We’ve sung the praises of Japanese manga artist JUNJI ITO many times over the past two decades, singling him out as one of the most fearlessly fertile imaginations currently operating in the genre. Ito’s nightmares of ink and paper have pushed the boundaries of where horror can go which, in his case, is usually into the most fucked up places imaginable.
In many cases too extreme for the visual medium, Ito has nevertheless had this soul shattering creations translated onto the screen, notably in the feature films Uzumaki (2000), Gyo (2012), the Tomie series of films and, most recently, the JUNJI ITO COLLECTION, a new anthology series based on Ito’s works, animated by Studio Deen and co-produced by Crunchyroll.
The collection, which brings together 13 of Ito’s strangest stories, will be released as three separate sets on DVD, on March 30, April 27, and May 25, 2018.
Rue Morgue caught up with the elusive Junji Ito in the hopes he would cast a little light into his bizarre imagination… but only a little.
Your ideas are very unique to say the least. Where do you draw inspiration from?
I get inspiration from the things that I see and hear in my daily life. Even if it is just an ordinary thing, it can be turned into something interesting in my head.
Does your background as a dental technician ever inform your creative process?
If there is something, it’s the image of a hollow. A dental technician makes a tooth wax pattern, buries it in a mold, heats the mold base to melt the wax, and then casts a metal in the cavity of the mold. I have often used the image of the mold cavity as a motif. A human form tunnel and a neck-hanging balloon are also a type of cavity. I heard that the human statues at the Pompeii Ruins were made by casting plaster into the cavities of the dead people buried in the volcanic ash. I am very intrigued by the mysterious connection between negatives and positives in an object.
“I gave up some ideas several times because they were too brutal or crude.”
Several segments of the new JUNJI ITO COLLECTION anime series are lighthearted and funny. Do you see your horror manga as also being comedic in some way?
I love Japanese comedians and comedy films made by Chaplin and others. It is often said that there is only a fine line between fear and laughter, and I believe this as well. In my case, however, I intentionally add gags into my horror manga, rather than comical elements.
Did you have much creative input in the anime series? Did you help select which stories would be adapted?
I joined the meetings to select the episodes that I really wanted to see in the anime adaptations. I especially recommended “The Long Dream” and “Used Records.” The former is my favourite short story, and the reason to choose the latter was that I wanted to listen to “Paula Bell’s Scat” in the story. On the creative side, I supervised the screenplays and settings, and did some requests for the anime drawings. Director Shinobu Tagashira understood my manga really well, and it was reflected in the completed anime. I am very grateful.
Have you ever imagined anything that is too extreme to set down on paper?
I think I had some… but I can’t remember them in detail right now. I gave up some ideas several times because they were too brutal or crude.
Is there any advantage that manga has over movies as a medium for telling horror stories?
I think pen-drawn art has its own charm. The brightness of the picture produced by the contrast between black lines and the white of the paper, and the atmosphere created from the drawn lines… I think they cannot be expressed by live-action so easily.
Do you think your ideas are too extreme for Hollywood?
I don’t think so. I myself have received more influence from Hollywood films since long ago.
Do you watch horror movies? Have any impressed you recently?
I was impressed by Guillermo del Toro’s The Shape of Water recently. It was more like a fantasy film than horror, but it was very good. David F. Sandberg’s Annabelle: Creation was also interesting. I’ve also recently watched Satsuo Yamamoto’s Botan Dourou for the first time. It is a very old film, but I really enjoyed it!