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