In our recent “Best of the Beehive” feature, we pointed out how the state of Utah is consistently ranked “The Nerdiest State.” One of the biggest components of nerd culture these days is manga/anime. For the uninitiated, manga are Japanese comics (primarily released in black and white volumes) and anime are Japanese cartoons. Like American graphic novels, manga has genres and content for all ages and tastes. According to Polaris Market Research, the Global manga market was valued at 11.68 billion dollars in 2022, with close to half of those sales coming from North America.
With fall and Halloween fast-approaching, we thought now is the perfect time to highlight one of the most acclaimed mangakas (manga artist/writer) in the horror manga space. Junji Ito made his manga debut in 1987 and has gone onto international praise, had multiple adaptations of his work into film and anime, and has won four Eisner Awards (the comic book equivalent of an Oscar). His most popular stories include Tomie, Gyo and Uzumaki, which is currently being produced as an animated series set to hit Adult Swim’s Toonami later this year. Earlier this year, Netflix started streaming Junji Ito Maniac: Japanese Tales of the Macabre. But, while the majority of his works are short stories that are collected regularly in volumes (check out Shiver or Smashed for some of his scariest tales), you’re going to want to grab and read Uzumaki if you’re a horror fan.
Uzumaki is a story about a coastal Japanese town that slowly becomes obsessed with spirals. From eddies in water, to dust devils, to the shape of a snail’s shell, everyone begins to lose touch with reality and they devote their lives (and bodies) to this magic shape. Things begin to escalate quickly and the body horror kicks into full gear. It is not for the faint of heart, but it is one of the creepiest stories ever created. With the anime coming soon, you’re going to want to grab a copy of the hardcover collection before it sells out.
VIZ Media has the English-language rights to Junji Ito’s work and has published many volumes. This year at San Diego Comic Con, they set up the Junji Ito Experience—an art exhibition of more than 100 original pages from his long career. Junji Ito himself was a guest of honor at the convention and attended the reception of his exhibition. He’s a kind and unassuming man, very friendly and bashful with his legions of adoring fans. The line of people waiting to talk to him during the reception stretched across the entire gallery space.
The gallery itself was unreal. Original art from manga is not often seen outside of exhibitions (as the artists often keep every page of published work because of different copyright ownership laws in Japan), so to see pages of sheer horror up-close and personal was jaw-dropping. Ito’s work is meticulous, detailed and horrific. The original art highlighted his individual pen strokes, showcased his changes and corrections made with whiteout and allowed viewers to appreciate the apparent limitless display of imagination he conjures with his images.
And while the Junji Ito Experience isn’t traveling from city to city, you can still grab his books from a local book or comic store (try magazine-favorites Black Cat Comics, Legendarium, Dr. Volts or The Nerd Store—if they don’t have them in stock, they can order for you), and get your spooky vibes going before the Uzumaki anime hits Adult Swim and everyone becomes a servant to the spiral.