For many Japanese horror readers, Junji Ito is a man who needs no introduction – even those who have only heard a little have likely heard of tales such as Uzumaki or Tomie. With an impressive repertoire, Ito’s works span a number of themes, often settling on cosmic or body horror to add an extra level of discomfort. Horror buffs will recognize inspirations from numerous horror masters across the world, but Ito always manages to have a very specific style and flair to his stories.
While there have long been scanlations, more and more of Ito’s work has made it to North American bookshelves. New this year is Venus in the Blind Spot – a “best of” collection of Ito’s works from Viz Media, expected out on August 18th.
To say that Venus in the Blind Spot has any one singular theme would be to do it an injustice – which was part of the reason I loved it so much. There’s no one terror at the forefront of this collection, though much of it centers around people, moreso than cosmic horror and things that go bump in the night.
In the titular Venus in the Blind Spot, we get to see how love soon can become obsession, and obsession can become dangerous, when a group of young men find themselves unable to see the woman they’ve long admired. Other tales of obsessive love treat us to stories of strange objects of affection and love that lasts beyond the grave.
Meanwhile, stories such as The Licking Woman focus on the most lasting kind of horror – the kind that comes across unsuspecting innocents as they go about their daily lives. It’s a stark reminder that horror isn’t always aimed at those who “deserve” it. Sometimes it comes across your path on the way back home and changes your life forever – or takes it away.
The most timely tale in this collection is Billions Alone – a story that reflects the current atmosphere back through chilling body horror. Michio has been in his room for seven years, hiding from the world. For a long time, he’s been an outlier from a social world, but now something strange is happening around Japan… Corpses are being found stitched together and abandoned. At first it’s a couple, but soon it becomes clear that gatherings of any kind are being targeted. With all of Japan being urged to stay inside and away from others, soon the fear of being near people spreads. But, as always, not everyone believes in the danger that awaits them – danger that may perhaps be coming from those you love most.
I really enjoyed this collection and its variety. Featuring ghostly tales, touches of unexplainable, almost supernatural happenings, and even a story or two that is surprisingly realistic, each story feels like a new experience from the last. Breaking up the discomfort is a charming little story about Ito himself – a fun reminder that he’s just a person like the rest of us, with dreams, heroes, and kind-hearted sisters to reminisce fondly about.
For long-time Ito lovers, this is an excellent addition to any collection, featuring some surprisingly lovely full-color pages and excellent tales. For a newcomer to Ito, it might actually be one of my top recommendations – the variety is fantastic and gives a great feel for the discomfort and disturbances that await them, without starting off too heavily into some of the more uncomfortable body horror that some Ito tales delve into so readily. Venus in the Blind Spot hits bookshelves on August 18th, and will definitely be worth your time.