He talks to the dolls in his toy collection, spits out razor sharp nails with stunning accuracy, and conjures forth curses upon those who have wronged him to wreak spiteful vengeance. In his latest foray into the macabre, Junji Ito aims the spotlight at one of the quirkiest characters from his horrific imagination—young Soichi Tsujii—in Soichi: Junji Ito Story Collection.
In the opening story “A Happy Summer Vacation,” Michina and Yuskue pay a visit to their second cousins in the rural town of Fukazawa. No sooner than they settle down to play a game of cards does pesky little Soichi, the unhinged eleven-year-old child of the Tsujii family, sneak up on them. Muttering incoherently, his mouth crammed with protruding nails resembling fangs (he supposedly sucks on them to supplement iron in his blood), he makes his intrusive appearance. Dismissing him as nothing more than a little brat, Michina ignores him, which prompts Soichi to cast a voodoo-like spell by hammering a straw doll resembling Michina to a wall. Strangely enough, in the middle of the night, Michina begins experiencing stabbing chest pains. Could Soichi really be capable of supernatural dark magic? What lurks within the skewed corridors of his twisted mind?
Other stories explore aspects of his character from multiple perspectives. In “Soichi’s Happy Diary,” Michina stumbles upon his diary and gains access to his deluded fantasies, the entries revealing how he methodically carries out curses on others with vengeful glee, with her being the first victim of his vicious pranks. But is he really jinxing others into accidents and mishaps, or are these mere coincidences? In “Soichi’s House Visit,” a schoolteacher pays a home visit to Soichi. However, Soichi places a hex on him, turning him into a cloth doll that bends towards his will, much to the shock of the students at school when they encounter the teacher’s erratic behavior. “Soichi’s Birthday” sheds light on his sickly grandmother, also known as “old lady prophet,” due to the ominous prophecies she spouts even though they rarely came true. But she predicts the birth of a demon child to be born on June 6 at six in morning and forms a special connection with him, believing he is destined to become a genius.
Unlike other collections, this one centers on an antihero alongside recurrent side characters and plots, delving into an intriguing character study. While not packed with grotesque shock scares as in his other works, Ito manages to deliver a deeper, psychological exploration of an enigmatic character. The imagery exudes haunting overtones as in “The Four Layered Room,” wherein Koichi, Soichi’s older brother, needs to study for his exams and hires a contractor to build a soundproof room so he can concentrate and insulate himself from Soichi’s persistent pestering. The contractor—a sickly looking fellow—builds a super confining space enclosed by four concentric layers of walls. Claustrophobic angled shots unfold through a montage of panels, creating a creepy maze-like sensation as Koichi navigates the infrastructure of the house, playing a warped game of cat and mouse with his insidiously mischievous brother.
Dark humor mixed with hilarious moments fill the pages of this fascinating foray into the haunting conundrum of Soichi. Is he merely a mischievous brat craving attention? Or does he harbor a sinister machination against his family and the world at large, especially those who dare cross him? A fun, amusing, and quirky collection, this venture into the multiple facets of Soichi highlights a weirdly delightful exploration into one of Ito’s most confounding characters yet, serving up a unique blend of horror and eerie comedy to adult manga collections.
Soichi Junji Ito Story Collection
By Junji Ito
Publisher Age Rating: 16+
NFNT Age Recommendation: Adult (18+), Older Teen (16-18)
Creator Representation: Japanese,
Character Representation: Japanese,