What Makes Junji Ito's Work So Scary?

What Makes Junji Ito's Work So Scary? Sensor
Credit: Junji Ito / Viz Media

What Makes Junji Ito's Work So Scary? Sensor
Credit: Junji Ito / Viz Media

In the world of horror manga, few creators have managed to send shivers down the spine of readers quite like Junji Ito.

With a chilling ability to tap into the darkest recesses of the human psyche, Ito’s work stands as a true testament to the power of the macabre.

From the unsettling plotlines to grotesque imagery, let’s find out what makes Junji Ito’s writings so undeniably terrifying, leaving us with a lingering sense of unease.

RELATED: Most Horrifying Junji Ito Manga Stories, Ranked

Junji Ito: A Master Worldbuilder

For sci-fi, fantasy, or horror, worldbuilding plays a crucial role. The creator’s ability to craft a great fictional world is as important as the story or its characters, and Ito is a master at it.

In Gyo, Ito takes the deadly creatures of the deep sea and throws them into an urban landscape.

Tadashi stumbles upon an enigmatic fish with metallic appendages in his home in Okinawa, sparking his curiosity about the possibility of an uncharted species.

But this discovery is the start of something more sinister and mindboggling.

From there, Ito showcases how good he is at creating a world where anything is possible.

GYO: Tokyo Fish Attack! Junji Ito
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Credit: Ufotable

On the beach, several similar-looking grotesque fishes appear and it is the start of an absurd invasion of the sea monsters.

As the great white sharks roam the streets of Okinawa, it makes me question how this is even possible.

But that’s the beauty of Ito; his worldbuilding is ridiculously effective and horrifying.

Ito’s worlds look strangely normal at first with people indulging in mundane activities.

However, as we venture deep into his world, we start to notice the odd things that appear in the mundaneness of his world and characters.

Ito's Passion for Body Horror Is Unmatched

Dissection Girl by Junji Ito
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Credit: Junji Ito / Viz Media

Junji Ito delights in pushing the boundaries of body horror, demonstrating his ability to plumb its darkest depths.

He stretches and tests the limits of the human body. Ito’s horror shines when death is sickening, ugly, and distorted, as seen in Dissection Girl.

Uzumaki also stands as a remarkable illustration of Ito's ingenious exploration of spirals, devising ways to torment and kill his characters solely through this enigmatic motif.

Ito Plays With the Human Psyche

Uzumaki Junji Ito
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Credit: Adult Swim

Ito’s stories are renowned for skillfully tapping into primal anxieties.

In his interview with Viz Media, Ito illustrates how obsession and madness “are very frightening traits of the human psyche.”

In his stories, Ito amplifies obsession and madness to deafening levels, and the characters have no choice but to surrender and perish.

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Ito also uses love as an emotion to narrate his stories. However, his form of love is warped and utterly distorted.

The Lovesick Dead and Tomie are outstanding examples of his adeptness in utilizing love and obsession to craft compelling horror narratives.

Unveiling the Horror: Ito's Distinctive Artistry

The Beautiful Boy At the Crossroads by Junji Ito
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Credit: Junji Ito / Viz Media

Ito’s art style is painstakingly detailed. The amount of effort he puts into each panel is a testament to his commitment to the horror genre.

His illustrations don't hinge on the mere display of monsters or beasts; instead, he excels in creating an unsettling and mysterious ambiance that lingers in the shadows.

Coming back to Uzumaki, Ito left no stone unturned in showing how mind-boggling spirals can be.

Each spiral and line shows how meticulous he is in order to give a rewarding experience to his readers.

Ito’s school of art is irrational, absurd, strange, and outlandish. In fact, production houses have a tough time adapting his stories into anime because of his distinct art style.

Adult Swim is currently working on adapting Uzumaki, and the trailer does look true to Ito’s vision of horror.

Discover more of our insights and the latest anime news by following us on X (formerly Twitter) @epicstreamanime and @subarashiibaka.

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