An article by E.C. Hanson

You need to go. You do. As in now. Right now. Run out or, if you don’t have a mask and cannot properly distance from your fellow human, travel over to a chair or stool or couch and fire up the laptop. You need to purchase not one, but two—yes, count them two, collections by Junji Ito. I suggest Smashed and Shiver. The former because the marriage of artwork and story is something to behold; the latter because it contains commentary by the author for each story. Yep, each one. Totally worth it. Okay, so why should you consider spending money you might not have right now on multiple collections by an author you’ve most likely heard of but may not have experienced as of yet? Here are four reasons:

Reason 1: You support the international community and, dare I say, expand your taste to include that d word. Get your mind out of the gutter. By d word, I mean diversity.

Reason 2: If you’re a writer or avid reader, or bookstagrammer, you expose your brains to new ways of storytelling.

Reason 3: Like or hate either of Ito’s collections, you take a chance on a manga author and get acclimated to the form. Furthermore, you open your mind to having conversations about how Japanese content differs from content in the USA. Starting such a conversation opens that intellectual door and might—keyword might—lead you to take chances on authors and styles from other lands.

Reason 4:  You redirect hard-earned money that may have been spent on craft beer, healthy groceries, or a new horror book by an author that doesn’t need any help with exposure. This might seem fresh. But it’s true. You’ll eventually get to the book that everyone’s reading. I think you should be fearful of not getting to the ones that are worth discovering.

Reasons for a future purchase aside, it is worth pointing out that my life feels different after experiencing Ito. I cannot and will not break down each story in the form of a review; that’s the job of a reviewer. All I can state, and with the strongest emphasis I can muster, is that the work needs to be seen to be believed. There’s a story about women wanting to rule the world by encouraging uncontrollable laughter; there’s another about a ghost that will not stop until it is sincerely forgiven for its sins; there’s a story about copycat suicides and floating heads in the sky. And if that wasn’t enough, there is a story about an unusual-looking model with a bloodthirsty craving for stardom. This type of creative energy and output has no equal. But more importantly, it will teach you, reader or writer, to embrace the innovative nature of Ito’s work. You might react positively. You might not. But you will be changed because of it, and change (feeling less like an ugly word since a new man took the Oval Office), even ever so slightly, can impact all of us in the most exquisite of ways.

Through all of his pieces, Ito seems to be announcing, “Everyone, listen! There are no rules to creating content.” And isn’t that valuable to artists in the field? Isn’t that freeing? You can do whatever you want with the content. Make it heartfelt, make it weird, and, most importantly, make it true. That’s what Ito has done.

So, what are you doing? You need to go. You do. As in now. Right now. You need to purchase not one, but two—yes, count them two, collections by Junji Ito. I, for the second time, suggest Smashed and Shiver.

Author

Junji Ito is a Japanese horror mangaka. Some of his most notable works include Tomie, a series chronicling an immortal girl who drives her stricken admirers to madness, Uzumaki, a three-volume series about a town obsessed with spirals, and Gyo, a two-volume story where fish are controlled by a strain of sentient bacteria called “the death stench.” Follow Junji Ito on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

Contributor

E. C. Hanson earned his MFA in Dramatic Writing from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts and was the recipient of an “Outstanding Writing For The Screen” certificate. His work has been published by Smith & Kraus and Applause Books in 8 play anthologies. More than 35 of his plays have been developed and produced in the United States. Trembling With Fear, Ghost Orchid Press, Collective Tales and The Parliament House have published his fiction. D&T Publishing will release his first collection, ALL THINGS DEADLY (Salem Stories), in August 2021. Follow E.C. Hanson on Facebook, and Instagram.

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