I knew it! I knew if we all prayed hard enough more Junji Ito comics would be published in the US! And lo, it was so. Thank you Viz Media, LLC for making our June 2015 PREVIEW order forms that much more special.
Fragments of Horror is a hard cover collection of short stories from writer/artist Junji Ito, the tweaked mind that brought the world a story about pollution ravaged, genetically engineered bacteria in Gyo and the spiral-cursed townsfolk of Uzumaki. In true Ito fashion each story is narrated by the main character and contains more than a hint of body horror ala David Cronenberg. Themes range far and wide as well with stories that border on comical to erotic to Lovecraftian.
In terms of the quality of horror that is produced in Fragments… well, there are some stories that are better than others. Stories like “Tomio: Red Turtleneck” and “Futon” start out with little direction and just tumble along as a series of disturbing events. It is confusing as well that both stories would center around a man named Tomio who, as far as I could tell, was the same person. Yet “Futon” and “Tomio” appear to exist independently from one another. By the author’s own admission this collection is a return to horror after an eight year hiatus from the genre. I can only speculate, but between drawing manga about such things as society and cats there might have been a bit of a disconnect between Ito and the inspiration that goes into creating stories as terrifying as his earlier works. Ito expresses this concern himself in the afterword of Fragments. In talking about the original story board for “Futon”, he mentions that his editor at the time worried that his intuitive sense for horror hadn’t returned.
While not every story may be a gem, there is a lot that Fragments of Horror has going for it. Of particular interest is “Blackbird”; a nauseating survival story with a great twist. Another is the surprisingly heartfelt and sweat story “Gentle Goodbye”. The quality of the paper is much higher than the usual recycled pulp paper that is used to print most manga, and the slip cover of the book alone make it an attractive edition to anyone’s manga collection. It’s impossible to say how long this book will remain in print given the fickle nature of the publishing industry when it comes to manga which, in the US, has largely become a digital only media. Viz is quite good about keeping titles available, but my advice is to get Fragments now while you still can, especially if you are a Junji Ito fan. His instincts for horror are a little rusty, but there is definitely still that bright spark of devilish creativity that has always made Ito’s works worth owning.