Junji Ito‘s finest example of psychological horror is also one of his most popular short stories, The Enigma of Amigara Fault. The plot revolves around the mysterius appearance of human-shaped holes in the Amigara mountains (Amigara is Japanese for “empty shell“).
Warning: This review contains minor plot spoilers.
In typical Junji Ito fashion, there is no “conventional” horror or antagonists in the story – no killers, vampires or big, scary monsters of any kind. What characterises the story is instead a sense of despair and hopelessness that generates from within the characters – Owaki and Yoshida – who travel to Amigara after spotting a hole in their own shape and cannot resist the temptation to enter it. The hole is “made for them” and therefore they must enter it, despite knowing that something horrible awaits on the other side. While Owaki gets a “dream” interpretation of what happens to humans inside the hole, no concrete explanation is given regarding their origin or reason for their sudden appearance. The origin could be supernatural, and the holes an actual And such explanation is not needed – just like with the spiral in Uzumaki, Ito uses the mystery as a means to trigger emotions in the characters and reader alike: the sense of inescapable doom and claustrophobia transmitted by a simple hole in a wall is enough to make The Enigma of Amigara Fault a masterpiece unique in his genre.
This is a work that speaks particularly to those who are familiar with depression or similar mental illnesses. The “hole in the shape of you” can be seen as a symbolism of the illness, something so personal and unique that lies in the back of your mind and affects you just by being there. People suffering from depression may not know what the underlying cause of their desease is, but just ignoring it – pretending that the hole is not there and that is not in your shape – it’s not an option for them. They will not be able to sleep, brush their teeth, nor focus on anything positive as long the hole is there, and if they let the hole get the best of them, they may end up digging deeper and deeper into a dark path of self destruction through social isolation, substance abuse, and overlooking their own health – letting their “hole-in-the-shape-of-you” ultimately mis-shape their mind and body.
The Enigma of Amigara Fault was printed as an additional story included in the manga Gyo, available online as a printed book or kindle on Amazon.