Junji Ito has been creating horror manga for over thirty years. As a celebration of this, we were brought the creation of this new collection of past Junji Ito stories: Shiver. The "World of Junji Ito" collections have more or less not made it over here to the US, so there's like over 10 volumes worth of Junji Ito that are only readable through online scans/translations, and for the earliest volumes, only sketchy and somewhat hard to find translations are out there. This also is not including other collections of his such as Voices in the Dark, New Voices in the Dark, Mimi's Ghost Stories, Black Paradox, and Hellstar Remina (not a collection),
Though, it should be noted that there was Dark Horse's "Museum of Terror" which did include some of Junji Ito's short stories, but it seemed to be moreso centered on Tomie. Additionally, it has since gone out of print. Or rather, I'm assuming this, since why else would the used copies of the third volume of this series be going for over $100 on Amazon? And... the third volume is of course the one that has his short stories rather than the Tomie stories.
Thankfully, Viz Media, which has previously brought us Gyo, Uzumaki, Tomie, and Fragments of Horror has also brought Shiver to us. Hopefully, the new anime which is also in celebration of Junji Ito's thirty years as a mangaka, will result in additional new collections of the rest of Junji Ito's short stories coming over here as well.
To be a hundred percent honest, as long as Junji Ito's name is on the spine of the book, I will buy it. Because not only do I respect this man's moxie for having done horror for thirty years, there has not been a single Junji Ito story where I have gone, "well that was boring." Even his worst stories are weird or insane in interesting ways.
I've said this before, but Junji Ito is one of the select handful of people who create fiction that I would love to just take a look inside of his mind. Which, as a result of this, made me love this collection even more because not only is the selection of the included stories themselves decided by Ito himself, but because he also included a commentary following each one.
"While I was thinking about this and that, I started imagining it would be more interesting to make it a story of blimps actively coming to hang people. But just regular blimps would be boring. So then I continued brainstorming and came up with the idea of a blimp with your face that flies around hunting you, and I drew it, excited the whole time." ~Junji Ito, on Hanging Balloons.
The fact that he is writing these weird and crazy stories for himself rather than try to just specifically cater to what sells... really makes me happy. You don't need to go the jumpscare route. You don't need to just cover everything with gore. Just sit down and use your imagination. Balloon face dopplegangers fly around and hang their grounded counterparts. That's both somehow a very simple and admittedly silly premise yet the idea is absolutely terrifying to me.
Like even when I first read the sketchy scanned version of it I got somewhere from online, the story seemed absolutely like a weird batshit crazy nightmare I could picture myself having. And of course, in his commentary, Junji Ito straight up says yeah, the Hanging Balloons were based off a dream he had as a kid.
Hanging Balloons is in fact actually the story that made me fully fall in love with Junji Ito's manga. Gyo which was my first step into the Junji Ito sphere was absolutely absurd and gave me quite a lot of laughter, but once I started reading his short stories, I just kept going through them. Then I hit the collections that had like connected stories or recurring characters... it just never got boring.
Including Hanging Balloons, included in Shiver are ten stories, with one of them being brand new and a "sequel" to one of the other included stories. The selection Junji Ito went with is just so remarkably solid that I would argue Shiver is a really... if you want to try to get into Junji Ito's manga, this is probably your best bet rather than just immediately jumping straight to Uzumaki.
Of the stories chosen, it meets a pretty good balance between weird, gross, and gory. This really is a celebration of the fellow's career, because it has a bit of everything in there. It even has a bit of Tomie, the character that essentially launched Ito's career.
Used Record (from Ayatsuri no Yashiki), a story about people fighting over the ownership of a record that has a singer's singing as they died recorded on it.
Shiver (from Namekuji no Shoujo), a story about a cursed jade stone that causes holes to open up all over a person's body if they're around it.
Fashion Model (from Souichi no Noroi Nikki), a story about an oddly ominous fashion model.
Hanging Blimp or Hanging Balloons (from Kao Dorobou), a story about balloon headed dopplegangers out to hunt their counterparts the moment they go outside.
Marionette Mansion (from Ayatsuri no Yashiki), a story about a family who rather than deciding what they do or how they live, they instead hire puppeteers to control their actions via strings from the attic of their home.
Painter (from Tomie), a story about a strange but beautiful woman named Tomie who wishes for an artist to accurately capture her beauty, and all the misfortune that happens as a result...
The Long Dream (from Tunnel no Tan), a story about a man who claims that the length of his dreams are becoming longer and longer and about how he begins to change as his dreams extend farther and farther.
Honored Ancestors (from Kao Dorobou), a story about an amnesiac girl and the encounter that caused her to lose her memories and about carrying on the family line. At all costs.
Greased (from Voices in the Dark), a story about oil and grease. There is a moment in this particular story that caused me to actually physically cringe out of disgust. That is of course, high praise in the context of horror stuff.
And the new story...
Fashion Model: Cursed Frame, nice to see Fuchi back once more with her mouth of sharklike teeth. Ick. I would really advise against insulting the cannibalistic model who is physically capable of biting your arms and legs off.
As this is a mostly a collection of past Junji Ito stories, I'm not going to go any further into the stories than that in this review. As for the new story, it was okay, but I'm not exactly the biggest fan of that particular Junji Ito character. But I suppose I guess it was neat to see that in the Junji Ito-verse, they're still roaming around somewhere. But really, Shiver was a really good selection of stories and as I said before, I loved reading his actual thoughts and commentary on the stories themselves.
Very much hoping that this is not the last new collection of his backlog of past short stories that makes it over here. An easy 8 out of 10.