The Father of Horror Anime: Junji Ito
Written by Han Slater
As we approach the spooky season and Halloween is on everyone’s mind, good spooks and screams are expected with the Fall season. Many individuals do not enjoy horror or thriller, which is okay too! Nothing wrong with taking a stroll through a pumpkin patch, enjoying a hot cider, and watching romantic comedies on the Hallmark channel. For someone like myself, though, I want the thrill of a good scare. There is nothing better than sitting down with a bowl of popcorn and watching a horror or thriller movie to put me on the edge of my seat. In recent years, I have felt that the quality of horror films has become a stalemate, probably because of COVID-19 staunching the film industry. I am not a film critic, nor am I a snob about horror films, dear readers, so if someone has a recommendation for a horror or thriller movie, please contact me! However, I will speak on a different horror medium for this article. I am an avid anime watcher, and the horror genre continues to be my favourite, even in an animated format. Anime is a type of animation from Japan that uses similar conventions as America, but it is stylized differently. So, consider watching some horror anime if you want something to frighten you this Halloween.
My favourite horror animes are titles created by a well-known mangaka artist Junji Ito. Some have considered Junji Ito the “father of horror” or “master of horror” in the anime realm. This title is given to him because of his massive international success with his manga Uzumaki and Tomie. For this article, I will write about Junji Ito’s dark works that have received anime adaptations. Before I can dive into Junji Ito’s collection of horror stories, I should clarify who he is. Ito has been a manga artist for over 30 years and started publishing his horror stories in horror magazines as a dental technician (K, 2019). During the 1970s, an occult boom and a fascination with the supernatural and paranormal realms of media took the world by storm. Junji Ito also found himself fascinated by films like The Exorcist (1973), Dracula (1931), Frankenstein (1931), and Dario Argento’s Suspiria (1977). From a young age, Ito has been drawn to horror and the occult, an interest I can relate to as I, too, was drawn to horror at a very young age. Even now, Junji Ito is in his late 50s and is producing works that continue to shock and entertain readers. His latest release was The Liminal Zone which contains stories about a professional mourner and a couple encountering this weeping woman, a couple intending to die together traverse Aokigahara, the infamous suicide forest, and two others that I will save for your imagination. For now, I will list some stories that have been adapted into anime for casual viewing.
Fashion Model (2018)
In Fashion Model, a group of amateur indie-film makers looks for an actress to fill the role they need for their upcoming film and get more than they bargained for. A strange woman they meet by chance is cast for the role and things take a turn for the worst. This episode is laced with tension and mounting anxiety that leads people to suspect different things about the characters involved.
Hell Doll Funeral (2018)
In this episode, a child is cursed with transforming into a doll and her parents must make a grave decision to set her spirit free, or watch her erode away as a doll. This short episode is only 3 minutes long, but it leaves a lasting impression on the viewer because of its intense body horror.
The Long Dream (2018)
This episode features a few characters that are integral to the plot. One of the critically acclaimed stories from Junji Ito, as it forces people to question reality and the minds ability to warp reality and time. A man, Tetsuro, is experiencing dreams that last for years in his mind, but in reality they last for a couple of minutes. A thought-provoking story that makes you question reality, time, and humanity.
Boy at the Crossroads (2018)
This episode is about young people trying to find love and relationships by consulting a spirit that manifests itself at a crossroads in an alleyway. Things take a dark and dangerous turn however, and the curious consulters of the afterlife can more than they bargain for.
This episode gave me an incredible chill when I watched it. A young man notices that his neighbour is suffering from a disease where holes appear on a persons body that slowly drives them insane and eventually kills them. For anyone with trypophobia, do not watch this episode.
If you are looking for more spooky thrills to enjoy this Halloween, consider watching the whole Junji Ito collection available on Crunchyroll! I love a good thrill and I recommend the animated collection of Junji Ito to anybody, but I highly recommend reading his manga series.
Galhea. C. David. (2022). “INTERVIEW: The Dark Inner Child of Horror Manga Artist Junji Ito.” https://www.crunchyroll.com/anime-feature/2022/08/19/interview-the-dark-inner-child-of-horror-manga-artist-junji-ito.
K. Ben. (2019). “An Interview With Master of Horror Manga Junji Ito (Full-Length Version).” https://grapee.jp/en/116016.