Junji Ito is a manga artist who has changed the way we perceive horror. For over three decades, his macabre imagery has terrified readers. Ito is known for his detailed linework, which contributes to visceral gore and body horror. His limitless creativity conjures up horrifying, unimaginable scenarios that will forever haunt our dreams. His short and long horror stories are both written and illustrated with a surreal, off-kilter, otherworldly eeriness. His stories often begin with normalcy, then descend into supernatural, monstrous madness, never to be resolved, leaving you with shivers down your spine long after the story has finished. Ito has a unique gift for drawing human eyes. When looking into the eyes of Ito’s protagonists, even when nothing supernatural has happened, a shiver of uneasiness can be felt. Let’s take a look at the top 15 scariest stories by Junji Ito in light of his morbid brilliance.
1. The Enigma Of Amigara Fault
The story’s concept is simple. On the side of an earthquake fault line, people-shaped holes appear, and people from all over Japan flock to the location. The majority of those who watched the TV event was agitated and felt an overwhelming urge to go to the place themselves. An unnamed young man and a young woman named Yoshida are our main characters. Both are drawn to the Amigara Faults by a strange feeling. As the story develops, we see even more people arrive searching for their hole, and we soon see them enter it.
The story revolves around people’s insatiable desire to comprehend the unexplainable. The itch within their minds wonders why those holes exist, how they were made, and why there is one that is just like them. Worse yet, the occurrence seems to have no explanation. We never learn what those holes are or why they are there. The blend of claustrophobic horror, fear of the unknown, and strange allusions to the impossible is what makes this story by Junji Ito so unique. The Amigara Faults Enigma is a true masterpiece.
It’s a three-volume series set in Kurouzu-Cho, a small Japanese coastal town infested by spirals. In this story, everything, including the imagery, revolves around spirals. Also, the horrific incidents in town are triggered by spirals or linked to them. Spiral shapes emerge all over town, things start to take the form of spirals, and the people become obsessed with them. This leads to a few of Junji Ito’s most popular and bizarre imagery. People are warped, transformed, and distorted into spiral-like shapes in various ways. This brings us to the most iconic drawing that Ito has made.
This image isn’t at the story’s climax; no, it’s just the first chapter, and from then on, things get stranger and more horrific. Nothing in Kurouzu-Cho is immune to the spiral’s curse. People mutate into snails, lovers entangle like snakes, and even hair takes on a life of its own. Junji Ito’s frightening and horrifying art is unquestionably what sells Uzumaki, and he’s at his absolute best in this story. His simple, clean, black-and-white style, his precise craftsmanship highlight the horrors in every horrific detail in Kurouzu-Cho.
3. The Hanging Balloons
As compared to Junji Ito’s other one-shots, this one is quite long. It all starts with Terumi, Kazuko’s best friend, committing suicide. Her body was discovered dangling from a nose outside her apartment. Terumi’s boyfriend Shiroishi and others started to see Terumi’s ghost lingering in town shortly after. What’s more bizarre is that it’s just her head and a gigantic version of it. Until the first sight of the floating head appears, people attempt to justify it away with mass hysteria and related syndromes.
A distressed Shiroishi dials Kazuko’s number one night. He’s been tracking Terium’s ghost and wants to convince her that it’s real. It is at this point that Kazuko experiences the real horror of the story: The Hanging Balloons. The very thought of a giant balloon with a lifelike replica of your face is disturbing enough. This story is made even more frightening by the balloon following you and hanging you with its noose. The horror and situation are the highlights of this novel. It’s perhaps the strangest and most surreal dystopian scenario ever suggested in literature. Sure, there have been many different forms of apocalypses portrayed in films, but this one is different: instead of zombies or monsters, it’s your very own face stalking and killing you.
4. Layers Of Fear
Layers of Fear is a one-shot manga published in 2017 to commemorate Junji Ito’s manga career’s 30th anniversary. It introduces one of his most bizarre ideas and follows it up with breathtakingly gruesome imagery. The story begins with a professor finding a child’s grave made by piling layers on top of each other. After this incident, we leap to the present day, where the father’s family is making their way to a memorial service years after his death. The family is in a car crash on the way there, and one of the girls, Remi, gets a chunk of her face cut off.
Instead of a horrific cut, as one would imagine, another layer of skin is exposed. The story gets crazier and crazier from here on out. The story isn’t solely focused on this premise. Its horror is multilayered, as it is in many of Junji Ito’s other stories. Remi’s mother, an older woman, fascinated with her daughter’s childhood, is also there. What makes this story so incredible is not just the bizarre concept it presents but also Junji Ito’s imagery, and it’s at the top of its game yet again.
5. Army Of One
Army of One was a Hellstar Remina bonus chapter. Army of One is widely praised by fans and is often compared to its parent manga. What sets Army of One apart from Junji Ito’s other works is that it begins as a mystery rather than a horror story. People go missing, and their stitched-together bodies are discovered shortly after. At first, only two people go missing at a time, but as time progresses, more and more people go missing and are strung together in terrifying public displays throughout the city.
Not just the characters in the story, but we, as readers, realize that this can’t be the work of a single person at this point. Worse, there seems to be no sign of struggle, and the victims were not physically harmed before they were stitched together. The fact that this story defies one of horror’s most fundamental rules: power in numbers, makes it all the more fascinating. You usually stick together if you want to survive some horrific situation. In Army of One, though, the rules are reversed. Those that get together and mingle with others are the first to die, not those who are alone.
6. The Human Chair
The Human Chair is a story written by Japanese author Yoshiko Togawa and adapted into a manga by Junji Ito. The story follows a female writer named after the original story’s protagonist, who receives a fan letter. A disturbing manuscript of someone hiding and living inside an armchair is included in the letter. Ito takes the fundamental human trait of obsession and applies it to physical objects. We start to attribute human characteristics to our couches and cabinets, but not in the way you expect. Obsession is masterfully combined with another dangerous trait, paranoia, by the mangaka.
It’s not a magical story of spirits inhabiting objects and sharing adventures with human characters; instead, it’s about people’s distrust of others and the extent to which they can go to fulfill their desires. The creepiness in this manga isn’t attributed to supernatural entities; everything occurs because of a person with enough drive, or, to put it another way, a human motivated by obsession. It’s another one of Ito’s most well-known stories that attract a lot of attention. Ito’s distinct art style, coupled with a genuinely terrifying theme, is what brings this story home.
7. The Window Next Door
The Circus is Here, volume 13 of Junji Ito’s Horror World Collection, includes The Window Next Door as the third chapter. Another of Junji Ito’s short works with a simple concept. Hiroshi Sakaguchi and his family relocate. He’s fascinated by the single-window house next door. They find that the inhabitant, a middle-aged woman, has never been seen but that a figure has been seen at the window during the night by neighbors. When Hiroshi goes to bed, he hears a voice and sees a woman with a grotesque, corpse-like face and clawed, bony hands pleading with him to come to see her.
Hiroshi dismisses the vision as a dream, but the next night he hears the voice again, this time furious that he didn’t give her a visit. He sees the woman trying to climb into his room using a washing line pole outside the window. When we actually see her, though, we are faced with another one of Junji Ito’s iconic drawings. This story is so unique because of the drawing, the details, and the artistic skill displayed. The rest is almost unexceptional, even anticlimactic.
8. Headless Sculptures
The sixth story in Flesh-Colored Horror is Headless Sculptures. This is another of Ito’s earlier stories. Rumi, her boyfriend, and their teacher, Mr. Okabe, are introduced in the story. Shimada and Rumi are members of the art club at school. Mr. Okabe, their teacher, is a sculptor who is preparing an exhibition of his work, all of which are headless statues. Shimada and Rumi agree to stay late to assist, but Rumi becomes enraged and leaves when she is teased about the possibility of posing naked for Mr. Okabe. Mr. Okabe has been murdered when she returns to school the next day. Like his statues, he had been decapitated and killed at midnight.
In the days that followed, Rumi’s boyfriend Shimada, the last person Mr. Okabe hanged out with, started to behave oddly. When they return to the crime scene, the art room of the teacher, things soon spiral out of control in Junji Ito’s typical fashion. The title of this novel, like many others by Junji Ito, gives away what will happen. The execution and the ghastly art are what makes this one so appealing. Junji Ito’s characteristic distorted faces and horrifying and brutal imagery appear.
Gyo is unquestionably one of Junji Ito’s most popular and well-known works. It is, however, one of his strangest and most absurd stories. The idea is simple. Sea creatures surface from the waters and attack the land, but maybe not in the way we would expect. Tadashi and his girlfriend Kaori are on holiday when the story begins. Kaori, who is particularly susceptible to smells, shortly complains about a nasty smell. Soon after, the two of them find a weird fish on robotic legs skittering around their vacation home, spreading the pungent smell. Although it starts out as a small fish, bigger fish surface from the depths, like a giant shark.
As the so-called death-stench spreads across Tokyo, millions of sea-creatures swarm the city and Japan, the story devolves into full-fledged apocalyptic territory. Gyo is an incredibly imaginative story. There’s nothing else like it. It’s worth noting that Junji Ito fused two common fears in this piece. The first is our fear of the deep sea and what lies beneath, and the second is our fear of insects’ skittering. As if it wasn’t bad enough, he even mixes in the death stench, a foul, rotten smell.
10. Long Dream
Long Dream is another brilliant story by Junji Ito, with an interesting and terrifying concept. Mami, a young girl, is in the hospital, awaiting brain surgery. She believes that she has been visited by the personification of death and that she will die soon. She requests Dr. Kuroda to save her, but Kuroda dismisses her as delusional. Tetsuro Mukoda, another patient, was the one who paid her a visit. Mukoda has horrifying nightmares that last a year or more, despite the reality that they only last one night. Every night, his visions lengthen by a year. Events that happened yesterday now seem to him to have happened fifty years or more ago.
The possibility of becoming lost in your dreams and losing both the real world and who you are is particularly terrifying in Long Dream. It’s undeniably one of Ito’s most original and creative stories. It also contains a decent amount of body horror, when people who have been having long nightmares eventually transform, degrade, and become twisted into something hideous and alien-looking. Another very intriguing aspect of this story is that there are no monsters or antagonistic powers present; instead, all that exists are dreams.
Frankenstein is the sixteenth installment of Junji Ito’s Horror World series. The master of horror manga devotes all of his skills to bringing the troubled and lonely monster, as well as the fouler beast that brought him to life. The story of Frankenstein is well-known or at least known among the general public. Junji Ito’s adaptation is merely phenomenal. It’s probable that it’s the best possible adaptation of Shelly’s original story.
The story of Frankenstein tells the story of Victor Frankenstein, a gifted scientist who succeeds in bringing life to a monster he created. However, this is not the ideal specimen he had imagined, but rather a grotesque beast feared by Victor and humanity in general. The Monster seeks vengeance through killing and terrorizing people. This volume is, without a doubt, a masterpiece. It’s highly recommended for someone who likes Junji Ito’s art style or Mary Shelley’s original novel. Ito’s unusual, unsettling visuals, over-the-top portrayal of his characters’ emotions, and body horror make this a memorable experience.
Tomie is another of Junji Ito’s recurring characters and perhaps his most well-known. When you consider that Tomie was one of Junji Ito’s first works, it’s much more intriguing. Even if the visual style in the early chapters of Tomie isn’t as polished as it is in his later works, you can see Junji Ito’s wild imagination. Tomie is an average but attractive student who is having an affair with her teacher when the story begins. She dies unexpectedly during a school trip in the first chapter, and the class band together to cover the truth by chopping her body into bits and disposing of her.
Tomie, on the other hand, returns the following day, and things just get stranger from there. As the stories concerning Tomie progress, we realize that she is a regenerative entity rather than a normal human. Anything you do to Tomie, even the smallest piece of her can rebuild and evolve into a new version of herself. As if that weren’t enough, Tomie has a near-supernatural hold on men. Any man she meets is smitten by her, falls in love with her, and becomes obsessed with her. The obsession is always accompanied by a plunge into madness.
13. Fashion Model
Miss Fuchi, the titular fashion model, gives us the creeps the moment we see her in a fashion magazine. Iwasaki, the main character, is so terrified of her that she gives him nightmares because of her bizarre appearance. Iwasaki eventually overcomes his fear of Miss Fuchi as the story progresses. That is until he and his classmates begin looking for a female lead for their latest film project. We can tell there’s something wrong with Miss Fuchi the moment we see her in person. Her face is so long, and her features don’t look like those of a typical human being.
She’s not just tall, but she’s nearly gigantic. We get the first glimpse of Miss Fuchi’s unnatural and monstrous nature on the way to the project, and things only get worse from there. Miss Fuch is unquestionably one of Junji Ito’s most well-known and iconic works. The story itself may be fairly standard for Junji Ito. There are no supernatural phenomena, no human body or mind distortions; this is just a story centered around a monster.
Oshikiri is another recurring character, and the bulk of his stories revolve around mysterious occurrences in the mansion where he lives. Oshikiri is a reserved, short-statured boy with few friends. When his parents are busy working abroad, he lives alone in a huge mansion, which adds to his isolation and makes it impossible for him to retain a sense of reality. Strange things sometimes appear to happen to him and those with whom he associates. With terrifying hallucinations of long-necked people, a strange girl with even stranger penpals, a haunted bog rumored to trap its victims, and strange circumstances inside his own home, it seems that the supernatural is all but inevitable for Oshikiri. Oshikiri, like some of Ito’s other stories involving the same character, doesn’t follow a regular storyline.
The stories may be linked or not at all, depending on what we learn about his mansion. Some of Junji Ito’s finest imagery and body horror can be seen in these stories. The first story revolves around strange hallucinations wherein people’s necks grow and distort. In a later story, people’s faces are warped into horrifying abominations by a strange medication. Overall, Oshikiri’s stories are strange, with a concept that has never been seen before in a Junji Ito story, but they are creative and horrifying at times.
15. The Thing That Drifted Ashore
On the Pacific Ocean’s coast, the corpse of an unidentified creature washes ashore. It is serpentine and gigantic, with the head appearing to be a mass of tumours and tiny tendrils. Scientists are attempting to save it because they think it is a prehistoric organism, but it is already decaying. They also note that some of the skin is transparent in patches. A boy who is scared of fish and the ocean in general, afraid of the mysteries that may lurk in its unimaginable depths, is among the crowd of people who have come to see the discovery.
He’s had nightmares of floating in the sea, surrounded by gigantic, grotesque species that are unlike anything he’s ever seen before. Regardless, he is compelled to see the creature for himself. Another horrifying reality emerges as the story develops, namely that something is still alive and moving inside the corpse. The possibility that something like the species might exist somewhere in the depths of the ocean, one of the few places on our world that is still mostly unknown, is what makes this Junji Ito story so interesting.