Review: Shiver by Junji Ito

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Shiver by Junji Ito
VIZ Media (December 2017)
400 pages; $22.99 hardcover, $15.99 ebook
Reviewed by Danica Davidson

Junji Ito is one of Japan’s top horror manga creators. His short story collection Shiver — which at almost 400 pages of length is longer than average for manga — gives a glimpses into what makes him so popular.

The first story, “Used Record,” is about a mysterious vinyl record that leads to obsession and murder when people listen to it.

In “Shiver,” the story that gave the collection its name, a boy is fascinated by the reclusive girl who lives next door and has porous holes all over her body. She more resembles a sponge, and she’s not the only person he’s come across who has this issue.

“Fashion Model” is about a gruesome, fanged, monstrous woman who somehow becomes a professional model, even though opening her mouth reveals rows of jagged (sometimes bloody) teeth.

“Hanging Blimp” merges the creepy with the absurd as giant heads with nooses fly through the air, hanging people and floating away with them.

“Marionette Mansion” shows whether people control puppets, or if puppets control people.

“Painter” is a chapter taken from Tomie, one of Ito’s most famous works. It works as a standalone story in Shiver, however. It follows an artist who meets a mysterious woman named Tomie and soon discovers she is unable to die and nothing good can come from being around her. Anyone who enjoys this story but hasn’t read Tomie ought to check out the original as well.

“The Long Dream” involves a man who insists that his dreams can last a year or longer, and he desperately seeks help from doctors.

“Honored Ancestors” shows a woman experiencing amnesia from witnessing something so horrible. Before the story is over, she’ll witness it again — and the reader will see everything.

“Greased Oil” shows Ito’s flair for disgusting art, which is on full display here. Even he acknowledges it’s “unpleasant,” but he sure can create the atmosphere.

The final story, “Fashion Model: Cursed Frame” returns us to the aforementioned fanged model for another creepy tale.

Each story has something different to offer. “The Long Dream” is quite haunting, “Used Record” is chilling and gruesome, and “Honored Ancestors” takes an unusual twist. The artwork is superb — detailed and moody, using such fine ink lines to create such disturbing imagery.

Each story concludes with commentary from Junji Ito and early sketches and notes. One of the joys of reading Ito is seeing where his imagination takes him, so getting his insight is a great experience. This is fascinating reading, especially for creators of the macabre who would like to learn more about how his mind works.

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