4 out of 5
Across his career, Junji Ito has explored many different facets of horror – body horror and oddities that feature in a lot of his classic works; comedy horror, with the likes of Shuichi; psychological horror; and then more literary or real-world variations. As VIZ has continued to collect his works beyond the mainline ones, recent-er publications have seemed to fall back on gross out stuff a bit, as though Ito couldn’t directly tap in to his more inventive imaginings, and so just tossed gore on top. The ‘Lovesickness’ collection is a good set, though, half dedicated to the titular strip which is definitely top tier work, and the latter half a two-part comedy in the Shuichi vein, featuring the Hizukuri siblings, the set finished out by some very good standalone strips. All of this stuff finds a very pleasing balance amongst the aforementioned facets, with Lovesickness establishing a strong psychological basis – people in a town obsessed with crossroads fortunes, with those obsessions eventually playing out in a fantastic fashion – before letting loose with more visually horrific elements, and the Hizukrui stuff more tolerable than Shuichi can be (though I’ve come to appreciate those strips), because the awfulness encompassed by the one character is spread out amongst a whole family.
The closing are also a great capture of Ito’s creativity, exploring concepts that feel like they’re created wholesale, but made normal within the context of the strips. ‘The Mansion of Phantom Pain’ is, start to finish, one of Junji’s most consistent works, though the others – Lovesickness included – suffer from the lack of conclusions most of his stories do.
A great set, though, very much proving that there’s plenty more to explore, and look forward to, from Ito.