Junji Ito: Every manga by the most iconic horror mangaka of our time
From lesser-known creations like Shiver to the iconic Uzumaki, Junji Ito has made a name for himself as a manga horror icon. With his very detailed artwork and stories involving everyday food, objects, and even animals being horrifying, Ito has captivated and disturbed audiences since he first started in the now defunct Monthly Halloween Japanese magazine in 1987 with his submission of Tomie.
From H.R. Giger to occult horror films of the 1970s, the horror writer has a lot of inspiration. His range is so vast that his works are archived in bigger collections like The Junji Ito Horror Comic Collection and The Museum of Terror, that have likewise inspired many other authors.
This article will detail a comprehensive listing of all Junji Ito's manga releases. Collections will be included, and descriptions will be given of each story.
Disclaimer: As this is the profile of a horror manga writer and artist, content warnings apply for descriptions of body horror, death, suicide, and other horrific material. Viewer descretion is advised. Spoilers are also included for the various stories therein.
All of Junji Ito's manga works, from 1987 to 2022
One of Junji Ito's first works, submitted in 1987 for the now defunct Monthly Halloween magazine, Tomie is a classic horror story about a vengeful ghost. The beautiful and mysterious Tomie Kawakami combines the horror of a demon with the powers of a succubus: She drives people into jealous rages that lead to brutal acts of violence whilst making people madly in love with her.
Her true face was never shown - it was always some horrifying amalgamation and it was never just one Tomie.
This manga originated Junji Ito's writing style, as it usually involves short stories connected by horror monsters that sometimes entertwine. Junji Ito was also awarded the Kuzuo Umezu Award for manga artistry for this manga.
Flesh Colored Horror (1997)
The first collection on the list, Flesh Colored Horror, is a collection of Junji Ito's penned one-shots.
Several of them will be detailed here, such as Long Hair In The Attic, which deals with a girl named Chiemi and the breakup she found herself suffering, plus the reprocussions of cutting her hair. Chiemi's boyfriend told her she wasn't attractive enough to him, and her hair heard everything. This led to her body being found decapitated, and her head being possessed by her hair to get its revenge.
Dying Young is considered a morbid lesson in beauty and self-acceptance, wherein girls that become more beautiful die of heart attacks and anemia shortly thereafter. Headless Sculptures deals with mannequins coming to life and severing the heads of those who trespass in their art studio. The titular Flesh Colored Horror deals with beauty, flesh suits, acid, and other horrific substances inflicted on the human body.
Twists on classic gothic horror stories are nothing new. Dracula has been adapted into many forms - from the Castlevania series of games to several films. Frankenstein has likewise been adapted, this time with a unique touch that only Junji Ito can bring. As the classic horror tale opens, Doctor Victor Frankenstein sets out to make the ultimate science project: Bringing a Monster to Life!
Considered a very faithful adaptation of the novel, Junji Ito's version of the story focuses more on the tattered looking monster than Victor. In fact, most readers have stated that Victor himself being an absolutely played straight mad scientist is probably more faithful than many of the adaptations that came after the book.
Lovesickness (1997/Reprinted in 2021)
Lovesickness is a reprint of the story Lovesick Dead, in which a boy named Ryusuke returns to his foggy hometown of Nazumi and notices that its unique form of fortune telling has become increasingly popular since he left. The fortune telling involves going into a crossroads in the fog, covering one's face, and asking the first stranger who wanders by questions about one's own life choices.
As it turns out, there's someone in the fog taking advantage of the situation and causing mass suicides in the process. This has caused quite a few problems for Ryusuke, including his own girlfriend Midori killing herself after being convinced by the figure. Like many of Junji Ito's stories, this one also has a bittersweet ending, as while the figure in the fog is defeated, Ryusuke takes his place to undo the damage done.
The story of Uzumaki centers around a small fog shrouded town named Kurôzu-cho on the coast of Japan. According to Shuichi Saito, withdrawn boyfriend of main character Kirie Goshima, their town is much worse than Silent Hill as it's haunted not by a person or demonic beings, but by a pattern: Uzumaki, the spiral.
It not only manifests itself in small ways on seashells and whirlpools in water, but also in odd ways like spiral marks on people's bodies, the insane obsessions of Shuichi's father, and voices from the cochlea in the inner ear.
This particularly twisted spiral into insanity is considered Junji Ito's mangnum opus. Uzumaki has garnered both critical and commercial acclaim. It was nominated for an Eisner Award in the category of "Best U.S. Edition of Foreign Material" in 2002 and 2003. While it didn't win those awards, it is still considered one of the most iconic must-read horror manga of all time and introduced many to Junji Ito's art style.
Mimi's Ghost Stories (2002-2003)
A different compliation of stories not originally written by Junji Ito but rather adapted from many urban legends is Mimi's Ghost Stories. All of them center around a girl named Mimi, who seems unable to escape all the supernatural occurrences that happen to her.
It's notably lighter than other Junji Ito works, specifically because the protagonist survives her encounter with the various monsters.
These monsters include a next-door neighbor whose limbs are made of metallic pipes, ghosts that move their gravestones to watch people move them back, ghosts of children who drowned, and an odd hole in a room that's an actual gateway to Hell itself. Again, all of these are urban legends that Junji Ito adapted.
Fears of the ocean and creatures from its depths have been profiled in fiction many times, from giant squids to shark attacks, and even the absurdity of shark tornadoes. Gyo asks the question of what would happen if sharks walked on land and attacked people en masse while also dealing with a strange poison that's affecting people's breath.
A social commentary on war, chemical weapons, and nature's wrath, Gyo is loaded to the brim with body horror. It's not just the walking fish that provides the horror. Humans coming into contact with them suddenly develop pustules that cause them to grow and mutate into horrifying blobs of flesh. No wonder Junji Ito said it was inspired by Jaws.
Hellstar Remina/Remina (2005)
Considered one of Junji Ito's weaker works, Remina aka Hellstar Remina was inspired by the Cthulhu Mythos by H.P. Lovecraft. The titular Hellstar is a cosmic horror: a living planet akin to Marvel's Ego the living planet, only far more disturbing. This horror story involves a scientist discovering the planet and inadvertently causing it to head to Earth to consume it.
Disturbing elements don't just come from a massive planet that has eyes where they shouldn't be, plus a massive maw full of teeth and a surface that's akin to stomach acid. It also comes from humanity collectively going insane and trying to sacrifice the scientist and his daughter Remina to appease it. With this tale, Junji Ito imparts an important message: mob mentality can be just as damning as cosmic horror.
Museum of Terror trilogy (2005-2006)
This trilogy of novels is a compendium of shorter stories that wouldn't otherwise have fit into large volumes. They collect the shorter stories like Bio House, a story about a girl with a rather odd boss who specializes in biotechnology and turns out to be host to vampire maids. Another story collected is The Bully, practically the only Junji Ito penned story to avoid supernatural horror as it focuses on abuse.
The Face Burglar is a doppleganger-focused tale, with a student being able to assume people's faces unconsciously. The Devil's Logic focuses on suicide, peer pressure, and how sometimes death can come from unexpected places. Love as Scripted, meanwhile, focuses on a man who breaks up with his girlfriends via videotapes, and his current girlfriend killing him when she discovers this.
Black Paradox (2009)
Black Paradox may not be as horrific as other Junji Ito materials at first glance, but it's a trick pulled on the audience. The manga deals with the heavy topic of suicide, as four suicidal people make a fortune after discovering a doorway to another world and its mysterious glowing orbs that provide untold amounts of energy.
The twist? The glowing orbs and their energy are literally human souls that have passed on and turned into orbs in the other world - living and dead fused together. The four people are used by a doctor to not only get rich, but also to keep him in good standing with humanity despite the horrific implications. It's also one of the only Ito books to end somewhat optimistically, as the four plot revenge on the doctor and team up to save humanity.
Junji Ito's Cat Diary/Yon and Mu (2009)
Everyone loves cats, especially Junji Ito. This entry is different, as it's written like an autobiographical manga written in conjunction with Ito's wife and their experiences raising two cats: Yon and Mu. That doesn't mean there isn't any horror to be found in the pages of the book, only that it's used for comedic effect.
The basic premise is simple: A couple goes through the challenges of raising two cats. The comedic horror usually results from cartoony physics involving how distressed J-Kun can get when dealing with the cats' antics. It's also a bittersweet tale, as both cats pass away, but Junji Ito and his wife Ayako adopted two new cats in their memory.
War is hell, and Deserter is no exception. Deserter is more of a collection in and of itself, with the titular story and several others being included in it. For the sake of duplicates, this entry will only focus on the titular story, as the others were included in Museum of Terror volume 3.
In this particularly realistic tale, a family hides a Japanese army deserter for eight years after the end of World War II. Several in the family turn out to be vengeful, as the soldier loved one of their sisters and they blamed him for causing her death when she got caught in an American military bombing.
As it turns out, the soldier they were harboring had hanged himself two days after the incident and they were living with a ghost. Much more appropriately Halloween themed.
Dissolving Classroom (2013-2014)
Unreliable narrators in regular stories are already bad enough, but it's worse when there are two of them. Dissolving Classroom is another tale of appearances being deceiving, a common thread in Junji Ito's works. It stars Yuuma Azawa and his little sister Chizumi, and the bizarre, horrifying incidents that happen around them.
In essence, the two siblings have their own dark secrets involving Satan. Yuuma apologizes for everything he does, causing people to melt in the process despite perporting to hate it. On the other hand, Chizumi usually threatens to eat people's brains and does so when they melt. According to her brother, she is apparently possessed by all the spirits of the animals he killed as a child.
The fact that the story confirms the devil is real and manipulates events, but never truly confirms who is true and who is false, and both vice versa, is almost as horrifying as seeing people melt. A rather good message on insincere apologies and unreliable narration.
Fragments of Horror/Ma no Kakera (2013-2014)
This anthology of assorted horror stories that Junji Ito made is more in line with what the Museum of Terror was, a collection of various short stories. One of them is Futon, a story in which a couple move into a new home and the husband sees demons everywhere, so he hides underneath the futon. The husband, Tomio, returns in Tomio: Red Turtleneck, where he's cursed to have his head nearly severed unless he keeps it in place.
Then there's monster stories like Blackbird, wherein hikers who encounter an odd winged woman in the mountains are doomed to her feast. Another monster story is Haunted Wood Mansion, wherein a woman claiming to be an architecture student literally tries to (and somehow succeeds) in making love to a sentient house. Then there's Gentle Goodbye, which is about a tortured woman who is simply a fragmented memory of another woman, and is trying to come to terms with that.
Nine short stories were presented by Junji Ito in this collection, including the aforementioned Greased title that was excluded from Smashed.
Greased/Glyceride is about a family living above a barbecue restaurant their father owns that saturates the air with grease due to a lack of ventilation. Eventually, the sister is forced to leave as the father is revealed to be forcing her brother and her to drink oil and fatten up to be served to customers.
Other short stories include Long Dream, one of Junji Ito's most famous short stories where a girl awaits brain surgery while claiming that the personification of death has visited her alongside another patient, Tesuro Mukoda and the endless dreams Mukoda has. The title story, Shivers, recounts a tale of cursed jade that makes the victims become hollowed out people.
No Longer Human (2017-2019)
No Longer Human was an adaptation of the novel of the same name by Osamu Dazai. The overall story was told in notebooks left by a troubled man by the name of Ōba Yōzō, who has been resentful of humanity since childhood. The manga version includes several of Junji Ito's horrific touches, which includes killing off more than a few people who survived in the novel.
The manga's horrific touches also include graphic depictions of suicide, distorted and twisted faces, and other straightforward horror elements. It also leaves the protagonist Yozo in a worse state than he was in the novel: Yozo is trapped in an abusive marriage, looking like he's 90 and catatonic by the age of 39.
Smashed compiles all the stories except Greased from the Voices in the Dark collection. The works included in the collection include such tales as:
- Bloodsucking Darkness, about a girl being haunted by bloodsoaked dreams and eventually attacked by actual vampire bats.
- The Ghost of Golden Time, about two ghostly spirits trying to make it in stand-up comedy by making victims laugh to death.
- The Secret of the Haunted Mansion duology, featuring recoccuring antagonist Souichi Tsujii, wherein two kids find a literal haunted house.
The titular story, Smashed/Splatter Film, is about stoners dealing with a mysterious honey from South America. The said honey is addictive as every character that tastes it loses their appetite towards other foods. Of course, if they get caught, they get "smashed" or "splattered" into paste. The twist is that the tree that the honey originates from can reach anywhere in the world and literally flatten anyone who eats it.
Sensor/Muma No Kikou (2018-2019)
Sensor is a longer story. It's otherwise known as The Succubus' Travel Journal/Travelogue, which might give readers an idea of what to expect. The story is connected by a psychic cult, a volcanic eruption, and eldritich angel hair that came from the stars. It centers around Kyouko Byakuya, a woman excavated from a 60-year entombment, and investigative journalist Wataru Tsuchiyado.
Over the course of the story, the two are accosted by a cult named Indigo Shadow who seek all the information of the universe and offer it up as sacrifices to the "Great God of Deep Darkness." It's a story about time travel, a god seeker becoming an eldritch monster, and the trauma that comes from cult beliefs, all with plenty of horror included, like the eruption of Mount Sengoku and crucifixions.
Venus in the Blind Spot (2020)
While Venus in the Blind Spot collects various stories, there's enough material in this Junji Ito story to get it's own entry. It centers around a woman named Mariko, who is obsessed with UFOs and aliens. She finds herself the target of the affections of several young men, but strangely she turns invisible when they approach her. Eventually, all the women in the UFO Research Society leave, so it's just Mariko's admirers.
This may count as more mundane horror, as it turns out that Mariko's father has been putting chips in people's brains that make Mariko invisible upon seeing her. He also erases people's memories. While he's eventually captured and turned in to the police, Mariko is killed by the insane admirers who believe her to be an alien. The club disbanded following their chips being removed and the killers being caught.
The Liminal Zone/Disturbing Zone (2021-2022)
The Liminal Zone is a horror anthology by Junji Ito, collecting four stories he wrote for the LINE manga app. The anthology features strong themes of dealing with mental illness, as every story involves people with horrifying mental states. For example, one story called Slumber has a murder happen near a man's apartment, and him remembering committing it despite having no desire to do so.
Then there's Weeping Woman Way, revolving around women weeping for each other's souls after death to keep the dead at peace. Madonna stars a girl in a strict Catholic boarding school, ruled by a crazy headmaster who thinks every pretty lady is the Virgin Mary incarnate and a headmistress that turns everyone into salt. Then there's The Spirit Flow of Aokigahara, wherein a suicidal couple find a spirit flow into Mount Fuji.
Suffice to say, Junji Ito hasn't lost a step in the horror department despite being in it for over 30 years.