Publisher: Viz Media
Format: Hardback with dust jacket
Publication Date: June 16, 2015
Fragments of Horror marks a return to the genre for horror veteran Junji Ito. This is his first horror release in eight years and the wait has been well worth it! Ito expressed apprehension at his ability to write horror after such a long break and even worried that this new compilation of shorts wouldn’t live up to his reputation. Despite his own fears, I think this new collection is top notch! Contained within are eight truly horrifying stories:
- Wooden Spirit
- Tomio * Red Turtleneck
- Gentle Goodbye
- Magami Nanause
- Whispering Woman
While some of the shorts are weirder than others all eight stories seem tied to moral messages. We don’t just have horror for the sake of horror. Characters are punished for adultery, stupidity, submission, and so on. I was reminded of Tatsumi’s Fallen Words collection, only Ito uses horror instead of humor to address the shortcomings of humanity. I’m choosing to talk about just a few of my favorites so as not to spoil the entire volume for you.
Futon felt odd placed as the first short in the book, but overall I think it was a good story. It reminded me a bit of Xxxholic by CLAMP, especially with Tomio attempting to hide from spirits nobody else seems to see. Tomio’s girlfriend is driven to her limits taking care of him day and night as he refuses to come out from under the futon blanket for months straight. Eventually she sees the spirits as well and runs away. A month later she returns to the apartment to check on Tomio, who has been covered by a thick spongy material that colonized the futon and encased his body.
Wooden Spirit, also quite weird like Futon, is about a woman infatuated with a historical house in a quiet part of Japan. She poses as an architecture student interested in old buildings but she has other intentions. The strange woman begs the owner of the house for free room and board in exchange for her house keeping services while she studies the house. Megumi, the house owner’s daughter, warns her father not to get close to their new guest; however, he eventually marries her. The woman posing as a student then becomes something neither Megumi or her father could imagine and they’re forced to run away from the only home their family knew. This story is both horrifying and perverted. Ito tells a tale of extreme attachment to material objects and how too much materialism can ultimately lead to being empty handed.
Red Turtleneck is perhaps my favorite from the collection. This one caused me to miss my stop on the train. I truly found this short sick and disturbing. It’s a love story that takes a very wrong turn when a woman’s boyfriend becomes entangled in the web of a fortune teller who is a murderer with a collection of men’s heads in her home. I absolutely loved this story because I had to keep reading. I couldn’t just take a break to look up to see where I was on my train ride. I needed to know what was going to happen next! This is probably the most horrifying story in this collection and I think Ito deserves a ton of praise for writing it. Red Turtleneck tells the story of of weak will combined with determination and fear. You’ll just have to buy the book if you want to know if the boyfriend keeps his head.
Dissection-chan is another horrifyingly delicious tale that continues the theme of exploring the relationships between men and women. It also digs deep into the psyche of a woman with severe mental illness. In this tale, readers are forced to follow a woman with an obsession with mutilating animals while watching her addiction shift inwards towards her own body. She even reaches out to a childhood friend enrolled in medical school and attempts to trick him into dissecting her alive. Eventually she dies and gets her wish, but when the medical students open up her corpse, they’re very surprised at what they find inside. This one is definitely tied with Red Turtleneck for best story in the collection.
All around I think this is a solid release. It is beautifully packaged and contains great artwork on both the dust jacket and the hardcover. The dust jacket, as you’ll notice, contains interesting artwork that will feel familiar to most people with a basic knowledge of art history. Remove the dust jacket and you’ll be treated to a matte finish cover with a grey-scale of artwork containing the different monsters from the short stories in the volume.
Ito’s illustrations can be a little bit inconsistent at times, but it has been eight years and we should cut him some slack since it’s a treat to even have him back in the horror genre. I wasn’t able to notice the flaws in the illustrations until I looked back and really checked out the book for this review. While I was hooked and drawn in by the plots, I didn’t notice any of the imperfections in his work.
This book is a must for all Ito fans and anyone who wants to read some horror manga. I am grateful to have had the opportunity to read Fragments of Horror.
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**This item was provided for review.