Futon by Junji Ito

Futon is the first, and shortest, story in the Fragments of Horror Collection by Junji Ito

What is Futon about?

This is a very short Horror Manga story. It shows a young couple who live in a small apartment together. The Husband, Tomio, refuses to come out from under his blanket on his futon. The Futon is his bed.

He warns his wife of what he calls the “Dark Nature Spirits” in the room. She believes none of it until she actually gets a similar experience for herself.

But are these visions simply a manifestation of some extreme anxiety that Tomio is experiencing? Or are they as literal as he makes them out to be?

Short and Sweet

The story is very much to the point, yet no less charming than Ito’s other tales. Futon doesn’t try to fill out unneeded pages just to increase the count. Junji Ito has created a short horror story and isn’t afraid to just let it be what it is.

I absolutely love the big ceiling reveal that shows the monsters that Tomio is convinced he is seeing. The detail in that double-page spread is so great and a testament to Ito’s gorgeous horror style.

She did all of this

I was fine too with the vague back story that Tomio gives to his wife about the apparent witch. Some eerie tales can stand up for their strangeness alone, without the need for a comprehensive explanation. I think Futon is one such story.

In Summary

Despite it’s super short length at just eight pages, this is one of the Stories by the legendary Horror Mangaka that I remember more often. That double page spread is one that lives in my memory as vivid as the page itself.

I just hope I never get to see such visions off the page.

Chrysalis – Franken Fran part 2 by Kigitsu Katsuhisa

Fran shows us what she will do to help the love of others, especially when she feels responsible for their pain.

What is Franken Fran Chrysalis about?

A young man confesses his love to a beautiful young woman. Despite the gentlemanly way of showing his intentions, she knocks him back telling him its because of his looks. Not one moment after she has destroyed this boy’s feelings, she herself is destroyed as a lorry ploughs headfirst into her at high speed.

If she were anywhere else but a stone’s throw from Franken Fran’s mansion she’d be gone for good.

How lucky for her.

Tajima pleads with Fran for her to help

As it turns out, the lorry was actually delivering supplies to Fran and so she, being of the kindest of nature’s, immediately takes full responsibility. She makes it her mission to bring this girl back from the dead and reunite what she assumes to be a loving couple.

Learning from insects

Fran’s approach to surgery is unorthodox to say the least. This is never more apparent than when the girl wakes up from her surgery in Caterpillar form. Here I was introduced not only to Fran’s knowledge of extreme surgery, but the author’s creativity in crafting unique stories.

Obviously each chapter going forward will be centred around her helping people with some form of surgery. But this chapter showed just how creative these adventures promise to be.

We’re beginning the operation

Out of such harsh circumstances love can blossom too. It was nice to see characters learn of real love through the course of Chrysalis. And not only that, but the last page’s gruesome punchline is to die for!

In Summary

Chrysalis is the second chapter in the Franken Fran series. It brings us back into the familiarity of Fran’s mansion, only this time with an emergency surgery – not the plotted deception of the opening chapter.

It displays Fran’s compassion for others, her skills in the operating theatre and the almost comical side effects of her out-of-the-box thinking that were perhaps not anticipated by her.

I was really happy that the author decided to make Franken Fran into an anthology of sorts. I’m already loving her world and I’m only two stories in. I’m looking forward to her world being fleshed out more and more as I work through the stories.

Dead Tube – Take 1: Action!

I’d heard whispers of this Horror Manga; about its gore and originality. But nothing quite prepared me for what I discovered in this first chapter of Dead Tube.

What is Dead Tube Take 1 about?

In it’s opening chapter, Dead Tube’s two central characters are introduced. These two people are Machiya Tomohiro – a second-year student and cameraman for the school film club, and Mashiro Mai – a second-year student and avid swimmer.

In the opening pages Mashiro asks Machiya to film her none-stop for two days. He accepts her invitation and begins filming her. It starts off innocently enough with him filming her during her normal swimming session. However, the extent of the filming starts to become apparent when she has him follow her to the bathroom and continue to record as nature takes its course.

Machiya films Mashiro as she sleeps

After filming her sleep at her request, they both step out into their second day of filming. Here she has him record every moment of her date with her apparent boyfriend. The big payoff then comes at the end of the day.

This is where Machiya discovers his film subject’s true intentions.

The date’s final climax.

Voyeurism and well-placed humour

This chapter is such a big tease throughout. It teased and teased, building up excellently to it’s big climax. I will not spoil the details of which here.

We are shown the story from the perspective of Machiya as he films constantly at Mashiro’s request. Many of the panels are very provocative too – very suggestive as to the high degree of sexuality coursing through this manga and its characters.

Mashiro is very provocative

There were times when I felt I shouldn’t be looking, like when she is being filmed whilst sat on the toilet. There are many things in this life that we keep private, or at least try to, and this is definitely one of them. But the playful tone of the story, along with the interesting contrast of the extroverted Mashiro and the heavily-introverted cameraman Machiya, kept pushing me through to the next pages.

And my gosh am I glad that I kept turning!

Not knowing this story at all, I was not ready for what would come in their second day of filming. But I have to say that the chapter’s ending completely blew me away. I could now tell that this was going to be a stunning Horror Manga series.

The humour was nice and subtle too. I remember Machiya seeing her undress in the locker room, revealing her body slowly to him, only to show that she’s already wearing her swimming costume beneath. Even this humour is tied to the story’s over-arching theme of voyeurism. Whilst not laugh-out-loud funny, the story did raise smiles in the right places.

In Summary

This opening chapter had me hooked on Dead Tube straight away. Its voyeuristic and playful tone touched parts of myself that feel shame, intrigue and excitement. The authors seem to have an expert handle on their story and know exactly the kind of story that they want to tell. I feel they will have an excellent grip on their readers’ emotions too.

This is going to be a story that wont let a single page or panel go to waste. I can tell.

I can’t wait to experience this journey in full over the coming weeks. And I really can’t wait to see how these characters develop further – especially cameraman Machiya.

Honoured Ancestors by Junji Ito

Honouring the memory of one’s ancestors is something that most people try to do – at least I like to think so. So it seems fitting that Junji Ito should take this very human trait and turn the dial up to “weird” and give us a flesh and blood representation of ancestry.

What is Honoured Ancestors about?

We join a young couple as the boy, Makita, is walking his girlfriend Risa back to her house. Risa has recently lost her memory and nobody can work out how. She then begins to get increasing anxiety, along with nightmares of a giant caterpillar invading her bedroom at night.

Perhaps something in her lost memories can give a clue as to the origin of these disturbing visions?

Risa wakes from her nightmare in a sweat

Makita seems almost happy that Risa has lost her memory because, as he puts it, they can experience all of the “first times” they had together once again. One such “first time” that they relive is them both going round to Makita’s home, where he lives with his sick father. However, upon meeting the father, thoughts and feelings begin to stir within her.

It is in this house where the mystery of her lost memories will be unravelled. And there will be one such “first time” that she will wish would never happen again.

Head to head with the past

In the author’s notes for this story, Ito explains how he saw the big reveal of this story in his mind before any of characters or plot came to him. This is a very interesting way of working, starting with the imagery and working back from there, and I wonder how many other stories of his began this way.

Honoured Ancestors is one of those stories that has so much more going on underneath its surface than what we see. We are shown the current generation of the family, Makita, along with the end of his father’s life. But what about the many ancestors that came before? How did they all trick their partners into marriage and carrying on this family line in such a twisted way?

Makita’s dad has an odd way of entering a room

I really enjoy how many of Ito’s stories like this one trigger these thoughts in me. I love wondering about events that happened so completely out of the scope of the current story, yet would still have had an effect on the story’s world.

In Summary

I enjoy this story a lot. While not being a favourite of mine, it still holds a high place for me. I find myself imagining the lives of those ancestors and just how they came to begin the connection to their past in this way.

You should definitely pick up Junji Ito’s Shiver Collection and read this story – see what thoughts it sparks in your own imagination.

1st Tragedy (Sacrifice) – Freak Island by Masaya Hokazono

From its very first page I could tell that Freak Island, also known as Kichikujima, was going to be a tough story. And from what I’ve read of it so far at the time of writing, I wasn’t wrong.

What is Freak Island – Sacrifice about?

We begin with a young woman lying in pain on a jungle floor — her bare foot caught in a bear trap. Screaming for pain and crying, nobody comes to help. In fact, only one person hears her: the towering beast of a man looking from behind her with a large blade in his hand. The woman pleads one last time but, as she raises her hands in defence, the figure — wearing a pig’s head as a mask — swings and removes all of her fingers at the knuckles.

Oh geez.

After the relaxing face of Franken Fran I just wasn’t ready for this level of brutality. But I’ve started so I’ll continue.

The Students notice something on the Island’s shoreline

Just off the coast of the island where these monstrous events are happening, a small pleasure boat sails by carrying six young students. These students are out in search of ruins on the island as part of a University expedition. Little do they know that the thought-to-be-deserted island they are approaching is in fact home to the violent destruction of a helpless young woman.

And probably many more people before her.

We get some time in the chapter to get to know these characters a little bit too. I found each had enough unique characteristics to help me remember them all long after I’d finished reading. Nothing too cartoonish, but they were individual enough. I have a tendency to get manga characters mixed up if there is a group of them.

Let’s hope these innocent students don’t find themselves stranded on this island…

No holds barred

I just loved the fact that this story pulled zero punches right from the start. There was no pretence of safety or the possibility of escape for the young woman. She was just brutally hacked to death by the pig-faced man with absolutely no remorse. Then when it came to our protagonists, the students, even they seemed disposable as one of them meets the sharp end of a hammer.

The Pig Man attacks someone with a hammer

This feels like it’s going to be a story where absolutely nobody is safe — even at this early stage. A story that will punish poor decisions by the characters, and punish them badly. Although it is sad to see beloved characters killed, sometimes it is refreshing to find a story that isn’t afraid to hold back.

No plot armour here, I fear.

I wanted to mention the level of detail in here too – especially when we see the wider panels of the island and its shoreline. There is a high level of detail put into the scenes that really drew me in. This really helped to set the scene for me and seemed to make the violence feel all the more visceral.

In Summary

Horror Manga in its very nature has the expectation of being violent, or at the very least mildly disturbing, but Freak Island pulls you straight into the heart of its violence from the start. And if you don’t like what you see in this opening chapter, then it’s probably wise for you to stop reading there.

I fear it’s going to get a hell of a lot worse for our heroes before there’s any hope of it getting better.

Fashion Model : Cursed Frame by Junji Ito

In this bonus story from his Shiver collection, Junji Ito delivers an incredible depiction of a woman’s strange fear made flesh. And in the most iconic of ways too. One of the things about Junji Ito that is so great, is his big reveals that he often gives us. More often than not I don’t expect them. However, in hindsight they seem to be the only logical outcome.

Logical in Ito’s world at least.

What is Fashion Model Cursed Frame about?

Amy hates her photos

In Fashion Model: Cursed Frame, we are reunited with a favourite amongst Ito’s Characters – Fuchi. Fuchi is the shark-toothed, seven-foot-tall fashion model with a taste for human flesh.

The modelling industry in Junji Ito’s world is very cut-throat indeed.

Amy is a new model on the scene, who agrees to work for a company on a single condition – that they only ever photograph her full body. Never head or body shots. The idea of having parts of her body missing from photographs completely freaks her out.

It is the kind of fear that feels right at home in Junji Ito’s world. And I could just tell it wasn’t going to end well for her.

But how will Amy cope in a profession where people don’t stick to their word. An industry that is often depicted as being ruthless and super-competitive. Not to mention the demonic Fuchi lurking about; on the prowl within those choppy waters of the fashion world.

In Summary

Cursed Frame is only seven pages long and comes as a bonus in the back of the Junji Ito Shiver Collection. But despite its short length, it packs so much into those pages in a concise, and suitably violent way.

I was really impressed at how he gave us a character with a very specific fear – and one I’d never heard of before either – and managed to bring her story full circle to face that fear head on. I thought Fuchi was an excellent conduit for the idea too – her presence alone brings a sense of dread and foreboding.

Fuchi’s teeth

I really wish Fuchi was more of a long-standing character – she’s so much fun to watch.

Brains – Franken Fran part 1 by Kigitsu Katsuhisa

Franken Fran is one of the most kind-hearted people in all of the Horror Manga stories I have read so far. Despite her appearance and the acts that she performs, she remains friendly and always driven to help those in need of it.

I have only read the first ten chapters or so, but thought I’d go back to the very start and write my thoughts on each.

What is Brains about?

In Brains, we get our first glimpse into the world of Franken Fran; into the strange mansion in the woods and the creatures that live within. We are brought here on our maiden voyage by two men. These men appear at the door of the mansion in search of Professor Madaraki. However, they are greeted by a strangely attractive young woman who looks to have been patched together in a Frankenstein fashion.

But despite her bolts and stitches she is still quite an attractive woman.

Her name is Fran.

Franken Fran

On hearing one of the men tell the story of him losing his son in a car accident, she is compelled to help. You see, Professor Madaraki is rumoured to possess the ability to bring the dead back to life. This is what the man desires more than anything. However, due to the Professor being away at this time, Fran jumps forward to offer her own skills – skills that have been passed down to her.

Reluctantly, they accept Fran’s offer just as they are running fearfully from the mansion. However, the grieving father’s story may not be as honest as he presented to Fran, and that deception may just be his undoing as she begins to make good on her promise.

Humour and Gore

Within the first few pages of this first chapter, one thing that jumped out at me was the great sense of humour that the creator has. Just the simple act of having Fran’s eyeball fall out mid conversation and seeing the men’s reaction of horror as she picks it up out of the tea.

I heard rumors of Professor Madaraki

The banter between Fran and the lion boy was great too. They seem to have an interesting push / pull teasing kind of relationship that I look forward to see being expanded upon in the future chapters.

I loved how detailed the gore was too. The surprise panel I turned over too – of her pulling the brain out of the man’s head, his eyes sunken back yet still alive. This was a level that I wasn’t expecting having been through the relatively calm and charming opening pages.

In Summary

I absolutely loved this story and its characters from its very opening pages. Fran is such a unique character with charm and grace, a great sense of humour and wicked skills with a scalpel.

I already feel at this early stage of my journey through Franken Fran’s world, that it’s going to be a layered, funny and often brutal look at a girl who just wants to help people.

Well, It wasn’t quite what I was hoping for

Frankenstein by Junji Ito

Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein is perhaps one of the most well-known horror novels ever written, if only by name. In his horror manga of the same name, Junji Ito tackles the mammoth task of bringing this novel into his disturbingly visual world.

Frankenstein is such a huge part of popular culture, however, I have to be honest and say that I have never read Frankenstein the novel; Ito’s version is my first time experiencing the story itself. I knew the rough story – the Doctor creating the monster, but I needed to check the major plot points on the novel’s Wikipedia page after reading this manga, just to see how close it was. 

I am happy to report that Junji Ito’s version of Frankenstein stays very true to Mary Shelley’s novel. Even the narrative structure of telling the story from the perspective of the ship’s captain is maintained. But I can’t give a full comparison as I am not familiar with the source material.

What is Frankenstein about?

During an expedition to the North Pole, in the pursuit of fame, the captain and his crew see the towering figure of a stranger in the distance. This is followed by them finding a man out in the freezing cold all alone and in need of shelter — a man by the name of Victor Frankenstein. Victor is in pursuit also, only his pursuit is of something far more tangiable than fame. His pursuit is of a creature he decsribes — the figure that the crew saw previously.

Suffering from exhaustion and cold, Victor tells the captain his story and how he came to be out here in the wilds of the North Pole. We learn of Victor’s childhood and family, and his growth into the scientist he became. He also recounts the terrible deeds he performed in the pursuit of greatness in his unique field of study.

He goes on to tell the Captain of his creation, the Frankenstein’s Monster, and how it came to escape and ultimately wreak havoc on his family. We bear witness to the awful deeds that the monster does, and Victor’s seemingly never-ending pursuit of it. Victor’s story ultimately brings us back to the current time on board the trapped ship and to the final moments of realisation of both the monster and the creator alike.

My thoughts

As I said before, this was the first time experiencing the full story of Frankenstein. I mean, I’ve always known about the characters and the creation of the monster through parodies and tv series tie-ins like Penny Dreadful and Carry On Screaming, but never the original story.

I am glad, in a way, that reading Junji Ito’s interpretation of it was my first taste. It meant that I got to experience all of the story’s twists, turns and moments of horror, only via the expert artistry of the horror mangaka himself. That’s not to discount Mary Shelley’s talents; I’m just saying that this was a very different way to be subjected to it for the first time.

I thought that the intricacies of the monster himself were put across very well too. It’s moments of horrific brutality; it’s moments of love towards the family whose home he hides in; and the moments of vulnerability where he pleads for his creator to build him a mate – a mate who won’t cower and scream at the mere sight of his face. Someone he can love — and receive love in return.

I can’t say that this is my favourite Junji Ito story, but nonetheless I thought he did a great job working within another writer’s world and the limitations that it can bring. His artwork is on point as always, with the depiction of both innocence and horror so expertly portayed, sometimes through the same character.

I’ve heard said before that if you are going to remake or cover someone else’s creation, whether a film, song or whatever, you should either strive to improve on the original or at least make it different. Whilst I can’t say whether or not he improved it, I do think he brought something completely different. Perhaps even bringing this classic horror story to the eyes of people who may never have ended up reading it — like me.

In Summary

Whilst I can’t recommend reading this version of Frankenstein before the original, nor should I, I do feel that it is definitely a Manga worth reading at some point. I’m not sure about any different experiences I may have had, had I have read the novel first. The big difference that does spring to mind is that all of the visuals would have been created in my imagination – making it even more scary perhaps?

But as a standalone horror manga, regardless of the source material, Junji Ito’s Frankenstein is a great read in my opinion and worthy of your time.

The Sad Tale of the Principal Post by Junji Ito

Nestled at the end of Junji Ito’s story `Gyo`, is a four page one-shot story about a man found trapped underneath the main supporting post of his family’s home. As the mother and children are busy entertaining visitors to their new home, screams are heard from beneath them. And there inside the house’s crawl space, tightly held beneath the Principal Post, is the father of the family.

The metaphor for this short story seemed so obvious to me, but I wanted to share my thoughts on it nonetheless.

For me, it seems that the father is literally holding the weight of the house on his back – supporting it for his wife and children. And instead of begging for help, he instead pleads for them not to move him – for doing so would risk bringing the whole building down. So for his family, he is willing to die in order to keep them warm and safe in their home.

I’m not sure if this was perhaps Junji Ito expressing feelings of his own regarding his family and his willingness to do whatever he can to help and support them. But I do like to think so.

This story does have a pretty ridiculous narrative when you think about it – the man being spontaneously trapped and the reason for it never being revealed – but I do think that this holds a nice message of family loyalty. Out of all of Ito’s one-shot stories I have read so far, The Sad Tale of the Principal Post is one of my favourites.

Old and ugly (Tomie part 20) by Junji Ito

What is Old and Ugly about?

In Old and Ugly, we not only close off a trilogy of stories, but the entire Tomie Collection too. We pick up where we left the story at the end of Passing Demon. The strange figure, who we now know as being the “Top Model” Ryo, has approached Ayaka’s sister – Yasuko. Oh, and the three Tomie girls are each still trying to kill one another by possessing local boys to carry out their attacks. Ryo is doing his best to protect them all, but that does prove to be quite difficult.

After Ryo and Yasuko have joined forces, they decide to take Ayaka away to safety. If he can’t save them all, at least he has a chance of saving one of the Tomie girls. And by “saving” I really mean preserving. For, as long as she doesn’t multiply she will retain her human characteristics and age as any normal person would. This is Ryo’s, and later also Yasuko’s, end goal – they wish to see their Tomie contend with the frailty of human life; to see herself as old and ugly before her life ends.

Ryo and Yasuko essentially give up their lives to focus solely on the preservation of Ayaka. Their revenge is so focused and so tunnel-visioned, that they literally want nothing else in the world but to see her suffer. As their own lives pass them by they let their thirst for revenge drain them of all that is good. But will Tomie be contained in her human shell? Will she succumb to weakness and old age? Or will she break free from her shackles and have the last laugh once and for all?

The end of the journey

We have finally reached the end of our journey through the entire Tomie Collection. Through twenty stories we have followed the lady in many of her incarnations. With this final chapter, it really felt like the end of the line. And I don’t just say that because it’s the last chapter, but the theme of this one really felt like a close for me. Of course Tomie as a force of nature could literally go on forever.

Throughout these chapters we have only seen a small percentage of all of the Tomies that would now exist in the world. Remember all of those bodies that walked out of the “Waterfall Basin”? Or the five that walked out of the cave at the end of “Little Finger”? And what about that original first chapter where many parts were scattered all over the town?

I love how this is a world that would never be rid of Tomie. She truly is a force of nature that just can not be stopped. If there ever was a final chapter after this one it would have to be something like Tomie: World Order.

The real evil

In “Old and Ugly”, Tomie is essentially kept prisoner, initially under a sort of mild house arrest, but soon in a very solid manner. This whole story is about Ayaka’s sister and, more crucially, Ryo’s revenge against her. Of course this isn’t the same Tomie as he had dealt with all those years before. But since all versions of her originate from the same dark place, I guess any suffering Tomie is better than none.

It was interesting to finally see somebody using Tomie’s powers against her. By harnessing her blood and injecting it into three (or possibly more?) innocent children, he was able to harvest his very own Tomie clones. Clones whose sole purpose was for him to have his revenge. I believe Ryo to be the real enemy here in this final story. Tomie is simply doing what it is in her nature to do – survive. However, by corrupting the futures of these innocent girls, Ryo firmly placed himself on the side of true evil.

As the pages of their lives move towards their conclusion, so too do we reach the final pages of this collection. And surprising to me, Ito didn’t decide to go out with a bang in a huge gory mess. He stayed true to the story at hand and followed it through to its natural, strange conclusion. I have grown to have a special fondness for this collection, through my exploration of its details, and am glad that Ito ended it in the way that he did.

In Summary

An interesting closing chapter that truly did feel like a bookend to the whole collection for me. I often think about how it may have been good to bring back some past characters from other chapters for a huge finale. Like Tsukiko from “Photo” or Mitsuo from “Painter”. But perhaps that would have been just a little bit too cheesy.

You will need to have read at least the previous two chapters for this one to really make full sense. In fact, I feel that this whole closing trilogy of “Passing Demon”, “Top Model” and “Old and Ugly” are best experienced at the end of the collection as intended.