Junji Ito is Japan’s master of horror. His works combine the macabre, mystery, and loads of sickening twists. Ito has written over 38 different titles, with a vast majority of them being horror. Here are the ones everyone should read at least once in their life!
Flesh-Colored Horror is a one-shot story, and if you get queasy over skin peeling, you might want to look elsewhere.
The story centers around a kindergarten teacher and an anti-social student. Despite the teacher’s efforts, the student has a tendency to scratch the skin off his classmates when provoked. It doesn’t help that he has a ghoulish appearance.
Without spoiling anything, Flesh-Colored Horror is a twisted look at inner beauty.
14Demon’s Voice (Masei)
Demon’s Voice is Ito’s take on sirens, which are mythological creatures that lure sailors to their deaths.
Koji is a new recruit on a fishing boat, but he’s come down with seasickness. While he’s lying down, the other fishermen hear a loud noise. After waking up, Koji witnesses his co-workers retrieving a net full of horrors. This is just the beginning of the fishermen’s hallucinations.
This twisted short-story follows a girl who’s obsessed with dissection. Ruriko once blackmailed her friend Tatsuro into dissecting small animals with her, but the two had a falling out. Eight years later, she’s appeared at Tatsuro’s medical school, requesting that he dissects her alive.
12The Hanging Balloons
The Hanging Balloons is a disturbing tale about suicide and how it affects large groups.
Terumi was a local teen idol, and her suicide has inspired numerous copycat suicides among her fans. Eventually, a “ghost mania” starts to spread across Japan as people start to see giant balloons shaped as their own heads.
Falling is another suicidal short-story. A small town has been experiencing a wave of identical suicides that involve hanging. However, a victim named Erika is saved by her husband. After being taken to a hospital, she and other victims begin to float.
After being found on a tree, Erika warns her husband that she has witnessed something terrible.
Slug Girl is one of Ito’s more famous manga thanks to its shock value!
Rie notices that her talkative friend Yuuko has become unnaturally quiet. After school one day, Rie decides to visit Yuuko’s house, only to find her parents frantically throwing salt at slugs. After much prying and investigating, Rie learns that Yuuko’s tongue has turned into a slug…and it’s only the beginning of Yuuko’s worries.
Okay, Cat Diary isn’t exactly horror, but it’s still great. It’s about Ito, his wife, and their two cats living as a happy family. Cat Diary still uses Ito’s signature shocking art style, but it’s used for comedic effect instead of horror.
8The Thing That Drifted Ashore
A gigantic, decomposing creature washes up in the Pacific Ocean. Despite it’s decomposed state, scientists want to preserve it so they can study it. Of note is the creature’s transparent skin that lets people look inside its strange body.
People begin flocking to the creature for unexplained reasons. They all have shared the same dream that called them there.
7The Enigma of Amigara Fault
Owaki and Yoshida meet on Amigara Mountain following an earthquake. They discover that the mountain has countless human-shaped holes carved in a rock face that was exposed by the earthquake. The discovery quickly gains global attention and draws visitors amazed by the spectacle. As people investigate each hole, waves of hysteria come over them.
6Army of One
Dead bodies have been discovered sewn together in strange patterns with fishing wire. It’s believed the culprit is the Army of One, which is an alleged terrorist group that targets groups of “lonely hearts.” The mystery runs deep as nothing adds up in this serial murder case.
5The Human Chair (Ningen Isu)
The Human Chair is an adaptation of an Edogawa Ranpo story. It features an ugly chair maker who makes a luxurious sofa for a new hotel. This manga eschews body horror in favor of a psychological twist. It will make you uncomfortable no matter where you sit.
Glyceride is one of Ito’s classic body-horror stories and is not for the weak of stomach.
Yui and her family live above the restaurant her father owns, but the air is heavy with grease due to poor ventilation. Yui’s older brother Goro has developed severe acne from the grease and has formed a bad temper due to the bullying he’s endured. Yui is his victim and the trials she goes through will make you feel unclean.
Tomie is Ito’s most franchised work in Japan, having inspired a popular movie series centered around his famed character.
The story centers around Tomie, a girl who was brutally murdered after a school trip, but mysteriously returns to school as if nothing happened. The event deeply troubles her boyfriend and classmates, who slowly go crazy trying to discover if Tomie is a ghost or a twin or something.
Gyo is famed for its mystery elements, body-horror, and freaky fish plot.
The story centers around the “death stench,” which is a revolting odor that comes from dead fish with sharp metal legs. Slowly, larger sea creatures infected with the death stench appear and begin threatening humans. What follows is one of the most disturbing and bizarre stories you’ll ever read.
Uzumaki is without a doubt Ito’s most known work and his creepiest.
Kurozuchou is cursed coastal town. According to Shuichi Saito, the town is haunted by the spiral. The hypnotic shape manifests in different ways and spreads unescapable madness. This iconic work is a special treat that will twist your mind just right.