Fragments of Horror by Junji Ito.
My rating: three stars
Junji Ito is known for being a bit, well, odd. I’ve reviewed some of his other works, and I’ve enjoyed them for the most part. This collection, however, didn’t seem to strike the same fantastic chord in me, and I’m still trying to decide whether it’s due to some duff stories, or because I’m a bit more tuned into his method of writing.
There’s eight tales in this tome, and they include most of the tropes in the Ito canon: creepy children, body-morphing disease, folktale-infused horrors and assorted paraphilia.
As ever, characters are linked throughout the stories included, as well as from other compendia. You’ll recognise the hapless males under the spell of an unearthly woman with dark hair, as well as examinations of obsession and fate.
(There’s also a story about a shut-in who won’t get up and I feel VERY SEEN, though I do not, as yet, wear diapers.)
The stories are fine, I guess, but some of them seem a bit… try-hard? I was a bit tickled by Dissection-Chan, the tale of a woman who longs to be dissected, but I couldn’t help but feel it paints a grim picture of the author’s view of women.
Similarly, I have to admit I was pretty bummed by the negative portrayals of a transgender individual in the story Magami Nanakuse. It seemed pretty on the nose, though I am uncertain how much of this is due to either cultural or temporal differences. The story itself is otherwise pretty good – there’s elements of compulsion, of butoh and of the shackles of a creative task – but this presentation niggled at me and coloured my reading, certainly.
Perhaps the stories I enjoyed the most were Whispering Woman, a look at mental illness and the power of suggestion, and Gentle Goodbye, which is something of an older-style ghost story, with much less grue than you’d expect from Ito. Each of those seem to reach towards something more numinous than usually features in Ito’s work.
The afterword indicates that this was (in 2006) Ito’s first collection in eight years. I’m uncertain how it sits chronologically with the others released in English, but I’ve got to admit, it feels a bit like a read for completionists only. There’s some interesting stuff here, for sure, but it’s not the first thing I’d be suggesting for a newcomer to the artist’s world.
I’ve started to run only partial versions of my reviews on Goodreads. I’ve been a bit weirded out by the tenor of that site, and so I’m pretty keen to keep my stuff over this side of things. My profile is still there, but I’ll pretty much be using it solely for tracking and teasing full reviews. Why? Read this and see for yourself.