A spine-tingling premonition of dread permeates the pages of Shiver: Junji Ito Selected Stories, a collection of creepy stories by the renowned manga artist Junji Ito—the “Stephen King of Japan.” In this assortment of nine stories, hand-picked by the master horror storyteller himself, each hair-raising tale presents characters thrust into a bizarre world of the macabre infused with an otherworldly eeriness.

The titular story “Shiver” starts with a boy named Juji who spots a next-door neighbor girl who has fallen ill to a mysterious sickness, her arm riddled with gaping holes. From the pages of his grandpa’s journal, Juji discovers how he, too, had died with tiny holes peppering his body from head to toe. The terrible truth culminates in a frightening revelation with each panel, raising the stakes as each intensifying scene traces the origins of this ghastly affliction. An uncanny event of epic proportions transpires in “Hanging Blimp,” wherein the residents of a small town are paralyzed by fear when stray head-shaped balloons attached to dangling nooses hover in the air in search of hapless victims—each balloon bearing the face of its unsuspecting prey. Mass hysteria erupts as the citizens are gripped by pure terror in this spooky invasion. “Marionette Mansion” features the bizarre tale of two brothers who grew up in family traveling troupe. After having been separated for years, they reunite one evening, but one discovers the other has become obsessed with the art of puppetry and lives in a mansion where his entire family is controlled by puppet strings. Such are the deliciously strange stories comprising this collection of supernatural creepiness.

These stories explore the uncanny what-would-happen-if imaginative landscape of Junji Ito. Suspense and rampant weirdness run along the undercurrents of each narrative, escalating with calculated tension, though the endings often leave much to be desired, or perhaps up to the imagination of the reader. Reminiscent of the EC Comics from the 1950s, like Tales from the Crypt but on a more visceral level, these stories carry much shock value punctuated by frequent twist endings.

A distinguishing trait of Ito’s work lies in his visual storytelling style. His artwork is as evocative as the narrative elements themselves. Dark, murky settings engender an ominous atmospheric mood as depicted in “Greased Oil,” in which the walls of a house are drenched in grease emanating from a barbecue restaurant on the ground floor. Medium close-up shots of a grotesque fashion model with an over-sized face, long disheveled hair, and razor-sharp teeth in “Fashion Model” amplify the horrific meter, creating a raw sense of sheer terror. Such indelible images remain seared into one’s subconscious long after the story has ended, as elements of suspense, the macabre, and even supernatural intrigue populate these highly imaginative and at times, disturbing tales.

An iconic fixture in the adult manga world, Junji Ito entertains and shocks fans with haunting ease and gut-wrenching scenes. In this curation of stories, he shares creative insights and personal sketches that inspired the creation for each story, and thus, this collection makes for a fine addition to any library that promises to whet the appetite for manga and horror enthusiasts alike.

Shiver: Junji Ito Selected Stories
By Junji Ito
ISBN: 9781421596938
Viz Media, 2017
NFNT Age Recommendation: Adult (18+)

  • Jerry

    | He/Him Information Strategist, San Francisco Public Library

    Reviewer

    By day, Jerry Dear, APALA member and Information Strategist at the San Francisco Public Library tackles research questions in the Periodicals department. He also teaches in the Library Information Technology department at City College of San Francisco. By night, he serves the Asian American community and ventures into the vibrant literary arts and graphic novel scene. In whatever time remains, he indulges in comics, anime, manga, and Asian American literature and film.

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