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.

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.

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.

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.

Top Model (Tomie part 19) by Junji Ito

What is Top Model about?

Ryo is the titular “Top model”, who recounts his days as a successful catwalk model. Not only that, but he goes into the reason for his downfall – the young woman called Tomie.

During a photo shoot, Ryo asks his photographer if he knows any new girls on the scene. Apparently he is bored with his current partner. The photographer points him in the direction of a girl that he himself has been trying to get with. On meeting her, Ryo is immediately taken with Tomie. And going from his past romantic experiences, he expects her to fall for him straight away too. However, he gets a nasty surprise when she laughs in his face, telling him just how plain he is to her.

Ryo is at a loss as to why Tomie doesn’t like him, but he wont give up that easily. After another meeting, which falls flat on its face also, he manages to offend her during an outburst he ends up having. This is the moment where he seals his doom forever. Whilst walking down the street the next day or so, a stranger asks him if he is indeed the top model Ryo. He replies “yes”, and is immediately met with a deep slash across his face.

Tomie, in all of her most devious and vengeful, has arranged a guy to disfigure this cock-sure model. She essentially ends his modelling career right there on the spot. But the real horror comes when Ryo tries to enact the same revenge back at her. Ryo doesn’t have a clue as to who, or what, he is dealing with. His own vengeful actions may just overstep the line and manage to send him down a path from which he may truly never escape.

Getting their just desserts

Ryo is a complete pompous idiot in this story. He is the kind of person you just love to hate. He is so arrogant and sure of his good looks and charms, that he believes all women he desires are for the taking. At least this is the impression that I got from him and his interactions with his photographer. So to have Tomie reject him and show him up did make me smile – he deserved it after all. But did he deserve to be disfigured for simply upsetting her? Proabably not, but a small part of me thinks that he deserved that too.

This whole story is escalated by the smug nature of both of these leading characters. Perhaps Tomie felt she’d met her match with just how full of himself Ryo was at the start. Or perhaps it was simply that Ryo had already fallen for her, which is simply no fun for her. One thing is definitely for sure though – that girl sure knows how to hold a grudge.

It all comes back around

I absolutely loved the closing pages in this chapter and how it comes back to the previous chapter “Passing Demon”. We have gotten to learn how that demon came to be as such, and that snuffing out the futures of those poor babies wasn’t much of a change in character for him. He’s always been willing to get his own way at the expense of others after all.

The approach to the structure in this final trilogy that Junji Ito took, was a stroke of genius in my opinion. Without realising where we were towards the end of this chapter, the whole thing was revealed and it all just felt so right to me. He has developed so much since that first Tomie chapter.

In Summary

Tomie is an absolute bitch in this story. Not that she is a golden girl at all other times, but here she really surpasses herself. Yes, Ryo had some kind of retribution owed to him from his attitude and life style, but I think she maybe just took it a little too far – even by her standards.

Although this is the second part in the Tomie Collection’s final story arc, I think that Top Model could still be enjoyed on its own. It has some interesting dialogue between the two leads and some suitably grotesque imagery. However, I would strongly recommend reading these final three stories in order, in order to get the full effect that Ito intended.

Passing Demon (Tomie part 18) by Junji Ito

What is Passing Demon about?

Ayaka, the youngest of a couple’s two daughters, is the odd one out in her family. She is beautiful; she is confident; and she bares a striking resemblance to a certain lady we’ve all come to know and love – Tomie. But she is not Tomie – at least not yet. A shocking event that happened to the family when Ayaka was just a baby, put her on a completely new – and doomed – path. A shadowy figure had taken away her innocence in one fell swoop.

It seems that Ayaka wasn’t the only one either. There are other young girls of Ayaka’s age who are discovered living in the very same town. They each stand identical to the next, and bare that unbelievable resemblance to Tomie. And It isn’t long at all until they become aware of each other’s existence – triggering the desire in each of them to kill off the others.

This desire to each rid the world of the others’ existence leads to some very troubling and violent scenes. These mainly come from the poor people who are caught in the crossfire, however. Of course, these girls don’t lift a finger in their attacks; they get others to do their bidding instead. Namely young boys that are easily controlled with those classic Tomie charms.

But will any one of the girls end up on top? Could they even learn to accept each other? And what will happen once the shadowy figure, who started all of this off, steps out of the shadows?

The shadowy figure

This is the first time I can remember that an apparent force more foreboding than Tomie took a foothold in these stories. When she is walking alone, Ayaka (who is at least 80% Tomie by now) is aware of a presence watching her from the bushes and the shadows – at least she can sense it anyway. I almost felt as though she was scared – like genuinely scared. And I don’t think I can remember a time when I saw Tomie scared – except when she was faking it, of course.

I feel as though this shadowy figure, who is revealed in the closing panels of Passing Demon, is much more depraved than Tomie ever was. He has no problem whatsoever with corrupting these tiny babies with Tomie’s blood, simply to have a chance at revenge against her some years down the line. This man is a truly sick individual, no matter what his motivations are.

Echoes of Assassins

I loved the call back to a previous chapter “Assassins” in this story. The whole concept of having brainwashed young men made to kill off other copies of Tomie was explored there. And it is one of my favourite stories too. So to see that idea return truly was a big treat for me. I even like to imagine that the chapter Assassins is in fact this moment in time – when these identical girls are each trying to kill one another off.

I wonder if Junji Ito envisioned that himself, or whether it is simply a coincidence. Nonetheless, the reference back to it was great.

In Summary

Passing Demon kicks off the final story arc of the entire Tomie Collection. It, along with “Top Model” and “Old and Ugly”, close off what has quickly become one of my favourite collections of all time. Although this chapter alone isn’t one of my favourites, I do really like the final trilogy’s overall story and how it all ties in together.

Passing Demon, and the two that follow, felt a lot more tied together than the Tsukiko trilogy did in the beginning of the collection. (the Tsukiko Trilogy being “Photo”, “Kiss” and “Mansion”) That’s not to say that those chapters were bad – quite the contrary. It’s just that I can really see how much Ito has progressed as a storyteller from those early days up to these final farewells.

Gathering (Tomie part 17) by Junji Ito

What is Gathering about?

Umehara is in the throws of grief over the passing of his girlfriend. We join him as he is being consoled by his good friend, Miyagawa, who offers a hand to help. Miyagawa invites his friend to a gathering that he has been regularly attending, but it is a gathering like no other.

On arriving, Umehara finds a room full of men on their knees all looking towards an empty chair on the room’s opposite wall. The whole place has the air of a cult, with those suspicions being solidified once the target of these men’s attention appears. It is Tomie. All of the men go wild and Miyagawa reveals that he has brought his friend as a gift to Tomie in order to receive a reward.

Tomie seems taken by Umehara immediately, however, he couldn’t care less about her. It seems his love for his recently passed lady are just too strong. As the story moves forward, Tomie tries to work out why she has no effect on him. Her failure leads to her turning her worshippers against him in response. But what is truly shocking, is when the inevitable happens and the crowds of men move past the infatuation stage, and into the “I just want to kill her and cut her up” stage. By the end of this gathering, things get rather messy – and perhaps not for the reasons you may first think.

An army of the obsessed

This story is about Tomie’s power of obsession over men, except it’s turned up to eleven. She essentially has an army at her disposal, and chooses to have them shower her with complements and gifts. She will demand for them to make her laugh; to entertain her in any way she shes fit. But when she doesn’t get her way, as is the case with Umehara, you’d better not be in her path.

The power that she has over these men is potent. And the conclusion of such an odd situation – with these men all sitting at her feet in a growing internal frenzy – could only lead to bad things. The whole chapter feels like a boiling pot of water just waiting to break over the sides. The final panels present a suitably violent scene for such a dangerous, high-pressure atmosphere.

In Summary

Not a favourite of mine in the Tomie Collection, but still a very worthwhile addition to its overall world. Here, Junji Ito is focusing in on the side of Tomie that drives men to obsess over her – and to do anything she asks in order to please her. Although it isn’t very large in scope, when it is digested along with all of the other chapters, really give a complete picture of this Queen of horror manga.

I don’t think this would be the best chapter to serve as an introduction to the lady. Although most of what you see in here would have been seen before in earlier chapters, there is one part that I believe is new. She manages to force herself into the reoccurring dreams of Umehara. Whether it is her doing or just from the effect she’s had on him, is not clear. So perhaps she manages to win him over after all?

If you are an existing fan of the series and want to see more of what you have come to enjoy from Tomie, then Gathering will make a fine addition to that repertoire.

Babysitter (Tomie part 16) by Junji Ito

What is Babysitter about?

In Babysitter, the story is confined to one small room throughout its entire 22 pages. That small room has the look of a cell, but is in fact a baby’s nursery. The babysitter herself is a young woman named Erita, who arrives at an elderly couple’s home in the opening pages. She is quickly introduced to the couple’s baby, although without actually seeing it properly, before being shown into the nursery.

Once in the nursery, Erita is locked inside with the baby. The couple tells her that they’ve had past babysitters run away during the job, so this is merely a precaution from them. After the brief explanation to the situation, Erita is encouraged to pull back the baby’s blanket. Can you guess what she finds underneath? That’s right – underneath the blanket is not a baby at all, but what she believes to be a little monster. However, us as readers of this series will recognise it as being a regenerating Tomie.

Once the couple have left Tomie (the baby) and Erita alone, Tomie begins to cry and slowly drive Erita mad. Babies crying in general, to those outside of their family, tend to have that shrill, piercing effect on many. But couple that with the powers that Tomie has and you have a deadly mixture. As it turns out, the only thing that can calm the small Tomie is the colour of red, which Erita slowly realises she must use to her advantage. But in such a small, confined space that colour is sparse – save for the blood in her veins and the growing number of town fires outside the window. Oh yes the fires – I didn’t even mention those did I?

Confined in space and story

Babysitter is very much a confined story. Not only does it trap our heroine, Erita, inside a small cell with this demon baby Tomie, but it also focuses the story there too. Except for the opening panels with Erita travelling to the home, we only see things from her perspective within that room. Even whispers and rumours from outside are learned from her spying outside of the barred window. We only know what she knows.

Tomie’s madness is always something to be feared, but generally when people start to feel the effects, they have the opportunity to run or hide. However, in this small locked room, the babysitter Erita has no choice but to withstand and eventually comply with Tomie’s demands.

Despite the story taking place solely within this nursery, don’t be fooled into thinking that this has no extra layers. There is in fact a wider story going on outside the window, which actually has a big impact on the overall story. And not only that, but only the future of both Erita and Tomie.

In Summary

I find this chapter to be a very charming one. Something about it makes it one of my favourite from the collection. It has a certain charm in how it focuses in on the doomed relationship between Erita and Tomie. Although the story doesn’t really take us to many places, I find it does quite a lot in the space it does have.

I always find it more interesting somehow, when artists work within certain constraints, whether self-imposed or not. In this, Junji Ito has limited himself to a single room and seen what he can create from it. For me, he has created a short but nonetheless very entertaining segment of Tomie’s life. At least one of her many lives anyway.