This book features a hallucinogenic futon; a woman obsessed with being dissected and a twisted author looking for the perfect facial tic. All pretty much par for the course in Junji Ito’s world.
I really enjoyed reading these stories and did so one at a time, letting each one sink in before moving to the next. I read one per journey travelling to and from work last week (some pages did get me odd looks from other train passengers). There is a lot of stuff here for fans of Ito’s other works like Uzumaki and Gyo, but I think this could also serve as a good introduction to him too.
Calmer Tales (relatively speaking)
Stories like Futon and Gentle Goodbye are relatively tame compared to his more infamous tales.
Futon is the shortest story of the book at just eight pages long. While it does deal with what are called ‘Dark nature spirits’ haunting a man from above his bed – with an excellent two-page-spread depicting said spirits, there isn’t any really scary horror in there. In fact just as the story was getting going it was over.
With the latter, Gentle Goodbye, it is a slower-paced story about a woman entering into a new marriage. Within this marriage is a family who have found a way to bring back their recently-passed relatives into what they call ‘After Images’. These after images are essentially ghosts but this isn’t written as a scary ghost story. Instead it deals with the idea of the loss, and the worries of losing, loved ones around us. It was nice to read this one as a mental break between two of the collection’s most horrific stories.
On the other side of the Ito scale are stories like Dissection-chan and Blackbird.
Dissection-chan has a super simple premise, which also happens to be the most twisted idea in my opinion. A young woman, who has snuck into a medical university dissection room, almost manages to get her wish of being dissected by pretending to be a cadaver. We then see how she has had this fascination from a young age and whether or not she gets her wish fulfilled.
Junji Ito has himself named one of his biggest influences as being H.P. Lovecraft. This is most evident in the story Blackbird. In blackbird a hiker is discovered in the woods after being left injured on the ground for a while. He then goes on to tell the story of how a strange woman would come to him when he was hungry, to feed him as a bird would. She would regurgitate food into his mouth and he, starving at the time, would accept. The story then continues into an almost mind-bending conclusion that manages to come back round on itself.
There are four other stories that I haven’t mentioned here and will let you discover for yourself. What I will say is that my favourite story of the collection is one called Tomio * Red Turtleneck. In this the eponymous character, Tomio, spends the entire story trying to keep his loosened head attached to his shoulders. Now there’s an enticing premise if ever I heard one.