Fragments of Horror HC – Junji Ito

3 out of 5

The afterword, from artist / writer Junji Ito, on this 2015 collection of his most recent horror shorts, mentions how his last collection was in 2006; he questions whether or not he still ‘has it,’ as he’d spent the intervening years doing less genre-y stuff – social commentary, comedy – admitting he had to redraw the first story in the book multiple times. It’s a direct question, and fittingly posed, perhaps leading to the very appropriate book title: “Fragments” is very much that, some ideas that suggest an artist – while still masterfully skillful at drawing the weird and ooky, and emotive humans – finding his way back to a particular mood. As such, these aren’t the cosmic horrors of tale’s past, or even indicative of the way Junji can take a singularly striking image and iterate upon it. Instead, the stuff leans towards kooky, although there are some select entries that are really good, and the whole thing is undeniably creative. It’s tough when you’ve set a high bar by your own oeuvre.

Interestingly, the stories that stand out and are the most effective are less directly horrorful, and work with more slow-burn creepings, playing on emotional “scares” instead of Lovecraft. But there’s also gore, of course, and one excellent and bloody story that had me cringing throughout, and reads like classic Junji.

Ito would find his way back to consistently awesome genre stuff hereafter, so the warmup of Fragments definitely worked, and it says something when an artist who’s hitting off his mark still turns in something that would put most of his peers to shame.