WillMore Junji Ito is always welcome, and that’s what we get in Smashed. The 13 stories range from horror classics to fun Ito zaniness. It’s hard for me to get scared by manga (it’s not the visceral experience like movies) but Ito manages to make me stay up at night. Be sure to read The Secret of the Haunted Mansion for the one of the scariest page turns ever. Another highlight is The Earthbound for it’s story, something I don't usually say about Junji Ito. If you’ve been clamoring for sleepless nights and a sudden urge to change your pants, this book is for you.
NateI truly enjoy the horror stories of Junji Ito. His art style is always detailed, and his stories strange. Smashed is no exception in either case. Ito has a unique narrative style that compliments his bizarre stories, elevating the strangeness of the supernatural events above the common, everyday individuals experiencing them. These unfortunate ‘everyman’ characters really don’t know what they’re in for!
Maybe that’s what makes these stories so satisfying to me. Ito’s unusual blend of horror elements (including, cosmic terror and body horror), aren’t reserved for elite hero characters that I can’t relate to. Anyone can be drawn into the unearthly events contained within his stories. Whether it’s a man overcome with an obsession with his family library, or hikers who find a pair of abandoned villages with a strange and mystifying history, every story is grounded by the everyday quality of the characters experiencing the extraordinary events depicted on each page. While at the same time, every story has a unique vision of horror that only Ito can express.
The presentation is excellent as well. For those of us who cannot read Japanese, signs, text in the background, and even sound effects are not only translated, but re-drawn to be seamlessly integrated into the art. Last, the quality hardcover binding really gives these stories the respect that they deserve.
CourtneySmashed, the latest of Junji Ito’s hardcovers, collects 13 (an appropriate number) short horror stories. I’m a huge horror fan so I was excited to read this latest collection. Ito’s art style in particular, as well as his uniquely disturbing stories, have always stood out among others in the genre. In those regards, Smashed did not disappoint. I won’t outline each one of the stories, since you’ll definitely want to read them instead of reading about them. But I’ll go over a few of my personal favorites and, at the end, I’ll provide a complete list.
Death Row Doorbell tells the story of a murder victim’s family being haunted by the ghost of the murderer, who was sentenced to die. What makes this story particularly unique is that the hauntings happen while the murderer is alive and in prison. The small family (a brother and a sister) respond to the ghost’s daily visits at first with horror, but then try to take matters into their own hands. What might be even more disturbing than the ghost itself is how it transforms the two people. More than that, though, is the thought of what will happen to the family after the convict actually dies… This story is particularly successful in delivering a sense of impending dread. Ito doesn’t often leave much open to the imagination, but the build-up and anticipation in this story sets it apart and makes it one of my favorites.
Most of the stories are unrelated, but a few of them (The Mystery of the Haunted House, The Mystery of the Haunted House: Soichi’s Version, and Soichi’s Beloved Pet) are different parts of the same story and focus primarily around the same strange man. The first of those is my favorite of the three, wherein a man moves into town and opens a haunted house. He charges an exorbitant amount of money for admission, but it proves to be worth the visit – and is rumored to have a lasting effect on anyone who’s been in. The protagonists in this story are two little boys who plot to sneak in, and their curiosity mirrored mine as I read. If you’ve read Ito’s work, you can imagine that what is in the house could be nothing short of terrifying, and there’s something appealing about a haunted house that makes you really want to know what’s inside (especially since what goes on in normal houses in Ito’s manga are already unsettling). The boys do get into the house, and we get to see why people say the admission price is worth it – and why several of the visitors have gone missing. What’s actually inside, you’ll have to see for yourself.
Finally in this review, and the last of the stories, is Smashed. This one might be my favorite, just because of the very graphic and creepily detailed panels. Ito really has a way of depicting gore in a manner that’s not just gross, but also disturbing on a more sinister level that really sticks with you. That aspect of his art really shines in this story, which follows a group of friends who have tasted some nectar that a friend has brought back from a foreign land. The substance is better than any of them have ever tasted, and they can’t stop eating it – even though, as they soon find out, they really should. One by one, you’ll see what I mean. Fans of gore will really appreciate this story.
If you enjoy Junji Ito’s manga, you’ll love Smashed. If you haven’t read Junji but love horror, Smashed is a great starting point: if you don’t want to commit yourself to a continuous story like Dissolving Classroom or Uzumaki, you can sample a good chunk of Ito’s creativity through these short pieces.
The total list of titles is as follows:
- Bloodsucking Darkness
- Ghosts of Prime Time
- Death Row Doorbell
- The Mystery of the Haunted House
- The Mystery of the Haunted House: Soichi’s Version
- Soichi’s Beloved Pet
- In Mirror Valley
- I Don’t Want to Be a Ghost
- Library Vision
- Splendid Shadow Song
Try not to be noticed when you eat the secret nectar, otherwise you’ll get smashed… What horrific events happened to create the earthbound—people tied to a certain place for the rest of their short lives? Then, a strange haunted house comes to town, but no one expects it to lead to a real hell… Welcome to Junji Ito’s world, a world with no escape from endless nightmares.Add to CartLearn More