Title: Lovesickness: Junji Ito Story Collection
Author: Junji Ito
Release Date: April 20, 2021
Publisher: VIZ Media
Leave it to Junji Ito to take a relatively simple concept and warp it into a bizarrely engaging yet ultimately horrifying narrative. Lovesickness: Junji Ito Story Collection, released and translated by Viz, collects several of Ito’s short stories focusing on twisted ideals of love, obsession, and attraction. While most of the titles in this collection definitely fit within the theme of unhealthy perceptions of love, some do feel tonally inconsistent with each other as a collection.
Lovesickness begins with the title the collection is named after, featuring several chapters and one consistent narrative. In this tale, the crossroads fortune-telling, infamous with the town’s teenagers, leads several girls to take their own lives. For me, it comes across as one of Ito’s most powerful manga. While many of Ito’s works are scary, they can sometimes feature over-the-top scenarios and aggressively dark comedy. There are little hints of that at times, but for the most part, Lovesickness feels more grounded, highlighting the characters’ deep-rooted depression and intense guilt.
Because of this, the horror can feel psychological even with supernatural elements occurring. It all escalates to a finale that feels right for the story but for those more familiar with Ito’s typical conclusions; it might come as a bit of a surprise. It’s a gloomy and gripping tale that had me guessing throughout and unquestionably ranks as one of his best pieces.
The next short stories, while entertaining, do feel a bit inconsistent in tone. The Strange Hikizuri Siblings contain a much lighter and comical feel compared to Lovesickness. That’s not a dig at the writing or illustrations of The Strange Hikizuri Siblings; it just might be a bit confusing for newer readers to Ito’s work after something like Lovesickness. Still, theme-wise, they do fit in with the theme of the collection and are an entertaining read nonetheless.
The next two: The Mansion of Phantom Pain and The Rib Woman, return to more straightforward horror. Both are great examples of Ito tropes of taking a crazy concept and running with it. Little bits of Ito’s reoccurring elements like existential dread and obsession are presented in both. Each is short and sweet and fairly effective.
The last short: Memories of Real Poop, is extremely odd and seemingly the most ill-fitting of the bunch included. It only lasts four pages and is intended as a comedy with no real aspects of horror. As one reads, some puns play out but seem like they might not translate fully as intended to the English language. This inclusion feels more like just adding as much of Ito’s catalog as possible instead of worrying about how well it reads cohesively.
All chapters include gorgeously gross and amazing artwork and are a marvel to look at. Moments of body horror contrast effectively with otherwise ordinary environments and characters. Ito’s scratchy shading creates palpable emotion and wears on faces and depth to dilapidated buildings and pathways.
Lovesickness: Junji Ito Story Collection includes some of Ito’s best and weirdest output. While one could argue each chapter perfectly encapsulates Junji Ito’s various storytelling, in the end, it feels tonally a bit all over the place. That’s not to say that Lovesickness lacks in any way; just as a collection, it can feel odd. Still, for those looking for a real Junji Ito experience or are just open to exploring a bit of his wacky world, Lovesickness has a lot of scary and sick moments to offer.
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