Thursday, March 15, 2018

Fragments of Horror by Junji Ito

Fragments of Horror is a horror anthology of work by Junji Ito, marked by his talent for surreal, imaginative art and stories. The cover is an amazing amalgamation of all of the stories inside merged with Edvard Munch's The Scream.The embossed cover also reveals the surreal plateau of the hallucination in Futon over the top both sides of the cover.

* Futon

A man tells his wife that dark spirits populate their home. She starts to see them as well and leaves for a month, only to find him completely encased in hallucinogenic mold when she comes back. This story is pretty simple, which showcases the art of the hallucination. It's so odd, surreal, and on a much more epic scale than I've ever seen with touches of body horror and demonic imagery. It's incredibly detailed and disturbing. The man's transformation at the end pales in comparison, but still manages to end the story on a bizarre note.

* Wooden Spirit

Megumi lives with her father in the house her ancestors built in 1854. That house is absolutely everything to them. Manami Kino, an architect student, is completely anamored with the house and offers to stay with them. Eventually, she marries Megumi's father and changes the house forever. This a weird story that has a woman lusting after a house, causing her to change into wood and the house to gain eyes, hair, and flesh. This of course completely destroys the family and the house's heritage. It's another evil seductress story that implies the evils of men remarrying young women who are not what they seem. The gender politics aren't great, but the transformation of the woman and house are things I've never seen.

* Tomio - Red Turtleneck

Tomio fell in love with a fortune teller despite his girlfriend Madako and ended up with a red turtleneck from his mistress that severed his head from his body. This is another evil seductress story that brings something different and shows the evils of cheating. The woman collects severed heads of her lovers and forces Tomio to walk around supporting his head with hands so it won't fall off while his turtleneck becomes red with his blood. It's reminiscent of The Girl with the Yellow Ribbon story and is delightfully uncomfortable to read.

* Gentle Goodbye

A man's family fiercely prays when members die so an afterimage stays behind for around 20 years. Riko marries into this family and they are oddly cold to her no matter what she does to ingratiate herself. This is an oddly sweet story about the inability to let go of the dead and the grieving process. As it's revealed who are afterimages and who are not, these scenes can pack quite an emotional punch especially regarding their age. I had no idea what to expect with this story and it's much more sensitive and emotional than most of Ito's stories.

* Dissection-Chan

A woman poses as a corpse and sneaks into multiple hospitals begging to be dissected. Medical student Tatsuro Kamaka realizes she is his childhood friend Ruriko Tamiya and remembers how she was fascinated with dissecting live animals as a child. This story is about another woman aroused by odd things, in this case dissection, and she tries to get a man to do it in any way she can. This story has bizarre body horror and sick, self destructive urges that stay with you after reading.

* Blackbird

Shiro Moriguchi was left so long with broken legs in the wilderness that they fused. He should have starved to death by the time a hiker found him, but he's healthy and well fed due to a beautiful woman visiting him every night and feeding him chewed up, bloody meat with her mouth like a bird. The origin of that meat is especially chilling as well as the vacant eyed, sharp toothed woman who delivers it. This one felt like a Twilight Zone or Tales from the Crypt story with a unique creature. The woman seems to be nurturing and saves lives while still being incredibly creepy. The men she helps accept her help or they would starve to death and the meat they eat is almost hypnotic. 

* Magami Nankuse

A successful author, Magami Nankuse, invites a devout fan to her home with devastating consequences. Magami turns out to be either a transperson or man dressed in women's clothing who exploits people to bring about quirks that her characters are famous for. This continues an old trope that honestly doesn't need to be seen anymore where people outside of gender binaries or cisgenders are villains. The fan is completely humiliated by her even though she's such a huge fan she speaks like the characters. The ending has some of the imaginative body horror and perhaps warns against meetings one's idols. This one was the weakest in the anthology.

* Whispering Woman

Mayumi Santo is incapacitated with anxiety, unable to make even the tiniest decision on her own. Her parents have tried to hire help for her, but all of them leave frustrated until Mitsu Uchida. She constantly whispers in Mayumi's ear, allowing her to complete tasks and interact with other people as she never has before. In her home life, things go exactly the opposite of her giving orders. This is the best story to end on. It's so eerie and creepy plus it delves into serious issues like domestic violence in a serious way. Ito is also at his best when the story is supernatural with no real explanation on what's going on.           

Fragments of Horror is a wonderful anthology of Junji Ito's stand alone short horror stories. I love his art style as well as the way he can make a story get under your skin in only a few pages. Some of his character archetypes are old fashioned and dated. It bothers me that sexual women and essentially transpeople are continually cast as monsters and villains while virginal women and men are almost always good. Other than that, his stories are burned into my brain. His brand of horror is unlike any other.

My rating: 4.5/5 fishmuffins

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