Author: Junji Ito
Release Date: August 17, 2021
Few other names are as associated with horror manga as Junji Ito’s. And while Sensor, the latest release from Ito-san and Viz media, drenches itself in terrifying atmosphere and situations, it also explores ideas of religion, psychological obsession, and truly surreal moments. The ride it goes on to explore these themes is a wild one but an interesting one all the same.
Sensor begins with a woman exploring a village located near an active volcano. The village itself is covered in golden hair-like strands that result from the looming volcano. The woman is said to be the “chosen one” by the villagers who use the golden hair to give themselves supernatural psychic power. As the name implies, the senses of the individuals are heightened when the hairs are attached to their bodies. Events quickly escalate from there into absolute chaos.
If that sounds like a lot to take in, that’s really only in the first couple of pages. After that, things kind of play out like a fever dream from beginning to end, for better or worse. Unlike some of Junji Ito’s other works, it is a bit harder to pinpoint a couple of definitive themes because there is so much packed into Sensor. Because of this, it is a bit harder to remember specifics, but that isn’t necessarily indicative of a poor story. There is simply a lot going on, not only in each chapter but on each page.
While there is certainly a narrative to follow, a good amount of experimentation is at play in Sensor. Story beats hit intensely and fast and don’t always adhere to normal narrative conventions. So without spoiling too much, the story goes in directions that aren’t typical of the genre and might best be summed up as “out there.”
The art reflects this as well. Those used to Junji Ito’s linework will find familiarity in both his human forms and more monstrous renditions. There are moments, though, that the artwork delves into the more abstract. It’s reminiscent of his previous work in Remina and Uzumaki and really taps into the overwhelming unexplainable cosmic horror present in all. His work in these moments can have a more stippling appearance, contrasting neatly and uncannily with his usual numerous ink lines. And while Ito-San has claimed most of his work recently has been digital instead of traditional, it’s a challenge to differentiate it and a testament to his skill at both.
The drawback of having Sensor venture down so many paths is that it can sometimes feel difficult to have themes resonate as they do so strongly in some of Ito-San’s other works. In Sensor’s afterword, Junji Ito states that the characters in this work went in different directions than he was expecting, and as the creator, he was more along for the ride. I think this really sums up Sensor well. If you’re a fan of more direct themes and narratives, Sensor might be a lot to take in. Still, for those willing to go down this horrifically beautiful rabbit hole, there’s plenty of interesting visuals and scenarios to be had.
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