Hey there, fright fans. The Longbox of Darkness is back with another deep dive into the inky, eerie realms of manga mayhem. Today, we’re venturing into the delightfully twisted world of Junji Ito once again, specifically his latest comic tome of tales published by Viz Media, a collection ominously titled “Tombs.”
You don’t have to be a seasoned horror comic fan to understand the significance of Ito in the horror manga landscape. He’s the undisputed master of dread, known for his hauntingly detailed artwork and narratives that leave you perched precariously on the edge of sanity. His previous works like “Uzumaki,” “Gyo,” and “Tomie” have, no doubt, left an indelible imprint on our nightmares. “Tombs” is no different.
Ultimately, there’s something particularly spine-chilling about how Ito captures the essence of the unknown. His ability to turn everyday normalities into portals of pandemonium is unmatched. With “Tombs,” Ito takes us on another terrifying trip through his imagination, this time digging deep into the darkest corners of humanity’s fear of death, decay, and the great beyond. And he does this with all the grace of a zombie ballerina dancing on your grave!
But enough temporizing. Let’s have a look at the stories featured in the book. I’ll summarize each one in turn, leaving my impression but generally avoiding spoilers. So if you’re ready to be terrified, read on!
We kick things off with the titular story, “Tombs.” This grim narrative unfolds around a brother and sister traveling to reconnect with a friend who lives in a town nestled deep within the mountainous Japanese countryside. Their journey takes a dark detour when they inadvertently strike a hiker with their vehicle. Filled with panic, they make the ill-fated decision to conceal the unfortunate victim in their car trunk, promising to dispose of it later.
As they weave deeper into the rustic charm of their friend’s township, they quickly discover a bone-chilling anomaly: this town is not bound by the regular rules of life and death. In this peculiar place, Tombs erupt spontaneously from the bodies of the deceased, marking their final resting place where they breathed their last. Any attempts to disrupt this sacred course — to move a body before its tomb has materialized — have severe, horrifying repercussions.
Their discovery raises a dread-laden question: What about the hiker’s body lying hidden in their trunk? The stage is thus set for a tale that twists the knife of suspense, leaving us teetering on the edge of terror.
“Clubhouse,” our next chilling episode in this collection, unspools a narrative around a spectral abode laden with a murky past. Once the clandestine meeting spot for politically-charged activists, this eerie location witnessed a blood-soaked end as its inhabitants fell into a gruesome, internal conflict, culminating in a mass murder.
Our unsuspecting protagonists, a trio of high school girls drawn by the allure of mystery and adventure, stumble upon the haunted ruins of this clubhouse. They dare to breach its crumbling thresholds, unwittingly stepping into a spectral storm of the past.
As they traverse through the dust-choked corridors and forgotten meeting rooms, they become enmeshed in the unsettled disputes of the yesteryears. This ghostly feud, frozen in time and imprinted within the clubhouse walls, ensnares the girls, forcing them into a vortex of spectral confrontations and a ghostly version of tug-of-war. You have to see it to believe it.
Our spine-chilling journey continues with “Slug Girl,” an unsettling tale of a household held hostage by a loathsome infestation in their backyard – an army of glistening, repulsive slugs. This isn’t your average garden-variety nuisance, dear readers. What unfolds is a metamorphosis that plunges the depths of horror, ensnaring one unfortunate occupant of the house in a grotesque transformation beyond imagination.
For those among you who squirm at the sight of gleaming, slimy bodies, or shudder at the notion of slugs seeping from your every pore, brace yourselves. This narrative promises to challenge your fortitude and yes, possibly trigger a jolt to your gag reflex.
“Slug Girl” is a testament to Ito’s incredible knack for transmuting the mundane into monstrous, encapsulating the essence of body horror, and twisting it into an experience that’s not easily forgotten. Prepare for an unforgettably visceral journey into the slippery, slithering realm of horror.
Turning a page into the realm of urban horror, we encounter “The Window Next Door.” This spine-tingling tale is woven around a family’s transition into a new house in a new town. The family’s teenage son, finding himself ensnared in the peculiarities of his new environment, is given the top-floor bedroom for solitude and to focus on his studies.
However, tranquility soon turns to terror. The son becomes the relentless target of an unsettling old woman dwelling in the adjacent house. Her sinister presence and the insidious attempts she makes to infiltrate his sanctuary through his bedroom window morph his life into a living nightmare.
This tale is a masterstroke of Ito’s craft, encapsulating the uncanny, the unsettling, and the truly dreadful in one tightly wound narrative. Reading “The Window Next Door” left me grappling with my deepest fears, transforming the ordinary into an unforgettable tableau of urban horror.
Riding the tidal wave of horror, we wash ashore to our next terrifying tale, aptly named “Washed Ashore.” This story hurls us deep into the abyss of cosmic horror, resonating with an eerie echo of H.P. Lovecraft’s darkest imaginings.
The narrative unfurls around an enormous sea leviathan, a creature of otherworldly dread, found beached and breathing its last on a remote Japanese shoreline. The gargantuan beast, an enigma of the deep, draws a curious multitude from across the country, all congregating to witness this real-life sea monster in its death throes.
But beneath the monstrous spectacle, something far more unnerving festers within the creature’s transparent stomach. This entity, alien and unknown, grips the onlookers with a chilling aura of insanity. As the spectators stare into its alien innards, they are driven to the brink of madness, caught in the pull of an unspeakable terror.
“Washed Ashore” navigates the currents of psychological horror and cosmic dread, steering us into waters teeming with the unfathomable and the macabre. Prepare to be swept away by a story that dives deep into the monstrous unknown, probing the depths of fear and Chthonic madness.
Peering into the abyss of unknown horrors, we delve into “The Strange Tale of the Tunnel.” This gripping narrative takes us into the heart of an enigmatic tunnel, an unnerving locale where reality twists and bends, entrapping all who dare to tread within its shadowy depths.
The tale centers around a brother and his young sister, who is thrust into this nightmarish reality when their mother takes her own life within the tunnel’s haunting echo. Following this tragic event and their father’s subsequent vanishing, an insidious fascination with the tunnel’s darkness takes hold of the young girl. Her brother, laden with grief and fear, is left wrestling with this terrifying obsession, striving to divert her from the path of an impending ominous fate.
This chilling drama unfolds further as a team of scientists, drawn by bizarre cosmic rays emanating from the tunnel, embark on their own exploratory mission. Their investigation only adds layers to the unfolding enigma, deepening the mystery even as the horror escalates.
“The Strange Tale of the Tunnel” weaves together elements of family drama, cosmic horror, and psychological thriller, immersing us in a story where the boundaries between the known and the unknown blur and shift.
Now on to our next twisted narrative: “Bronze Statue.” This unsettling tale serves up a chilling cocktail of vanity, sadism, and murder, centered around a wealthy, malevolent crone and a devious sculptor. Together, they produce a pair of bronze statues for the local park that the crone’s deceased husband donated to the community.
However, their creations are met with scorn and mockery by a group of local women, whose disparaging remarks wound the rich old hag’s twisted pride. This propels her on a startling path of retribution that casts a dark shadow over the tranquil park.
As the plot thickens, an uncanny element emerges: the bronze statues, initially perceived as lifeless tributes, begin to betray signs of a disturbing life of their own. The line between the natural and the supernatural begins to blur, unfurling a tale of revenge that takes on an eerie life of its own.
“Bronze Statue” explores themes of ego, retribution, and the supernatural, cloaked in the dark veil of horror. The narrative unravels with a disturbing sense of unease. As the story unfolds, we are left questioning the very nature of art, revenge, and the thin veil that separates the world we know from the unthinkable.
Next in our journey through the macabre, we encounter “Floaters,” an entrancingly strange tale that unfurls around grotesque, garrulous hairballs. Yes, you read that right, hairballs. But these aren’t your common household variety vomited up by your pet cat. Spawned from the mouths of unsuspecting individuals, these floating oddities traverse the cityscape, broadcasting the concealed secrets of their unwitting creators to any and all within earshot. Bizarre? Well, welcome to the quirky realms of Junji Ito.
As the story oscillates between the horrific and the peculiar, it leaves a trail of the obligatory gruesome imagery that is quintessential to Ito’s works. There’s murder and suicide aplenty, skillfully intertwining with the absurdity of the narrative. But in the heart of this madcap whirlwind, the story veers towards an unexpectedly poignant resolution.
In the climax, amidst the chaos of revealed secrets, a confession of true love surfaces. This revelation provides one character with an unexpected moment of closure. Tinged with a blend of bittersweet emotion, this closure serves as a gentle reprieve amidst the stark horror, illustrating Ito’s masterful balance between the terrifying and the touching.
Our journey through this disturbing anthology ends with “The Bloody Story of Shirosuna.” A young doctor dispatched to treat a remote mountain town’s anemic population quickly finds himself in over his head. The root of the town’s affliction is not an ordinary illness but a sinister condition that defies medical explanation. The townsfolk are prone to spontaneous bleeding, their lifeblood seeping into the thirsty earth as if the very soil is feasting upon their vitality.
With this chilling realization, the doctor is thrust into a harrowing journey of discovery, endeavoring to unravel the mystery of this eerie bloodletting. As he delves deeper into the town’s secrets, he is drawn toward the pulse of an ominous presence — a monstrous heartbeat echoing from beneath a secluded mountain shrine beyond the town’s borders. Will this hold the answers he seeks? You’ll have to read it to find out.
As we draw the curtain on this macabre journey through “Tombs,” one thing stands resoundingly clear: Junji Ito continues to reign supreme as a maestro of horror. With each turn of the page, every twist in the narrative, he lures us further into his labyrinthine world of terror, leaving us delightfully unsettled and thirsting for more.
Every story in this anthology, from the grotesquely surreal “Floaters” to the pulse-quickening mystery of “The Bloody Story of Shirosuna,” serves as a testament to Ito’s ingenious storytelling and unfettered imagination. His unique blend of horror, which merges the mundane with the monstrous and the psychological with the supernatural, is on full display here, delivering an immersive experience that will persist in your mind long after the book is closed.
Whether you’re a seasoned fan of Junji Ito or a newcomer to his brand of horror, “Tombs” is an unmissable entry in his chilling oeuvre. This collection of tales will have you peering suspiciously into shadows, hesitating at the mouth of tunnels, and perhaps even treating your garden slugs with a little more respect. It serves as a stirring reminder that horror can manifest in the most unexpected places.
Garrulous Hairball Rating:
Thanks for reading, dark ones. Remember to leave a comment below, and tell me what you think of this collection. Subscribe to the blog for future posts, and until next time, I’ll see you in your nightmares 😉
* Note: Many of the stories in “Tombs” appeared in the recent Netflix series “Junji Ito Maniac: Japanese Tales of the Macabre.” It’s worth a watch and manages to convey Ito’s unique brand of horror successfully.
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