Junji Ito’s new horror manga sensor makes Lovecraft better than Lovecraft


There has never been a better time to be Junji Ito. After a sporadic release of his work at many Western publishers in the manga bubble of the 2000s, the bulk of his catalog, which, unusually for manga, consists largely of short stories and occasionally longer series. , is now available in stylish VIZ Deluxe Hard Covers. Media signature printing.

In the past three years, he has won three Eisner Awards. Uzumaki, his longest series about the inhabitants of a city cursed by spirals, will have a black and white anime next year, which will air on Adult Swim before airing in Japan. He even had a cameo in Death stranded (after being drafted by Hideo Kojima as a contributor to the infamously canceled Silent hills).

It is more recent work to hit western shelves, Sensor, is proof that even after all these accolades, he is still a master craftsman. Originally published in Japan with the title Succubus Travel Journal and translated by Jocelyne Allen and written by Eric Erbes, Sensor It embodies Ito’s formula of progressive dread and shocking grotesquerie, but elevates it to the level of cosmic horror. The galactic entities at the heart of this decades-spanning mystery are explained enough to make you think twice about the night sky.

Real life phenomenon taken to the extreme

As Ito explained on a panel at this year’s Comic-Con promoting the book, Sensor He was inspired when he read a book about UFOs and learned about the phenomenon known as “angel hair,” when lava from an erupting volcano cools into fine hair-like strands and falls like a strange rain. The book begins with a young woman, Kyoko Byakuya, heading to the dormant Mount Sengoku volcano simply because, as she puts it, “I feel like I was drawn to the mountain in some way. There, she meets a man who mysteriously knows everything about her.

A woman walks through a village where fields, trees and houses are covered by a layer of loose hair.

Image: Junji Ito / Viz Signature

He explains that it is because he is a resident of the village of Kiyokami, which is located at the foot of the mountain and both he and its inhabitants are covered in angel hair, which they demonstrate gives them both telepathy and the ability to look out into the cosmos. Villagers tell the astonished Kyoko that their Edo-era ancestors hosted a Christian missionary, Miguel, centuries ago and that they and he were sentenced to death by the Shogunate for not renouncing their faith (a period in history explored in, among other things, The 2016 Martin Scorcese film Silence).

Since then, the angel hair, which they call “amagami” and believe that it is Miguel’s hair, does not disintegrate like everywhere else, but remains and sticks to them and everything else. This, the villagers say, is proof that their village was chosen by Miguel, whom they see as God, and that since the amagami told them that Kyoko was coming, it is destined to bring them happiness.

Despite being scared, Kyoko agrees to join the villagers as they gaze up at the night sky, indulging in their regular ritual, assisted by amagami, of looking across the cosmos to find Michael’s divine form. But when a rain of amagami increases their powers to incredible levels, the village ends up feeling not their Lord Michael, but a mysterious black entity.

The action then cuts to 60 years later, when Mount Sengoku erupted for the first time in decades. A team of scientists investigating the area that used to contain Kiyokami (which was destroyed in that last eruption 60 years ago) finds a mysterious cocoon made of angel hair that turns out to have kept Kyoko alive. This sets the stage for a major conspiracy involving a reporter, Ito’s signature body horror, a cosmic cult, and finally time travel … of some kind.

Unfathomable horrors from deep space

Sensor's three-eyed stringy monster (2021).

Image: Junji Ito / Viz Media

If that sounds like a lot of groundwork to cover a single story (and one less than 10 chapters), it is. And some of the threads don’t always pay off – the story’s ultimate human villain is more of a plot point than a developed character, but this is still Ito to make his trademark big changes and mostly get him out of the park.

In particular, his artwork here is amazing. Using spot colors and gradient effects to suggest the unfathomable horrors of deep space is a jaw-dropping addition to your bag of tricks. And his already impressive mastery of facial expressions and body horror seems to have leveled off here. A repeated image of a man’s organs squeezing his face is both absurdly comical and incredibly disturbing.

All of this is skillfully conveyed by Erbes’s lyrics, which help to sell the calm detachment and frenzied frenzy in which the characters move, and by Allen’s smooth but appropriately melodramatic translation. This team has worked on previous versions of Ito before (including Remina) and seem perfectly in sync on this point, Erbes cleverly interpreting Allen’s translation with the gravity and bombast it deserves.

Is this the first Ito comic you should read if you are new to Ito’s work? Possibly, although collections of stories such as Placed or Horror Fragments they are probably an easier introduction. But for the longtime Ito fan, this collection is proof that, like Stephen King, Ito seems to improve on his chosen spooky style with each new job. For many more.


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