The Enigma of Amigara - Junji Ito

It’s to my shame that my knowledge of Japanese culture stems entirely from a video game released in1999. Shenmue, released on the short lived Sega Dreamcast console, put you in the shoes of teenage martial artist Ryo Hazuki on his quest for revenge of the death of his father at the hands of the mysterious Lan Di — or something, it doesn’t much matter.

Shenmue
The backstreets of Shenmue

But what does matter is the world you explore. Through Ryo’s eyes you explore the backstreets and alley ways of a small Japanese town, meeting the locals, and visiting shops and homes.

And it was this memory which kick started my interest in the work of Junji Ito when I came across his manga, The Enigma of Amigara Fault, about twelve months ago.

The Enigma of Amigara Fault

I don’t remember exactly how I found The Enigma of Amigara Fault (maybe it found me…), but the story and graphic depictions of horror immediately captured my imagination and sent my stomach into that pit of despair reserved for only the best horror fiction. Remember the first time you saw the chestburster scene in Alien, or the bit where The Thing bites off the scientists hands? That’s Junji Ito.

I’d never read any manga before, or any comic books, in fact, but The Enigma of Amigara Fault convinced me that manga was an art form worth exploring. The book plays on basic the basic human fear of being trapped solidly, unable to move even slightly, and unable to call for help. You can find the comic online in full if you know where to look — uncle Google has your back. But if you’re interested in buying a legitimate copy you can find it as a bonus story in the equally excellent manga, Gyo.

The Enigma of Amigara - Junji Ito

To give you a taste of Junji Ito, in
The Enigma of Amigara Fault, a boy named
Owaki discovers people-shaped holes in the side of a mountain following an earthquake. On entering a hole, (it’s impossible to resist the temptation to do so) the person is unable to move, but as they struggle and try to get out the striations in the rock force them deeper and deeper into the rock until they disappear from view. Where do they go to? Read the story to find out.

Junji Ito mixes body horror and Asian mysticism with a touch of the strange to put together a series of disturbing images and stories the like of which I’ve only seen from artists such as H.R. Geiger, Lovecraft and John Carpenter. If you’re a fan of the aformentioned, you’ll love Junti Ito.

The Junji Ito Collections

My favourite books are Ito’s collections, which include Shiver, Fragments of Horror and the vomit inducing Dissolving Classroom — don’t even look at the cover unless you want nightmares.

Spiral

In Uzukami — possibly my favourite of Ito’s long form manga — a village is cursed by spirals which morph the town’s inhabitants into a menagerie of horrific and disturbing creatures.

The book takes us from the discovery of the spirals, through the increasingly twisted forms that the villagers take, and climaxes in a series of bizarre events which change the village forever.

Over the last twelve months I’ve worked my work through Junji Ito’s entire published works, and his collection of hardbacks sits proudly on my bookshelf. I’ll be posting reviews of all of the books over the next few weeks if you’re interested in reading more.

If you’re a horror fan you should take a look at Junji Ito’s collection of nightmarish manga. But be warned, there are some disturbing sights to see.

PS If you know where I can get a hardback of The Dissolving Classroom, please let me know!

See you tomorrow.

The Enigma of Amigara - Junji Ito

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