Smashed is the most recently published collection of horror tales from master manga creator Junji Ito. If the name sounds familiar, you may have heard of him from his other popular series Tomie, Uzumaki, and Gyo. And Cartoon Network’s Toonami recently greenlit Uzumaki to get the anime treatment, so his name is very much in the zeitgeist. This short story collection is comprised of thirteen horrific tales. While most of them are stand-alone stories, there are three in the middle that are linked by a sociopath with a knack for curses, spitting nails, and creating haunted houses.

Reading through this manga reminded me of reading Stephen King’s Night Shift when I was a teenager. Both creators have the ability to write something so creepy that it stays with you days later. Ito’s ability to take ordinary, banal aspects of life and turn them into horrifying nightmares is a delight to read! Of the thirteen stories, a couple stood out to me more than others, but mileage will vary with that according to the reader.

The story “Earthbound” is a mysterious tale about people standing oddly like statues all over Japan. When they are moved from their place they always return to the exact location in the exact same pose. It is assumed the Earhbound’s condition is a contagion, but what if the reason for their appearance is something even more disturbing? The conclusion to this mystery is haunting and stays with the reader. Another story that stood out to me is “Library Vision”. Koko fell in love with Goro’s keen mind and love of reading. Goro loved books so much his entire mansion was a giant library and he knew the place of every single book. One day a book goes missing, marking Goro’s descent into madness as he obsesses over the missing tome. He’s haunted by characters from books, but he’s the only person who can see them.

Ito’s artwork stays consistent throughout the anthology, and he knows how to dial it up and down according to the story. The anthology is in black and white which adds to the drama in panels. A story like “Earthbound” has a quieter, more realistic style than “Library Vision” because the theme is about the horrors of what people do to each other and its effect on the victim and perpetrator. In “Library Vision”, the main character is being tormented by the library, so there are panels with forced perspective to make the reader feel how enormous the collection of books is compared to the main characters. Also, the character of Spiny Hell that haunts Goro is drawn as a terrifying, hunched figure of a man with hollowed-out eyes and sharp fingernails that lurks in the shadow of panels. A characteristic of Ito’s art is that, once a character has gone over the edge, or is a monster, he draws them with huge, bloodshot eyes. It is terrifying and an image that will linger in your mind.

I highly recommend Smashed for public library collections. If you already have Ito’s other manga series then this is an automatic addition. His work is definitely for older teens and up. There is some female nudity, but not much, nor is it shocking because the horrific artwork stands out more. Ito’s storytelling, both textually and visually, has the ability to ramp up as you read. One minute you have an idyllic family scene about a kid adopting a cute, stray cat and a couple of pages later a character has cursed the cat resulting in a creepy image of the feline with giant bloodshot eyes staring into your soul. Those eyes follow you. If you have readers that want to be creeped out or scared by a great horror collection, this is the manga for them!

Smashed: Junji Ito Story Collection
By Junji Ito
ISBN: 9781421598468
Viz Media, 2019
Publisher Age Rating: Older Teen

  • Mary N.S. Richardson

    Past Reviewer

    Mary N.S. Richardson is the Adult Services Librarian at the Cragin Memorial Library in Connecticut where she is building an awesome graphic novel collection! She holds a BA in English Literature from the University of Georgia and an M.L.I.S. from Kent State University. Mary is the chair of the Graphic Novel Roundtable for the Connecticut Library Consortium. She has been reading comics since she was a kid and is a huge X-Men and Batfamily fan.

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