly needs to be told what to do; if someone isn’t ordering her around, she goes ballistic and starts throwing violent tantrums which leads to the introduction of a young, abused woman who serves as the young girl’s “baby-sitter.” The concept may not sound scary per se, and honestly it’s not, but it does gradually start to emit an aura of dread as the young woman starts to deteriorate while the young girl gets better and better. This was yet another story that did unsettle me at moments yet overall I found myself feeling sorry for the characters introduced. There was no happy ending to this tale, as expected, and I found myself upset at the unhappy ending more than anything.
Fans of Junji Ito’s past works will thoroughly enjoy Fragments of Horror. If you aren’t familiar with Ito’s work but love horror, then brace yourself because your about to be introduced to a whole new and unconventional side of the horror-genre.
PopTalk’s Combined Score: 6.5/10