The perfect subject to highlight in the month of October is none other than the master of horror himself, Junji Ito. Known for his depictions of body horror and the downright deranged, Ito has taken simple, everyday concepts and added horrifying twists that leave readers mystified. Originating from Gifu Prefecture, Junji Ito was born July 31st, 1963 and had an early introduction to the world of horror. In an interview with Grape Japan, Ito reveals that at the age of four or five, his two sisters would read the works of horror manga artists Kazuo Umezu and Shinichi Koga; Umezu known for The Drifting Classroom and Koga known for Eko Eko Azaraku (Grape Japan).
The first manga he bought for himself ended up being “Orochi” by Umezu (Nomura). From there his fascination into the world of horror grew. Still at the age of four or five, he began reading and soon wanted to try drawing himself (Grape Japan). His hometown, a small city next to Nagano, became an inspiration for his works. He states, "there were a lot of narrow roads in between buildings, which looked like a maze. I would play hide-and-seek around there and around old hospital buildings that were scary, and I believe is reflected in my manga (Chik)." Despite the influence and interest in horror from a young age, it was not his first career.
Before becoming the manga artist we know today, Ito’s first career was in dentistry. On the advice of his aunt, he went to school to be a dental technician, however, because the work was tough and other issues affected his work, he started thinking of changing jobs (Nomura). As luck would have it, the Kazuo Umezu Award was launched at that time. He applied and the work that received an honorable mention would later become part of his masterpiece series, “Tomie (Nomura).” This particular work has captivated audiences and is one of Ito’s most famous works. It tells the story of Tomie Kawakami who has the ability to seduce any man, and drive them to murder as well, even though the victim is often Tomie herself and no matter how many times she is killed, she always comes back (Cover copy). When asked about the inspiration for Tomie, he states:
No, I’m afraid there wasn’t a beautiful woman who was the model. When I was in junior
high school, a boy in my class died in a traffic accident. It just felt so odd to me that a
classmate who was so full of life should suddenly disappear from the world, and I had a
strange feeling that he would show up again innocently. Ever since then, I wanted to
give expression to that feeling in my manga. That’s how I came up with the idea of a
girl who is supposed to have died but then just shows up as if nothing had happened
Outside of his personal experiences, he is inspired by other authors and directors, some of which are from the west. They include names such as Mary Shelly (Frankenstein, 1818), H. P. Lovecraft (The Color Out of Space, 1927), Koji Suzuki (Ring, 1991) and directors such as Dario Argento (Susperia, 1977 & 2018) and William Friedkin (The Exorcist, 1973) (Chik). Ito created his own manga adaptation of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein which received an Eisner Award in 2019 for Best Adaptation from Another Medium.
Junji Ito is still currently active as one of his most recent works, Junji Ito Maniac: Japanese Takes of the Macabre, was release on Netflix just this year. As to his personal life, Junji Ito married his wife, illustrator Ayako Ishiguro, in 2006. They have two children.
Selected Notable Series to Read
Tomie, free preview → https://www.viz.com/read/manga/junji-ito/product/4988
Uzumaki, free preview → https://www.viz.com/read/manga/junji-ito/product/3382
Gyo, free preview → https://www.viz.com/read/manga/junji-ito/product/3685
Frankenstein, free preview → https://www.viz.com/read/manga/junji-ito/product/5684
No Longer Human
Junji Ito’s Cat Diary: Yon & Mu
Selected Notable Series to Watch
Junji Ito Maniac: Japanese Tales of the Macabre, available on Netflix
Junji Ito Collection, available on Crunchyroll, Amazon Prime, YouTube, Funimation, and other streaming services.
Junji Ito Tours A Real Haunted House ( The Winchester Mystery House ) by Crunchyroll on YouTube
Scary Stories with Junji Ito by VIZ Media on YouTube
Junji Ito Reacts to Anime Cats | React by Crunchyroll Extras on YouTube
VIZ Media’s Official Website for Junji Ito
Chik, Kalai. “Interview: Horror Manga Mastermind Junji Ito.” Anime News Network, 17 Sept. 2019, www.animenewsnetwork.com/interview/2019-09-17/horror-manga-mastermind-junji-ito/.151216. Accessed 8 Oct. 2023.
Cover copy. Tomie, by Junji Ito, VIZ Media, 2016.
Grape Japan. “An Interview with Master of Horror Manga Junji Ito (Full Length Version).” Grape Japan, 10 June 2019, grapeejapan.com/116016. Accessed 8 Oct. 2023.
Niccolò Caranti, CC BY-SA 4.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Nomura, Chie. “ホラー漫画家・伊藤潤二先生インタビュー / 人気作品『富江』『うずまき』を生んだ奇才.” ロケットニュース24, 9 Jan. 2012, rocketnews24.com/2012/01/09/170761/. Accessed 8 Oct. 2023.