I recommend Fragments of Horror for those looking for the trademark body-horror/disturbing visual art and for those who would like to continue down Ito-Sensei's impressive bibliography of work. Shiver is the perfect place to begin collecting classic manga!
- You will love diving into these truly bizarre and grotesque works
- "Gentle Goodbye" is the perfect story for those new to the world of Junji Ito
- "Shiver" illicits the body horror he has come to be known for from the very first glance at the cover
- Great iconic characters
- Included commentary is a really fun addition to collection
- "Wooden Spirit," "Blackbird," and "Tomio * Red Turtleneck" are the most unnerving of the collection
- Ito is a very interesting character himself!
- Something so beautiful about the simplicity of the titles
Let’s take a trip into the cozy comfort of manga selections you may not be aware of and provide some of thoughts regarding a lot of very exciting, licensed titles.
Manga vs Anime
In the world of Japanese media, there is a faint but constant line drawn into the sand separating those who clamor to the big-city anime conventions from those who sit back and track their progress through the glossy, aesthetically-beautiful volumes of manga. Manga here refers to the original comics distributed via serialization and publication, while anime refers to either a stand-alone animated series or companion series based on an existing manga.
There are those who like each form of media equally, but there are many leaders of purity on their chosen side who will espouse the benefits of one over the other until they’re blue in the face. Many of these reasons can be cost, art quality, localization issues, accessibility, among others; from my perspective as someone who has straddled the line for nearly fifteen years, I can attest to many of these points. Manga is aesthetically beautiful, showcases the artist’s original work as the artist intended, and is extremely fun to collect; however, it can also be an incredibly expensive hobby to maintain and, should a manga also succeed in being selected for an anime, there are a staggering number of cases where the anime will diverge from the storyline to a point of no return where anime and manga will never converge again. The story is complicated and even those who many be invested in the same storyline may end up looking at two different works in the long run.
On the other hand, anime is much more easily accessible for the average viewer as streaming sites cost one flat rate and may even host other platforms to condense your subscriptions into one (such as VRV, which hosts Crunchyroll and Funimation content). It can also be much more engaging to those who want to consume content as a quicker rate and are interested in easy watching vs committed reading. Those who watch anime usually cite their ability to consume the same content in a much quicker fashion for a lower cost as compared to manga – most anime seasons focus on a single arc (or storyline within the main plot of the show), which can span over several volumes of manga. However, anime is subject to its own host of complications, such as localization issues. This is less of a problem with dubs (Non-English voice acting ) versus subs (the original Japanese episode with foreign subtitles), but localization can still be somewhat of an issue because it constricts the intent of the original episode into regional preferences or slang. Additionally, for the amount of content you can digest via an anime in one season, you are also left waiting anywhere from six months to a year for a new season – meanwhile, those reading manga are gaining more ground and have more background information and access to content that may have been cut from the show. Finally, if you are dealing with a subscription site, you are also dealing with the issues that surround simulcasts and epsiode releases (the airing of a new episode at roughly the same time it would be released locally in Japan). These can included the sites crashing, lagging, and a host of other problems restricting your access. However, it is a process of finding out what works best for you and trying new forms of media outside of your comfort zone!
I wanted to provide a list of interesting and exciting manga titles that would make a wonderful gift for the manga lover in your life this New Year, in addition to reviewing both the content and the physical look of each volume. Let’s begin!
“Fragments of Horror” & “Shiver” by Junji Ito (Distributed in North America by Viz Media)
A former dentist, Junji Ito has developed an intense following of fans spanning thirty years in the industry as the uncontested Master of Horror. His most famous character, Tomie, has become synonymous with the chill the crawls down your spine and his horror anthologies become the yarn with which your most intense nightmares occure. From The Enigma of Amigara Fault and its beckoning rock holes to Glyceride, which captures his mastery over the body horror genre, I consider Junji Ito to be a must-read for the brave readers out there (and for anyone looking for a good scare). In 2018, Ito’s anthologies made their way across to North America in the mainstream and the broadcast of the Junjii Ito Collection anime series, which brings his illustrated works to life in the most disturbing ways.
“Fragments of Horror” & “Shiver” are two of Ito’s collections released in North America in the fall of 2018 and were absolutely perfect for setting the spooky Halloween mood. Beginning with “Fragments of Horror,” I found the slim volume to evoke the same feeling of discomfort I experienced reading any of Ito’s famous body horror works. This volume does not hide what it’s about, and I loved diving into the truly bizarre and grotesque works included. The “Fragments of Horror” collection includes the following works, in addition to an afterword:
- “Wooden Spirit”
- “Tomio * Red Turtleneck”
- “Gentle Goodbye”
- “Magami Nanakuse”
- “Whispering Woman”
Within this anthology, I found the stories “Wooden Spirit,” “Blackbird,” and “Tomio * Red Turtleneck” to be the most unnerving of the collection; however, “Gentle Goodbye” is, in my opinion, the perfect story for those new to the world of Junji Ito – in place of the more intense visual aspects of body horror, “Gentle Goodbye” focuses on human experiences such as loss, grief, fear of death, mortality, and love with a supernatural grasp that diverts expectations of a happy ending. A bittersweet story that captures the beautiful melancholy of the human life cycle, it struck a chord with me as the one-year anniversary of my own grandmother’s death approaches. What wouldn’t we as fragile humans give for more time to say good-bye?
Moving to “Shiver,” this nearly-400 page hardcover collection of essential Ito titles illicits the body horror he has come to be known for from the very first glance at the cover. Iconic characters such as Tomie and Miss Fuichi, the monsterous model, grace the cover and some of Ito’s most famous works comprise the series. Included in “Shiver” include:
- “Used Record”
- “Fashion Model”
- “Hanging Blimp”
- “Marionette Mansion”
- “The Long Dream”
- “Honored Ancestors”
- “Fashion Model: Cursed Frame” (A Previously Unpublished New Story)
Each story includes commentary written by Ito himself, which provides background regarding the creation of each story and his personal thoughts. I found the included commentary to be a really fun addition to this collection, since Ito is a very interesting character himself – his series “Junji Ito’s Cat Diary: Yon & Mu” really showcases how Ito views the world as he chronicles the daily life of the cats he and his then-fiancee owned. Done in the trademark horror style he’s known for, the cute adventures really put a smile on my face (check it out!), but as far as Shiver goes, this is – in my opinion – the series that contains the most signature stories. Each of these stories was featured in the Collection anime series (9) while “Fragments of Horror” only had one story included, which should help guide new readers towards so-called “classic” Ito stories.
What I love so intensely about Ito’s works is that there’s something so beautiful about the simplicity of his titles – the bizarre and unsettling nature of his works are complimented by the unassuming and calmness of his titles. It’s as though you are seated on the edge of a great, foggy abyss – the fear of what lays beyond what you can comprehend is what makes your insides turn. It is your own imagination at the edge of the abyss, leading you away from the normalcy of your life, that conjures up the most terrifying images. Ito then takes that terror, shoves you off the cliff, and immerses you into the horrors of his own creation, and you realize that the darkest reaches of your imagination could never even begin to touch these unholy tales (which you consume with a hunger you’ve never known). In addition, these collections are two of the only hardback manga volumes/collections I have actually seen in person (excluding light novels, but I don’t combine the two). I would give these volumes an 8.5/10 – if you are into the horror genre, are interested in exploring Ito-Sensei’s works and don’t know where to begin, or you would like to begin collecting classic manga, Shiver would be the place to begin. I would recommend Fragments of Horror for those looking for the trademark body-horror/disturbing visual art and for those who would like to continue down Ito-Sensei’s impressive bibliography of work.