You don’t need to have a brush with the paranormal to write scary stories, believes horror manga artist Junji Ito.
Ito chatted with VIZ Media’s Urian Brown on Day 3 of Comic Con @ Home. He explained how ordinary, day-to-day experiences — such as listening to the radio or going on walks — can be the source of great horror material.
“My stories come from reality, but it’s reality when you tilt it a little bit,” he said.
The Secret to a Truly Scary Story
Ito is widely acknowledged as the master of horror manga. He takes the banalities of daily life and elevates them to varying degrees of horror, from the vaguely unsettling to the all-out grotesque.
When questioned about the secret to telling a truly scary story, Ito shared that he was drawn to horror movies and mangas while growing up. He said:
I absorbed all this content and naturally started telling scary stories of my own. As an adult I have all this knowledge of scary stories but I’m not trying to mimic them necessarily, but create something original that comes from me and my perspective on scary stories.
Ito’s mangas are certainly original. From a man possessed by a library to abominable human-sea creature hybrids, he has drawn it all.
Talking about his inspiration for one such story, Venus in the Blind Spot:
I started thinking about a story of someone trying to get away from a stalker by being in the stalker’s physical blind spot. As I was developing the story, I found that humans eyes move incredibly fast when they’re looking around so how would someone physically place themselves in another person’s blind spot? And that’s how I came up with what is in the anthology now.
Venus in the Blind Spot is a collection of chilling tales written by Junji Ito over the course of his decades-long career. Published by VIZ, it hits stands August 18.
Ito’s Favorite Story
One of Ito’s favorite stories from the collection is The Enigma of Amigara Fault. He said:
[It’s] basically a story where they discover human-silhouetted holes and that silhouette is specific to someone on the earth and there are all these human holes. That’s the basic premise and I really like the idea. And personally, I consider it one of my top three.
Another one is The Human Chair, a short story by mystery writer Edogawa Ranpo that Ito adapted into manga format.
“I made some modifications and I really, really like how it came out in the end,” he said with a smile.
The Story That Still Hunts Ito
Asked about which creation of his gives him sleepless nights, Ito points to one of his older works called Fashion Model. The titular character of Fuji is two meters tall, with very sharp teeth and a shark-like face… and anyone she meets ends up getting killed.
But the writer firmly believes that not all monsters are irredeemable. He greatly admires artists who manage to strike a balance between a monster’s frightening external appearance and inner benevolent nature, even though it’s a trope he doesn’t adopt in his own works.
I just really like to explore what’s horror and what’s scary, very much in the vein of H.P. Lovecraft. So [creating] these characters that are beyond human comprehension, that’s what I end up doing.
The Big Question
He also addresses the question on everyone’s minds.
Would I date Tomie? Do I have a choice? I think that if Tomie asks me out, I wouldn’t have a choice and then I would probably go down the path of self-destruction, unfortunately.
His reply makes sense. Tomie is the tale of an immortal entity who entices men and every one of them, to his own doom, inevitably ends up murdering her in the most gruesome fashion.
While answering a fan question about the literal femme fatale, Ito elaborates on the symbolism of Tomie.
[She is] beautiful on the outside but on the inside she is horrible. And I felt that I could stuff all the negative traits in humans, such as ego, into the character of Tomie
Will there be more of Tomie? Ito doesn’t rule out the possibility, saying he might tell more of her stories in the future.
As for collaborations, Ito says he would love to team up with venerated horror icon Stephen King, the best-selling author of Carrie, It and The Shining, among others.
I mean, he’s such a legend! So I’d definitely want to read up on him, study his works and see what kind of stories I can create.
He also clarifies that rumours of joining forces with Naruto creator Masashi Kishimoto are just that – rumours, shooting down hopes of a horror crossover with everyone’s favourite ninja.
Fans of Death Stranding know that the game has quite a few celebrity cameos and one of them was Junji Ito. That obviously begs the question whether he’s part of any video game development projects. For the moment, that’s a negative.
However, I do know director [Hideo] Kojima and we have been in conversation that he might have a horror-based game that he might be doing so he has invited me to work on that. But there’s no details on that yet.
The Uzumaki creator goes on to remark that one of the questions he’s asked most frequently is whether he’s interested in branching out into other genres of manga. He quips:
I say, jokingly, that I would like to try my hand at rom-coms. It’s half-joking but there’s a part of me that wouldn’t mind trying it.
Watch the entire panel here: