Junji Ito’s Mimi’s Tales of Terror is an adaptation of Hirokatsu Kihara and Ichiro Nakayama’s collection of urban legends, Shin Mimibukuro. Each of the tales in the original compilation is reworked by Ito and features Mimi, an original character. The book consists of nine stories featuring college student Mimi, a bonus tale introducing different protagonists, and two afterwords describing how he altered the tales. This is a treasure trove for those who are fans of Ito, horror, contemporary legends, and evocative and haunting illustrations.
The first tale “On the Utility Pole,” is only a few pages long and takes place in only a few minutes, during a car ride on a rainy dark night. It sets the stage for the spookiness that will follow in the rest of the collection. Several of the tales focus on Mimi’s various problems with her disturbing neighbours while offering relevant background about modern Japanese culture. In “The Woman Next Door,” Mimi is annoyed by her noisy neighbour, but soon realizes that the problem is much scarier than she anticipated. Mimi survives to feature in the next story, assuring the reader that she has moved to a different apartment building. The legend in this tale reminded me of the legend of “Teke Teke” because of the significance of the sound effects in both.
“Rustling in the Grass,” offers another horrific interlude for Mimi and her boyfriend, this time while they are walking in the woods. The story, like many legends, does not have a tidy conclusion…it just is! Mimi’s new apartment in the next tale, “Grave Placement,” also features an eccentric neighbour and an eerie setting. Obviously, Mimi needs to be more selective of her living arrangements. Mimi and her friends take a trip to the beach but, of course, things cannot be straightforward for her. In “Seashore” one of her friends is drawn to ghostly spectres that only he can see. One of the creepiest tales in the collection for me is “Just the Two of Us,” in which Mimi meets a child who is haunted by her mother’s burnt corpse. Through his illustrations and pacing, Ito conveys both dread and affection in this almost intimate tale. The next tale, “Scarlet Circle,” is also dreadfully affectionate, but not in a warm or comforting way. Mimi is the target of an extremely jealous classmate who wants Mimi’s boyfriend for herself. “Sign in the Field” is the final tale featuring Mimi and is the shortest one in the book. The images strongly echo those of the legendary Slender Man.
The first afterword is told through two pages of panels featuring Ito himself. It is followed by two coloured pages, one of which is the splash title page for the bonus story “Monster Prop.” Haunted house attractions can be very disturbing, but when it includes a very dubious monster prop, the attraction can be even more dangerous than anyone imagines. It is a perfect tale for Halloween and those who admire horror films. The collection concludes with a two-page written appreciation by Ito for the original material, the chance to introduce the bonus tale to the audience, and the work of art of the book itself.
I must admit that I purchased this hardcover volume for my personal collection. It is truly a work of art, perhaps macabre art, but a gorgeous example of book making. The red-covered minimalist cover and endpapers are wrapped in a dust jacket that contains numerous spooky visual references to the stories inside. The illustrations inside are striking, unsettling, and sinister. The characters are distinctive, the settings evocative and realistic, and the monsters truly chilling and horrific. The pacing is well organized, with the panels offering just enough information to foster anticipation and activate the reader’s imaginings.
The essence of these tales may be familiar to those who know the three folklore collections of Alvin Schwartz and Stephen Gammel’s Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark. Both this book and those by Schwartz and Gammel are sourced from urban legends that have been circulating for years and both were newly adapted and illustrated for a contemporary audience. Highly enjoyable for those who like their horror based on folklore and those who like to be creeped out by things that may go bump, not only in the night, but in their ordinary habitats. Recommended for older teens and adults.
Mimi’s Tales of Terror
By Junji Ito
VIZ Signature, 2023
Publisher Age Rating: T+
Related media: Classic to Comic
NFNT Age Recommendation: Adult (18+), Older Teen (16-18)
Creator Representation: Japanese
Character Representation: Japanese