Over the years, I’ve read countless horror manga, as you can see on my list of the best horror manga of all time.
Yet, there’s something special about the works of Junji Ito. Ever since I first read Tomie a decade and a half ago, I’ve been a fan of his.
His works are full of body horror and often feature phobias, fears and obsessions. It’s often the mundane that gets warped, becomes twisted and ultimately deadly.
These days, many of his works have been translated into English and are available to a wider audience. For this reason, I created a ranking of all the available Junji Ito books.
Dissolving Classroom is one of the weirdest Junji Ito books out there.
It’s the story of Yuuma and his sister Chizumi. Yuuma’s a weirdo and prone to apologizing to everyone he comes upon for even the smallest of things. His sister Chizumi, on the other hand, is an incredibly creepy child. As we read on, we soon learn, however, that there’s more to Yuuma’s apologies.
Dissolving Classroom, typical for Junji Ito, features a lot of disturbing and disgusting imagery. In every chapter, we witness people’s brains running out of their orifices or them melting away entirely.
And yet, Dissolving Classroom didn’t work for me. First there was Yuuma’s constant apologizing, which felt just plain weird. Second was Chizumi’s character. She was so creepy and psychotic, her character felt overdrawn, almost comical.
Another problem was the formulaic and repetitive way of the stories. From chapter one onward, we knew what would happen to the character’s and why. This trope was slightly diverted in the last chapter, but it wasn’t enough of a payoff for me.
Overall, I consider Dissolving Classroom as one of the weaker Junji Ito books out there. It’s worth reading for any fans of Junji Ito, of course, but that’s about it.
No Longer Human is an adaption of Osamu Dazai’s novel by the same name. It’s a work that deals heavily with topics such as suicide, alienation and depression.
No Longer Human is one of the most popular Japanese novels of all time. It’s a bleak work, centered on a man not fitting into society and his decent into decadence.
Junji Ito’s adaption of the novel is interesting, but it suffers from a major problem. No Longer Human is a character-driven novel, one of internal horror. Yet, if there’s one thing Junji Ito isn’t good at, it’s character work. Many of Junji Ito’s characters are mundane, boring, and even uninteresting. They are only exist as vessels for his stories, for his horrors and for us to witness their demise.
That’s the main reason No Longer Human isn’t working. Junji Ito isn’t able to convey the intricacies of the character, the story, and the internal horror of it. Instead, he turns it outward, showcasing it in his usual style.
While I appreciate the visuals, and love the creepy and eerie mood they create, it wasn’t enough to adapt a work such as No Longer Human satisfactorily.
Once more, I’d say this is a work worth reading for fans of Junji Ito, but fans of the original novel might be disappointed.
Sensor is one of the more recently released Junji Ito books and in comes with one of his most beautiful art to date.
It’s the story of a mysterious woman, Byakuya Kyouko, but is more ambitious than most of Junji Ito’s other works. It centers on such questions as the meaning of life, the meaning of the universe, and the fight between light and dark.
The manga contains a lot of Junji Ito’s usual elements. There’s lots of unsettling imagery, such as people melting, the disturbingly human innards of squishy bugs and even cosmic horror entities.
The biggest problem with Sensor is that those elements were never the focus of the work. Instead, they are pushed aside to tell a grander story. While I enjoyed this strange, deeper story, it wasn’t enough to be truly satisfying.
Sensor’s art is stunning and beautiful and Junji Ito’s imagery is as disturbing as always. And yet, I consider Sensor one of the weaker Junji Ito books.
Rating this Junji Ito book is hard. It’s entirely different from his other works because it’s not a work of horror, but a work of comedy.
It tells the story of horror manga author J who moves into his new home with his fiancée A-ko. Before long, A-ko brings her family cat Yon with her and also adapts Muu, a Norwegian forest cat. The work is, of course, based on Junji Ito’s real life and how he struggled to adapt to living with two cats.
As I said, Junji Ito’s Cat Diary: Yon & Mu is a work of comedy. What makes it interesting, however, is that Junji Ito is presenting it to us in his usual horror style. We witness disturbing facial expression, bulging eyes, and creepy cat faces. It’s this contrast between the art and the mundane, often cute content of the story itself.
And yet, Junji Ito’s Cat Diary: Yon & Mu was too different from Junji Ito’s usual work. I think it’s an interesting experiment and cute as an homage to his cats, but that’s all there is to it. It’s a strange light-hearted read, but one that’s also rather forgettable.
Smashed comprises thirteen of Junji Ito’s stories, the most of the available Junji Ito books out there.
I’m always happy to get my hands on new Junji Ito books, yet I was wary of Smashed.
It contains its share of decent stories, for example, Earthbound, The Mystery of the Haunted Mansion and Bloodsucking Darkness. None of them, however, are outstanding. The rest of the book is taken up by tales that are average at best and forgettable at worst.
Junji Ito’s art is always outstanding and, for that reason alone, his stories are worth reading. Their content, however, can be hit or miss and Smashed contained a few too many misses for me.
While Smashed is not a bad Junji Ito book, it’s far from the best released in English.
Twisted Visions differs from the other Junji Ito books on this list. It’s an art book, not containing stories, but featuring Junji Ito’s stunning and outstanding artwork.
I loved this book, and it has a very special place in my heart. It’s a fantastic experience to see Junji Ito’s detailed work in fine print and spread out over entire pages. The book is a testament to Junji Ito’s mystery of the medium.
What was great was that the book even contained a handful of previously unseen artworks, some from works that were never published. It also contains an interview with Junji Ito that I found highly interesting and a register of all his works.
While Twisted Visions is not a manga and doesn’t contain stories, I still consider it a fantastic work. If you’re a fan of Junji Ito, his visual style and horror art, I highly recommend this book.
Hellstar Remina might be the closest Junji Ito has ever come to true Lovecraftian horror.
It’s the story of Professor Oguro and his daughter, Remina. One day, the professor discovers a wormhole and a planet having entered our universe. He names the newly discovered planet after his daughter Remina, propelling her to stardom.
Soon enough, however, the professor notices strange things about Planet Remina. It moves in random directions without a clear orbit, and all the stars in his vicinity seem to vanish.
Before long, it’s revealed that it’s on a closing in on Earth and we soon witness it destroying or devouring all other planets in the solar system.
From here on out, the story serves to only get weirder and more insane, but also sillier. It made it hard to take the later parts of the story serious.
And yet, one has to give Junji Ito credit for creating a truly unique apocalypse scenario featuring a sentient planet.
While the plot itself might have some weaknesses, Junji Ito’s imagery is fantastic throughout the entire manga. Seeing Planet Remina’s eyes and mouth is terrifying enough, but its surface is truly horrifying.
Hellstar Remina might be one of the crazier Junji Ito books out there, but I still believe it’s a must-read for fans. While the plot might get sillier in later parts, the imagery is absolutely stunning.
Deserter is the newest of the many Junji Ito books available. It comprises twelve stories. While some stories might be rather forgettable, it also features some of his best ones.
The Long Hair in the Attic and Den of the Sleep Demon are both surreal, but incredibly effective horror tales. They also feature some fantastic imagery and great body horror.
My personal favorites, however, are Unbearable Maze and The Bully. The Bully is one of the rare Junji Ito stories that’s entirely grounded in reality. Even though it proves to be one of his most twisted stories. Unbearable Maze centers on two girls who find themselves at a strange meditation retreat in the mountains. It’s a slow, eerie story that proves to only get stranger the longer it goes on and features one of his best and creepiest endings.
Deserter proves to be one of the better Junji Ito books out there and a worthy addition to any collection.
Gyo is the Japanese word for fish. Knowing this, you might think you’re prepared for this manga, but believe me, you’re not. Gyo is one of Junji Ito’s most popular and iconic works, but also one of his weirdest and most absurd.
It’s the story of Tadashi and his girlfriend Kaori. The two of them are on a vacation, but one night, Kaori, who’s sensitive to smells, complains about a terrible, rotten stench. It’s soon revealed that the stench’s caused by a strange fish on robotic legs skittering through their holiday home.
This, however, is only the first of many sea creatures to emerge from the depths.
Before long, the two of them return home to Tokyo. It’s here where the story turns into a full-fledged apocalypse, as millions of sea creatures flood the city, spreading the so-called death stench.
Gyo’s probably the most creative of the many Junji Ito books out there and I’ve read nothing like it. As creative as it is, however, it’s suffers from flaws. The most notable is Junji Ito trying to explain the existence of the strange, robotic legs. Gyo’s, of course, an absurd story, but the explanation given makes it downright ridiculous.
Gyo’s strongest points are Junji Ito’s fantastic art and the outlandish, disturbing imagery. Especially the later parts of the manga are pure nightmare territory. For soon enough, it’s not only fish that wander the fog-ridden streets.
While there are some problems with Gyo, I still have to praise it as one of the most creative Junji Ito books out there. The art is fantastic, and the scenario depicted is nothing short of surreal.
Fragments of Horror was one of the first of Junji Ito books released in English.
Fragments of Horror comprises only eight stories and is one of the shortest Junji Ito books. It contains some weaker stories like Wooden Spirit and Magami Nankuse, but also some of his best.
Gentle Goodbye is one of my favorite Junji Ito stories of all time. It centers on a family with a very special ritual, but it’s a beautifully sad study in holding on. Dissection-Chan features one of Junji Ito’s strangest characters to date and also one of his greatest instances of body horror.
Fragments of Horror might not be the most outstanding of the many Junji Ito books out there, but it contains its share of fantastic stories. It’s well worth buying.
Junji Ito’s Frankenstein might be the best adaption of Mary Shelley’s novel to date. All throughout the work, he remains true to the source material, but his outstanding visuals lend themselves perfectly to it.
Junji Ito’s Frankenstein is, however, a collection and contains ten more of his stories. Many of those are centered on another of his reoccurring characters, Oshikiri.
While the character might not be widely known, I consider his stories fantastic. They are incredibly strange and feature some of his most outlandish ideas, including alternate dimensions and disgusting medical experiments. Junji Ito’s style also shines in these tales, and they feature some of his greatest body horror work.
Oshikiri might not be a popular character and many people might not have heard about him, but I think all of his tales are fantastic and amongst Junji Ito’s best works.
Frankenstein is one of the best Junji Ito books out there, and with the addition of Oshikiri’s tales, it’s a must-buy for any fans.
Junji Ito’s Tomie is one of his first works, but proved massively popular. Tomie’s stories span multiple volumes and have spawned a series of live-action movies.
Junji Ito’s art style isn’t as refined as in later works, but even in Tomie’s earlier chapter one can recognize his genius and his twisted imagination.
Tomie’s the story of a gorgeous high-school girl who’s not only dating one of her fellow students but also has an affair with her teacher. When she accidentally dies during a school trip, the class binds together to hide the crime. They dismember her and each student hides a part of her body.
The horror starts the next day, however, when Tomie returns to class as if nothing happened. While this is horrible enough, we soon learn the true horror that is Tomie. She’s not a normal person. Instead, she’s an entity with regenerative powers, able to regrow from even the tiniest bit of her.
And yet, there’s more. Tomie is beautiful, but she has an almost supernatural hold over men. The moment they lay eyes upon her, they fall in love with her, grow obsessed with her and are ultimately driven to madness.
What’s interesting to note is that Tomie’s stories are never about her. They are about the people who encounter her and the men who grow obsessed with her. Tomie herself is more a plot device, an enigma who drives the characters in her story to their demise.
The chapters in Tomie can vary in quality. Some are good, others less so. When Junji Ito’s at his best, however, Tomie’s fantastic and contains some of the most twisted things he’s ever drawn.
While Tomie might have its weaker moments, I still consider it one of the best Junji Ito books out there.
Lovesickness is also known as the tale of the Intersection Pretty Boy. Back in the day, this was one of the first Junji Ito books I ever read, and I absolutely loved it.
It’s a fantastic work, full of mystery, horror and copious amounts of gore and blood.
The book, however, contains five more of Junji Ito’s tales. Two stories center on the strange Hikizuri Siblings, who are some of Junji Ito’s most twisted creations and feature similarly disturbing scenarios.
This Junji Ito book also features Rib Woman, a story I came to love more and more in recent years. It’s an outlandish, almost silly tale about plastic surgery, but features another one of his greatest instances of body horror. The story even inspired one of my own tales, Real Art Always Has a Price.
Lovesickness is one of the best Junji Ito books out there. It contains one of Junji Ito’s longer works, but also several fantastic stories.
Venus in the Blind Spot is one of the more recently released Junji Ito books, but it’s one of the best to date. The book might contain some weaker works, but those are overshadowed by some of Junji Ito’s all-time best.
The Enigma of the Amigara Fault might be Junji Ito’s most popular story of all time and it’s also one of his best. It’s a tale that centers on our fear of the unknown and our compulsive urge to understand that which we can’t explain. Junji Ito presents this to us in one of his most creative and disturbing scenarios to date. Billions Alone is a similarly creative tale, featuring another unexplained phenomenon. The story centers on isolation and feels like a criticism of our current urban society.
Junji Ito’s adaption of Edogawa Ranpo’s story, The Human Chair, is another tale that’s entirely grounded in reality. And yet, it’s one of his scariest, most outlandish works.
The Licking Woman is another fantastic tale in this collection. The idea of being licked by a random stranger is disgusting enough, but Junji Ito makes the incident more than just disgusting. He makes it outright terrifying. His art in this tale is also fantastic and warps the Licking Woman into something that almost not human anymore.
Venus in the Blind Spot is one of the best Junji Ito books out there and I consider it a must-buy for any fans of his work.
Uzumaki is Junji Ito’s magnum opus and an absolute horror masterpiece.
The manga medium is strange, and the works of Junji Ito are amongst the strangest ones out there. And yet, Uzumaki might be the weirdest manga I’ve ever read.
Uzumaki is a three-volume epic set in the small coastal town of Kurouzu-cho which is infested by spirals. The story centers on Shouichi Saito and Kirie Goshima who stumble upon one incident of spiral-related horror after another.
What makes Uzumaki so great, even amongst all the Junji Ito books out there, is not the story, but the creativity that went into it.
Junji Ito’s imagination is always incredible and disturbing, but even here, Uzumaki stands out. We witness copious amounts of gore, blood and body horror as the inhabitants of Kurouzu-cho are warped, twisted and changed until they resemble spirals.
Uzumaki stands out amongst other horror manga because of its unique premise. There are no monsters here, no killers, no feasible antagonist at all. Instead, there’s only the spiral, a concept that lingers over the doomed town of Kurouzu-cho as an omnipresent curse.
Most of Uzumaki’s story is told in episodic fashion and more an anthology than a continuous story. It’s only in the third, and ultimately weakest, volume where Junji Ito ties it all together and brings the story to its Lovecraftian conclusion.
Uzumaki is a horror masterpiece and I consider it one of the greatest accomplishments of the horror manga genre. It’s probably the best amongst the many Junji Ito books out there, and I consider it a must-buy, not just for fans of Junji Ito, but horror manga fans in general.
Shiver is my favorite amongst all the Junji Ito books released in English. It contains a variety of stories, many of which are amongst my absolute favorites.
Fashion Model introduces one of Junji Ito’s most iconic creations, the disturbing model Fuji. The Long Dream is probably Junji Ito’s most creative and original works of all time and centers on concepts such as dreams and death.
Greased and Honored Ancestors are two of his most disturbing stories of all time. Honored Ancestors features a scenario that’s as terrifying as it is bizarre, while Greased features his most disgusting imagery to date. They are both fantastic stories, feature some disturbing imagery and are ripe with horror.
The titular tale Shiver is one of greed and the consequences it brings. It also features heavy instances of trypophobia, brought forth by Junji Ito’s fantastic imagery, making this tale nothing short of disturbing.
My favorite story in Shiver, however, is the Hanging Blimps. It’s without a doubt the strangest, most bizarre apocalypse story I’ve ever come upon. The story centers on the concept of balloons which not only take on people’s likeness but also come to hang them. While it’s a strange and bizarre story, it’s one hiding a deeper meaning. It’s first a criticism of Japan’s idol industry, but also a representation of the ‘Death Drive.’ Yet, one doesn’t have to look for deeper themes for this story to work. Even taken at face value, it’s an incredibly creepy and unsettling tale that features one of Junji Ito’s best final panels.
Shiver is a collection of fantastic short stories and it’s probably the best of the many Junji Ito books released in English. If you want to read Junji Ito at his best, Shiver should be your first choice.