Junji Ito is perhaps one of the most prolific, and highly recognized mangaka of this generation and for great reason. His library of published titles range from the incredibly frightful and mind blowing, to the grotesque and often times horrific stories. All of them come together to create this magnificent showcase that illustrates how complex our minds are, and just how far it can go if you allow it the freedom to do what it pleases. Junji Ito’s work doesn't speak to everyone, but they certainly open up room for discussion and have you contemplating just what crazy idea he'll conjure up next. In our top manga by Junji Ito list, we’ll be taking a closer look at some of his more substantial pieces of work and just how they've helped to transform and perhaps reinvigorate the horror genre as a whole.
9. Black Paradox
- Genre: Drama, Horror, Psychological, Seinen, Supernatural
- Volumes: 1
- Published Date: 2009
Junji’s style of storytelling is certainly one that stirs up controversy and raises eyebrows, but that's exactly what makes a story so compelling. Black Paradox is one of his earlier works that consists of various short stories in one book. All of them deal with a group of individuals who are determined to kill themselves in some gruesome way, but are instead thrown into random events that are out of their control. As strange as it may sound, these stories offer a quick little entry way into the mind of the artist, and just what transpires in Junji’s psychological universe.
One story in particular that stands out is group suicide, which looks at just how dark the mind can get if placed in a horrific scenario. While some instances of the story come off as predictable, it still manages to catch you off guard with one of those ‘WTF’ moments and leaves you pondering what could happen next. It's this very playful style of storytelling that makes Junji’s work so satisfying to read because despite how graphic it all is, your curiosity reels you back in and shocks you entirely. With seven short yet thrilling stories to read through, Black Paradox is sure to entertain you.
8. Jigokusei Remina
- Genre: Horror, Seinen
- Volumes: 1
- Published Date: August 16, 2004 - June 24, 2005
The human psyche can sometimes be terrifying especially when in a position of life and death. In Jigokusei Remina, the story focuses on a planet consuming creature that was discovered by a scientist and decides to name it after his daughter Remina. Unfortunately, this planet consuming creature named Hellstar Remina decides to make its way to Earth and the entire world goes into a state of emergency. Everyone is pointing fingers at Remina, the daughter of the scientist, assuming that she had this all planned out. Now everyone is out to kill her, not knowing that the real threat is on a collision course to destroy mankind.
Nothing is more scarier than the whole world turning against you when you've had nothing to do with everything happening. Remina is a victim and she can't seem to do anything about it, which puts not only her life at risk but those tied to her as well. It just goes to show you the wicked and often times ignorant side of humanity, and that we act upon our impulses too quickly instead of gauging the weight of the situation. Random people are killed, lives are torn apart, and Remina must fend for her life in this psychological horror story that's sure to leave you feeling a little tense as you read.
- Genre: Horror
- Volumes: One-Shot
- Published Date: June 9, 2012
Masei is a one shot manga created by Junji Ito that tells a bizarre story about a mysterious siren that possesses the minds of local fisherman, and drives them into a state of insanity. Going out into the middle of the sea is frightening enough, but now having to deal with a creepy siren just turns things up a notch. One of the reasons Masei deserves credit is simply its approach in creating a story that's not only mind boggling but blends so seamlessly with the artistic direction Junji applied.
You can't help but feel a little scared as you sift through each page because each illustration tells its own story and while you want to quickly turn the page to find out more, it demands that every detail must be understood before doing so. Gory depictions of floating naked corpses lying on the water surface, blood seeping through the cracks of rotting skin, and that's just the beginning. Junji takes that common fear of traveling out to sea to a whole new level by throwing in very disturbing imagery to freak you out and never go near the sea again.
6. Shin Yami no Koe - Kaidan
- Genre: Horror
- Volumes: 1
- Published Date: 2004-2006
Shin Yano no Koe - Kaidan is a manga that consists of seven stories, one of which is a direct connection to the original Yano no Koe manga. All of these stories once again only illustrate the sheer brilliance and artistry of Junji Ito, as he tries to toy with your brain in a number of ways. One story that's very striking is Songs in the Dark that looks at how the mind can just go out of control when you can't seem to get that one song out of your head. Not only does the song continuously play on repeat in your head for days, months and perhaps even hours, but now it's 24/7. Immediately reading into this story and already reality was starting to kick in because we've all had this moment happen to us on several occasions.
No matter how hard you try to get that mind numbing tune out of your head, that DJ just can't seem to stop it. This psychological warfare is what makes that story so scary on its own because it's so relatable and that it could happen at any time. It's so painful that you'd be more than happy to just shoot yourself if you could, and the torment is so terrifying that it's like someone torturing you endlessly. The other stories are just as disturbing as this, so if you want a solid collection of outstanding tales, be sure to grab Shin Yami no Koe - Kaidan.
5. Ningen Isu
- Genre: Horror, Seinen
- Volumes: One-Shot
- Published Date: April 12, 2007
Ningen Isu, otherwise known as Human Chair in English, is another freakish story that revolves around a woman named Yoshiko, who curiously enters a furniture store looking for a new chair but unknowingly purchases one that has a very dark and mysterious past. Perhaps she forgot to read the fine print before buying, but what she, and perhaps others, experienced after sitting in the chair is not only frightening, but truly morbid. It’s sick and twisted in so many ways that it’s hard to even explain in words, but once you read through every page and slowly unravel the truth behind the chair your body just feels this terrible chill that you can’t get rid of.
Without going too far to the point of spoiling the story, just imagine sitting in a chair that feels almost as if it’s giving you that one massage you desperately needed, not knowing that behind it all is a criminal mastermind who does more than “comfort” the visitors. The story isn’t gruesome in any way when compared to Junji’s other works, but it’s just the fact that the chair you’re sitting on could be another human being controlling the gears and you’re just relishing in how satisfying it feels. If you want to know how this weird story ends, then be sure to definitely grab this classic because it comes with some crazy twists towards the end.
4. Yami no Koe
- Genre: Horror
- Volumes: 1
- Published Date: 2002-2003
Earlier we took a look at Shin Yami no Koe - Kaidan, which was the sequel to this and is a must read for those looking to continue on with the story. In the original, Yami no Koe consists of seven horror stories all of which contain their own unique plots and gruesome imagery. The first story is called Blood Sucking Darkness while the last one is named The Call of the Condemned. The names of these stories are honestly scary enough but once you dive into it all, it’ll definitely warp your brain. Junji’s art style is something that’s out of this world because you simply can’t describe it in detail, but when you see it you definitely know it has Junji written all over it.
Every tale leads you in a different direction, with every character having their own unique appeal that creates an even more satisfying read. Of course there’s a lot of crazy nonsense that takes place throughout each volume, but you can’t help but relish in the unconventional art style that Junji loves to use in his works. This is also one of his works that seems to combine both a Japanese and Western style to it, but doesn’t take the horror aspect out of the picture. You’ll run into a young boy with a mouth big enough and teeth sharp enough to rip through your flesh with ease, or a human bat that goes around killing people and sucking their blood.
- Genre: Drama, Horror, Supernatural
- Volumes: 3
- Published Date: 1987-2000
Tomie is one of Junji’s more notable works since it won the Kazuo Umezu award, and resulted in a live action film being created in 1999. The story focuses its attention on Tomie, a mysterious and strikingly attractive woman who can be identified by her silky long black hair, and distinct birthmark under her left eye. What we’d define as a womanizer for a man, Tomie was the female version of that but this is a power that she actually possesses. She can make any man fall head over heels for her just by being in her presence, or through psychological and emotional manipulation. Through these actions, she leads her victims into jealous outbursts that often result in violent acts of murder.
It’s not only men she can control also but she can drive women into insanity as well. Tomie is an immortal and no matter how many times she’s died, she comes back to spread more of her curse onto the world. While this all seems fairly tame by explanation, just wait until you get to see her true side and the various hideous forms she has. All we can say is that if we ever had an encounter with this woman, we’d make sure to run faster than Usain Bolt. Tomie also replicate herself from any part of her body be it a limb, an organ, or even blood.
2. Gyo: Ugomeku Bukimi
- Genre: Drama, Horror, Mystery, Psychological, Sci-Fi, Seinen
- Volumes: 2
- Published Date: November 12, 2001 - April 15, 2002
If you ever thought that Jaws was scary, just wait until you read Gyo. Something just doesn’t seem right in the warm climate section of Okinawa, known for its unique culture and festivities. There’s a rotting stench that fills the air and is putrid to the point where one slight inhale of it could result in instant regurgitation. The story focuses around two young individuals, Tadashi and Kaori, who witness a legged fish wandering around on shore and that’s just the beginning of all the horror that’s about to ensue. Gyo is truly petrifying because when do you ever see a shark on shore, let alone a shark with legs chasing after you? It’s random, graphic, and disturbing all at the same time.
Gyo goes beyond the comprehension of a normal human and takes you to this world that, if it were to exist, you’d probably just give up and die on the spot. You come across humans in the shape of an insect, who spit out what looks like intestines out of its mouth and swarms you without warning. These creatures will suck the life out of you or eat you up alive if they have to, and there’s nothing you can do about it. Perhaps this is Junji’s crazy rendition of a world where all of the seafood we’ve devoured in our lives has now come back for revenge, and now we’re about to become the sashimi on the plate for these ravenous creatures.
- Genre: Dementia, Drama, Horror, Psychological, Supernatural
- Volumes: 3
- Published Date: January 12, 1998 - August 30, 1999
We leave you with perhaps what is widely considered to be Junji’s most notable work, and that’s Uzumaki. Ever wondered what life would be like if everything around you was covered in these creepy and freakish looking spirals, and you had no control over where they’d pop up? You probably haven’t wondered that at all and hats off to you for having a sane conscience. For those who have a twisted brain however, you’ll more than likely have a blast reading this all time horror classic, which tells the story of a young girl and her boyfriend who are being haunted by these spirals known as Uzumaki.
While the premise of the story isn’t to show you pools of blood to make you turn away, it’s meant to fool with your brain in a more psychological way because seeing so many of them would drive any person insane. Just imagine seeing this spiral everywhere that you turn, whether it be on the face of the person in front of you, whirlpools in water, or markings on people’s bodies. It’s one of those manga that makes your skin itch and hair raise just by the oddly disfigured imagery that Junji illustrates in the story. A pregnant woman with stitches popping out of her stomach, and blood seeping through every pore on her body is just one thing you’ll probably encounter, or perhaps you’ll enjoy the one girl with a spiral for an eyeball.
Junji Ito’s work will surely go down in history as one of the most horrific yet truly remarkable pieces ever created. If it weren’t for Junji’s influence on the manga industry, we wouldn’t have other great works to look forward to. Horror and psychological thrills aren’t for everyone and that’s totally fine, but for those who truly do like to have their mind twisted and thrown in various directions, then this guy is definitely the one to look out for. Some other notable works from Junji Include In the Soil, Soichi’s Beloved Pet and My Dear Ancestors. Let us know which Junji Ito work stood out to you the most in the comments below, and follow us on social media as well to help keep the community buzzing!
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