This, the final volume of Junji Ito’s coiling narrative, is perhaps the most consistent, storywise. It’s just a shame it’s also the least satisfying.
The previous two collections shocked, either from the gore or the nerve-jangling weirdness. This one shocks to a certain extent, but it also rides over into silliness territory. That whole whirlwind gang thread? The bullying children? Oh, come on. This lacks the deep, exposed-nerve blast of what? which has characterised the series.
Where the rest of the run chops between stories only loosely linked by location, the bulk of this book focuses on the eventual end of the village of Kurôzu-cho, and on the end of characters we’ve followed since the beginning. The problem is that the extended arc sags, and when certain elements from previous issues are brought in (snail kids, for example) it feels more desperate than shocking.
The ultimate ending is, like I say unsatisfying – hey, it’s a cyclical thing, geddit? – but at least its author acknowledges this. I think ending the run was always going to be problematic, given the world evoked thus far. It was too weird to run to rules according to our nicely ordered world, and thus is found wanting – though that doesn’t mean it’s a dull read. It isn’t. I just wanted more in some nebulous way.