Top Picks: Junji Ito

Junji Ito started drawing horror manga as a hobby, while he practiced dentistry as a career. Now, he’s one of the world’s most respected horror manga artists with a knack for the grotesque. Focusing mainly on cosmic horror and body horror, Ito takes unsettling everyday occurrences and makes them catastrophic.

What if you had to dream an entire lifetime each time you fell asleep? How about if a stranger ran up to you on the street and licked you on the face? These are just a few questions posed in Ito's terrifying tales. New to Junji Ito and not sure where to start? Try any of these top picks this Halloween season.

Uzumaki is one of Junji Ito’s most well-known stories. The manga takes place in a small town where residents are haunted by all-consuming visions of spirals. This is one of the only standalone collections on this list, as Ito often writes in a short story format. However, each chapter of Uzumaki centers on a different character’s encounters with a clay pot, ringlets of hair, a snail shell and other spiraled things. Will our main characters be able to escape the power of the spiral?

The short story collection Shiver is a terrifying assortment of some of Ito's best short stories. In the first story, a haunted song hypnotizes all who listen. In another, student filmmakers get more than they bargained for when casting a ghastly looking actress in a supporting role. This collection also features a story about Tomie, a beautiful model with a sinister secret: death seems to follow her. Tomie is a recurring character in Ito’s work and even has her own collection.

Venus in the Blind Spot is another short story collection by Ito. One of the standout stories from this collection is The Human Chair, a story originally by the Japanese author Edogawa Ranpo and adapted for manga by Ito. In this story, a woman becomes tormented by the idea that someone is living inside her easy chair. Another great story in this collection is The Enigma of Amigara Fault, in which a group of explorers are inexplicably drawn to a rock formation in the mountain after an earthquake. Claustrophobia and dread run rampant in this collection!

Recent release The Liminal Zone includes four short stories about different forms of suffering. Religious guilt, anxiety, depression and grief are just some of the heavy themes explored in these scary stories. But of course, because it’s Ito, The Liminal Zone takes these concepts and creates horrific monsters, supernatural energies and murderous mayhem. While it is one of the newer Ito short story collections, it ranks very high on my list of favorites. 

Even if horror isn’t your thing, Ito has something for you. In Junji Ito's Cat Diary, Ito describes his adventures in adopting two furry felines, and the hijinks that ensue. Think: drawn in a horror style, but about cats. Every cat owner will be able to see themselves in Ito and his wife’s funny reactions to their precious felines, Yon and Mu!

Do you have a favorite Junji Ito story?