Junji Ito is a Japanese manga illustrator specialised in horror and guro (gore). He was born in 1963 in an old country town in the Gifu prefecture, and worked as a dentist for some time prior to becoming an illustrator. Ito delivers extremely unique narratives reaching levels of grotesque similar to that of the most internationally well-known Shintaro Kago. But unlike Kago, his work is explicitly dark, with the characters acknowledging and experiencing the horror rather than being estranged from it. While Kago’s art is predominantly absurd and exaggerated – but not necessarily scary; Ito’s is morbid, creepy, and straight-up disturbing, his visuals characterised by an extraordinary amount of detail: the artist admitted it is not uncommon for him to spend as long as nine( hours polishing the details of a single page. But his craft is not limited to gorey illustrations, as Ito’s storytelling is just as high-quality. 

The artist most aggressively exploits the tropes of Japanese psychological horror: while not necessarily (but often so) gory or even splatter, his stories are visceral and nauseous, filled with body modifications, disgusting fluids of all kind, torn apart human skins, menacing holes. The threat is often supernatural rather than human, with mysteries, curses or prophecies acting as serial killers, and contributing to creating a sense of inescapable doom: the characters are often aware about the threat, yet there is not much that they can do to face it. The extensive use of body horror is always complemented by some sort of emotional trauma or irresestible that may drive insanity in his characters, creating horror from within.

One clear example of this can be found in his most popular manga series, Uzumaki, which is often considered to be Ito’s masterpiece and a Japanese horror classic. “Uzumaki” is a spiral pattern that keeps manifesting itself and effectively haunting a whole town. An Uzumaki anime is set to be released in 2020 by Adult Swim, whereas a 12-episode animated series base on some of Ito’s best stories, Junji Ito Collection, was launched in January 2018, although it was received somewhat poorly by Ito’s fans. 

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Junji Ito’s disturbing visual narratives
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