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Junji Ito and the art of unease

Emma_Clare at 12:00AM, Aug. 7, 2020

A core principle of the works of horror mangaka Junji Ito, is the mundane and everyday only backwards. This concept is perfect for short stories as there is no need, or time, to explore lengthy explanations for the uncanny. Events are as they appear which renders them all the more uncomfortable, as we do not know the motivations behind an entity and, thus, are unable to relate and/or empathise, keeping us in the dark.

When creating his short stories, rather than using a regular story arc, the beginning, build up and climax, his work can be characterised as a series of spikes, culminating in a sharp jump towards the climax to nail home the horror of the scenario. This is better explained in SuperEyepatchWolf’s video, How Media Scares Us: The Work of Junji Ito. In his video, he demonstrates how Ito uses page turns to build suspense. A character will react to something they’ve seen off screen, leaving the reader to turn the page to see it, thus contributing to the build in tension. It is a small but important act of interaction on the behalf of the reader as they are now curious and tense, primed for the big, horrific reveal.

Ito’s explorations of human nature, from the hubris of man in the Hanging Balloons, to the obsession like nature we can fall into, as demonstrated in his three volume series Uzamaki, makes for a compelling and unsettling read. Horror is more than just a cheap jump scare, rather it is how our need for safety within the norm is, in actual fact, fragile. Forces beyond our comprehension have little interest in our wants and needs. We are incapable of ignoring our better instincts for the allure of curiosity and, unfortunately, often fall victim to our compulsion to survive.

Horror works best when it leaves us feeling uneasy; the mundane and everyday, only backwards.

What aspect of horror do you find fascinating. Let us know in the comment section below! And join us on Sunday evening for our Quackchat at 5:30PM(EST)!

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Jason Moon at 8:13AM, Aug. 7, 2020

I love junji's work! My fav is the Gyo manga. Some scary stuff.

Avart at 7:34AM, Aug. 7, 2020

Excelent article Emma! If you are lookin for horror, you can't go wrong with Junji Ito's amazing work.

Banes at 7:00AM, Aug. 7, 2020

Junji Ito's stories and art are unsettling to the max - when normal life falls away and we're pretty much powerless to do anything about it- that's scary! Great article - and good timing, with the DD Horror Anthology open for pitches right now!

Emma_Clare at 5:30AM, Aug. 7, 2020

@Andreas_Helixfinger fun fact! Junji Ito was responsible for the character design of Lisa in the Silent Hills demo PT. If you loved that aesthetic I really recommend checking out his work. :D

Andreas_Helixfinger at 3:30AM, Aug. 7, 2020

The best horror to me is the kind that is a reflection upon the dark and the forbidden aspects of humanity, its insecurities, its obsessions and its tendencies towards self-deception, as well as the concept of reality as a whole. Horror novels written by Thomas Ligotti, such as "songs of a dead dreamer" and "Grimscribe", or horror video game franchises such as Silent Hill, to me masterfully encapsulate this type of horror. I haven't encountered Junji Ito's work before, but it sure sounds worthy of a read👍

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