What if fish had legs, and were filled with gas that smelled like a human corpse? Have you ever asked yourself these questions? If you have then boy do I have a Manga for you, and my personal therapists number because those are some unique questions.
In August of 2014 a demo dropped on the PS4 that took the world by storm, it was all over YouTube, social media, and groups of like-minded individuals. This demo was PT from Kojima Productions with Hideo Kojima, and Guillermo Del Toro as the directors. You may be asking why does this matter when I’m talking about a manga? Well I’m about to tell you in the next few sentences. This demo was a Playable Teaser (P.T.) for the new Silent Hills game from the two directors, and Norman Reedus (as the character) but it was canned due to problems we won’t go into. In 2015 after the cancellation we learned that famous Horror Mangaka by the name of Junji Ito was a collaborator for the game via tweets by Del Toro.
Beginning in 2013 America got the re-release of Ito’s most famous mangas, starting with the spiral crazy Uzumaki, followed by the horrendous smelling tale of GYO (Japanese for Fish). These had been originally published years before in paperback, but those were hard to track down and VIZ decided to release these in a new omnibus, collecting all the series in one (big) bite-size hardcover. Having never heard of Junji Ito until Del Toro’s tweets I went to the local comic shop and grabbed all the hardcovers released at the time. I thought I knew what horror was until I read the masterful stories told by Ito. The one that hit me the most was GYO, due to me already not being a fan of fish, and their smell, this manga amplified my dislike towards the aquatic creature.
We begin our story in Okinawa, Japan, with Tadashi scuba diving while his girlfriend Kaori waits for him on their small boat, while underwater Tadashi gets chased by multiple sharks and makes it back to said boat. While on the boat we get a little back story then transition to the young couple arriving back at Tadashi’s Uncles house. Kaori smells a devilishly disgusting smell and blames it on Tadashi’s scuba diving, this starts a heated argument and we learn that Kaori has a hypersensitive sense of smell, in a dash of anger she runs out and Tadashi follows. This is where we get our first taste of the body horror Junji Ito is so well-known for. The creatures we are treated to are many varied small to large, and extra large aquatic creatures with legs attached to them, they are horrendously drawn, in a beautifully artistic way. As the story progresses we meet Koyanagi (Tadashi’s Uncle) who studies these creatures and gives the readers a back story of what he thinks may be happening, but this only stands more as a thesis and not as a definite. On top of being great with horror Ito has a knack for adding levity to make it still seem somewhat human and surprising.
The story is great, and stands alone very well, but Junji Ito’s art makes this story into what could be a masterpiece in the horror genre. Each panel that tease the creatures or creates suspense does just that, but in such a brilliant way that while you want to shy your gaze from the pages you also want to stare deeply into each panel reading into the art catching every gruesome detail. The humans look like they could be real people you would see in reality, and act that way, the aquatic monsters look real to life, but with the legs added we get an extra creepiness factor, towards the end the cityscape decays and becomes scarcely noticeable, showing us the passing of time. Reading GYO showcases why many believe Junji Ito to be the master when it comes to horror in manga universe.
When I started reading these manga in 2015 I had no idea what to be prepared for, but after all these years I can easily say that if you are a fan of horror or want a good read for the end of this October read GYO by Junji Ito, or any of his other books. I personally love Uzumaki almost as much as GYO, and the great thing is with my recent visits to the bookstore I have seen more and more new releases of his mangas.
Extra:With a story that heavily relies on the smell of human corpses coming from the creatures a funny quote from Mr. Krabs comes to mind, “Do you smell it? That smell. A kind of smelly smell. The smelly smell that smells… smelly”