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The 7 scariest Junji Ito manga ever written

Uzumaki’s anime adaptation has been delayed once again, so let’s familiarise ourselves with more world-class mangaka from Junji Ito as we wait.

Junji Ito is one of the modern-day paragons of the horror genre, whose work draws from the deep-seated panic at the core of the human spirit.

Having been compared to horror legends like H.P. Lovecraft, Edgar Allen Poe, and Mary Shelley, Ito’s style of horror engulfs us in the world of the perverse.  Every now again it unseats some deep shit that you really didn’t want to be addressing, but now will be for the rest of your life.

best junji ito manga

Take Uzumaki for example. Potentially Ito’s masterwork, this story focuses on a town that begins to see spirals everywhere, before they soon begin to infect the landscape, the town, and the people that live therein.

What initially seems like a pretty quaint concept escalates to terrifying heights, until it’s striking directly at the core of everything that makes us human, truly discomforting us with the revelation that its main conceit – that spirals are everywhere and make up the universal flow of everything – is entirely correct. It doesn’t help that the story itself is structured like a spiral.

If you’re a fan of the style of horror that reaches deep into the pockets of your soul, then get keen, because an anime adaptation of Uzumaki is on the way. Directed by Hiroshi Nagahama of Mushishi fame and featuring music from Colin Stetson (saxophonist and composer of the soundtrack for Hereditary), we’re in for a short but well-anticipated ride.

From the recent teaser released by Toonami, the animation style looks pretty wonderful, with a trippy and detailed flair to its black and white colour pallete. The character movement looks almost rotoscoped, reminding us of some of the most unsettling moments of our childhood, when the lines between 2D and 3D animation were blurred, leaving us with an unsettling but beautiful aesthetic.

But this beauty does also come with a price – a delay to late 2022. This may seem like a pretty long time to wait for a four-episode series, but good things do take time. In the meanwhile, we can use this break to catch up on Ito’s previous work. So regardless of whether you’re looking to unhinge your brain, fill it full of fishing wire, or just get grossed out, we’ve compiled our top 7 Junji Ito manga that we reckon you should check out.

7. Army of One

This one is fucking twisted. We follow Michio, a shut-in who slowly begins to uncover the workings of a new serial killer whose M.O. involves stitching their victims together with fishing wire.

Army of One draws on a similar sense of discomfort as Tom Six’s Human Centipede, mixed with a somewhat political message about the dangers of propaganda. Give this one a read if you love your gore and can’t stand the thought of stitches.

6. Gyo

One of Junji Ito’s longer works, Gyo is a hyper-absurd story about an army of deathly, stinky fish crawling out of the ocean on metal legs. While structured more similarly to an action movie over a horror title, what Gyo gets right is its gruesome body horror and comical insanity.

Ito goes absolutely to town on this manga, letting it rip and escalating its concepts beyond the bounds they were initially wrapped in. If you like making baffled laughs and muttering “what the fuck” under your breath, Gyo has you covered.

Junji Ito

5. Tomie

Tomie was Junji Ito’s first-ever manga, released in 1987, and continuing over many installations through to 2000. It follows Tomie, a mysterious woman with a birthmark under her eye, who forces anyone (mostly men) to fall in love with her, manipulating them to her will.

There is no limit to how far her badass cruelty extends, which has brought with it a massive cult following. There are currently eight live-action film adaptations of the original manga, a serialised television drama, a novelisation, and multiple republications of Ito’s original. But don’t be turned off – if you’re after some gore, body horror, and old fashioned spooking, Tomie is one to check out.

Junji Ito

4. Hellstar Remina

Hellstar Remina is Ito’s way of proving that he will juice as much horror as he can from a story, even if it means he’s left with nothing at the end. Like a guitarist shredding until their strings break, Remina is a story of cosmic exponential expansion, which pushes its themes to the point of eating itself. Literally.

We follow Remina, the daughter of a scientist who finds a planet-consuming entity headed towards earth that he generously names after her. Thinking that Remina herself is controlling the Hellstar, the entire planet turns against her in the face of eternal damnation, touching upon some of the horrors that can be present in human concepts like faith and conformity.

Read this one if you’re a fan of sci-fi horror or deep space terror.

Junji Ito

3. Glyceride

This story follows Yui, a young woman whose family operates a BBQ joint and lives out the back in the adjoining housing space. Due to poor ventilation, the greasy air has nowhere else to go except up into the house, kicking off the rest of her family’s obsession with grease.

Glyceride only escalates from here, culminating in a sloppy, oily mess and one of the most disturbing pimple poppings that you’ll ever see. If you’re looking to read something so gross that you’ll want to take a shower afterwards, give this story a squeeze.

Junji Ito

2. Dissection Girl

Dissection Girl draws its horror from a really terrifying place: the fact that we don’t see what’s inside of us. At the centre of the story is Ruriko Tamiya, a girl infatuated with dissecting things after beginning her amateur surgeon career on rodents and frogs.

Suffering from stomach pains herself, she begins to lust after the idea of being dissected- and the story runs off with the baton. If you’re a horror fan who’s looking to have an anxiety attack about not knowing what’s really in your stomach, give this one a read.

Junji Ito

1. The Enigma of Amigara Fault

Of all comic horror, Uzumaki included, nothing has ever quite encapsulated the ubiquitous call of the void lurking within in as terrifying a manner as The Enigma of Amigara Fault.

When human-sized holes begin to show up on the side of a mountain, people begin to recognise them as their own silhouettes. They don’t know where they came from and they don’t know where they lead, all they know is that they want to go in – and that nothing can be done to stop them.

Taking this idea and running with it, Junji Ito creates one of the most uncanny tales of the entire horror canon, speaking to a strange and primal elements of human nature. Claustrophobia, conformity, compulsion, purpose, and body horror all come together to make up one of the weirdest and most unsettling stories ever written.

So while we may be over a year away from the release of Toonami’s Uzumaki, there is still a wealth of stories available in Junji Ito’s back catalogue that we can subject ourselves to if we’re trying to avoid sleeping ever again.