What is Shiver by Junji Ito about?
In Shiver by Junji Ito, we are pretty much confined to the back garden area between Yuji’s bedroom window and his neighbour Rina’s. They are both children who look to be in their early teens.
Yuji notices Rina one day as she is pointing out of her window – into the adjoining garden between them. The strange thing that he notices, however, is that she seems to have holes all over her arms. Not only this, but Yuji also sees a strange-looking doctor enter the house each day. This doctor’s entrance would then be met with screams from the girl.
As we progress through this short horror manga, we discover the curse of a jade carving of an insect. This insect was brought back from World War 2 and was kept by Yuji’s grandfather. As the apparent curse had taken his life, infecting him with countless holes over his body, he discarded the Jade piece out of the window. This is the very window that Yuji now looks out from.
The most effective horror manga for me is the kind that effects the characters personally. Most often through a physical manipulation of their body throughout the story. Junji Ito is widely known as the king of the body horror sub-genre, and this creepy little tale can help to show why. Something as simple as a hole is made grotesque when it effects a person’s body. And how he manages to capture that idea on paper is a testament to his skill.
Even though at its core it is simply a story of a cursed trinket, the way in which the curse takes effect is unique to Ito’s imagination. Reading the artist’s commentary at the end of the book gave insight into the origin of the idea. Through reading a book about insects and how they breath, he was able to conjure up the unforgettable vision of the cursed people with holes all over their bodies.
We all have access to the same information, especially with the World Wide Web, but it’s fascinating how certain people can take that same information and run in completely different directions.
Shiver is the second story from his collection of the same name. You can buy this collection directly from Amazon today. Although this wasn’t my favourite from that collection, I still enjoyed the read and might even recommend it as a good introduction to the artist himself.