Ever since I read my first Junji Ito story a decade and a half ago, I’ve been a fan of his work. There’s just something about his weird stories, his disturbing imagery and the sheer bizarreness of his world.
In my opinion, Junji Ito is the greatest Japanese horror artist and amongst the greatest horror artists of all time.
His works are full of body horror, phobias, fears, but also stranger things, including cosmic horror.
If you want to learn more about Junji Ito’s works, check out my article on the best Junji Ito stories of all time. If you want to learn why his works are so scary, check out my article on his style and narrative themes.
For this article, however, I wanted to have a look at his short story collections available in English. While I’m always happy to see a new Junji Ito collection available and own all of them, I have to say that some are better than others.
For this article, I will, however, exclude his longer, volume or multi-volume works like Uzumaki, Tomie, Gyo and Hellstar Remina.
So, I want to present you with my personal ranking of all the available Junji Ito collections.
Dissolving Classroom by Junji Ito might be one of his weirdest work yet, and, in my opinion, not in a good way.
It tells the story of Yuuma and his younger sister Chizumi. Yuuma is a strange character, who always apologizes to everyone while his sister Chizumi is an incredibly creepy child. It soon becomes clear that Yuuma’s constant apologizing has a sinister side to it.
Dissolving Classroom comes with a lot of disturbing and disgusting imagery. Each chapter features people melting away and their brains running out of their orifices. It’s nothing short of horrifying.
And yet, the manga just felt plain weird. Yuuma’s constant apologizing was a strange trope. Chizumi, on the others hand, was constantly acting psychotic to the point of being comical. The stories, too, became repetitive. From the first story onward, we already know what’s going to happen to characters. This is diverted in the last chapter, but it felt too little, too late. It’s a good ending to a mediocre series.
The Dissolving Classroom features to more tales, but both are no longer than a handful of pages and rather forgettable themselves.
Overall, I’m not a big fan of Dissolving Classroom and I think it’s one of the weakest Junji Ito collections out there. It’s still worth reading for fans of Junji Ito’s works, but that’s about it.
Sensor is one of Junji Ito’s newer works. It’s presented in his usual fine art is one of his most beautiful works to date.
It’s an ambitious work, one that begs questions about the universe itself, the meaning of life and the fight between light and dark. All of this is connected to a mysterious woman known as Byakuya Kyouko.
Sensor features a lot of Junji Ito’s usual elements. We bear witness to disturbing body horror, lots of horrific imagery like melting people or the innards of disgusting, squishy bugs and some deeply unsettling cosmic horror. Given that, I should love Sensor.
However, these typical elements are few. They are pushed aside by the grander story that’s being told, one of meditation and becoming one with the universe. While I enjoyed this story, it wasn’t enough to hold this Junji Ito collection together.
While the art is beautiful and features Junji Ito’s typical disturbing imagery, I consider Sensor another one of Junji Ito’s weaker works. That, of course, doesn’t mean it’s not work reading, just that there’s better works by Junji Ito out there.
With thirteen stories, Smashed features the most of any Junji Ito collection.
While I’m always happy to see official translations of Junji Ito’s works, I’m divided on Smashed.
It features some decent stories with Bloodsucking Darkness, The Mystery of the Haunted House and Earthbound, but none of them are outstanding. The rest of the collection, however, is taken up by barely average and forgettable tales.
While Junji Ito’s art is always fantastic and outstanding, his stories themselves can be hit or miss. Smashed, as bit a collection as it is, contains a few too many misses for me.
It’s still a good Junji Ito collection, but far from the best released in English.
Deserter is the newest Junji Ito collection by VIZ and contains twelve of his stories. While it contains its fair share of forgettable tales, it also contains some of his best ones.
Den of the Sleep Demon is a short, surreal, but incredible effective horror story. The Long Hair in the Attic is similarly creepy and brings forth some great body horror.
The two best stories in this collection, however, are Unbearable Maze and The Bully. Unbearable Maze tells the story of two young girls who end up at a strange meditation resort in the mountains. It features one of Junji Ito’s creepiest and greatest endings. The Bully, on the other hand, is one of the few Junji Ito stories that’s entirely grounded in reality. And yet, it proves to be one of his scariest, most twisted stories.
Overall, Deserter is a good collection, featuring some great stories.
Fragments of Horror was the first Junji Ito collection released in English. Before, only his longer, multi-volume works Uzumaki and Gyo had been released.
With only eight stories, it’s the shortest Junji Ito collection out there. While it features some weaker stories, like Magami Nankuse and Wooden Spirit, it also features some of Junji Ito’s best work.
Gentle Goodbye is one of the greatest stories he ever penned. It’s a sad, emotional work, a study of holding on and features a very special family ritual. Dissection-Chan, on the other hand, showcases one of Junji Ito’s most interesting characters with one of the most bizarre mental disorders ever. It also features one of his best body horror work of all times.
While Fragments of Horror is not an outstanding Junji Ito collection, it contains some fantastic stories and is well worth buying.
Junji Ito’s retelling of Frankenstein is nothing short of fantastic and the best adaption of Mary Shelley’s classic I’ve come upon. His style and imagery lend itself perfectly to the story and push it much further into the horror genre than Shelley’s original.
The collection also includes ten more of his stories, most of which are centered on another of his reoccurring characters, Oshikiri.
Oshikiri’s tales are strange, even amongst Junji Ito’s works, and feature some of his most outlandish ideas. It’s tales about hallucination and psychosis, about alternate dimension and disgusting medical experiments. All of those are presented to us with some of Junji Ito’s greatest and most disturbing body horror.
While Oshikiri’s not one of Junji Ito’s popular characters, I think his tales are as fantastic as they are outlandish. I’m more than happy to see them finally published in English.
Frankenstein is a fantastical collection, not only for Junji Ito’s adaption of Shelley’s classic, but also the tales of Oshikiri. This Junji Ito collection is a must-buy for any fans.
Ah, Lovesickness, the tale of the Intersection Pretty Boy. This was one of the first works by Junji Ito I ever read, and I absolutely loved it.
While I’m sure there’s a fair bit of nostalgia influencing me, it’s still a fantastic tale. It features copious amounts of gore and bloody mystery and its fair share of insanity.
Apart from this tale, however, the collection features five more stories. The Strange Hikizuri Siblings might be amongst Junji Ito’s most twisted creations, and both stories feature twisted and disturbing scenarios.
The collection also includes one more of Junji Ito’s tales I came to love. As outlandish and silly as The Rib Woman can be, it features another one of Junji Ito’s most twisted instances of body horror. The Rib Woman even inspired one of my own stories, Real Art Always Has a Price.
Overall, Lovesickness is a fantastic collection, containing one of Junji Ito’s longer works, and a share of fantastically disturbing stories.
Venus in the Blind Spit is another, more recent Junji Ito collection, but it’s a fantastic one. While it features some shorter, weaker stories, those are made up for by some of Junji Ito’s all-time best.
Anyone who’s heard of Junji Ito knows about The Enigma of Amigara Fault, which is one of his all-time classics. It’s a story about the unknown and our compulsive urge to understand the unexplainable. All this is brought forth by one of Junji Ito’s most disturbing scenario. In a similar vein, Billions Alone is another creative story featuring an unexplained phenomenon. It’s a story that criticizes our current urban society and discusses isolation.
The Human Chair is a fantastic adaption of Edogawa Ranpo’s original story. It’s another tale grounded in reality, but describes another scary and outlandish scenario.
I also want to mention The Licking Woman. Being licked by a random stranger is disgusting enough, but Junji Ito’s art brings forth the terror of it. The story also features some amazing body horror which warps the Licking Woman into something truly disturbing.
Venus in the Blind Spot is another fantastic Junji Ito collection. While it features some weaker stories, it also contains some true classics.
Shiver is my all-time favorite Junji Ito collection, containing some of my absolute favorites.
It contains Fashion Model, which is the story of one of Junji Ito’s most iconic and disturbing creations, the model Fuji. The Long Dream is a story revolving around the concept of dreams and death. It’s without a doubt one of his most creative and original works ever.
Honored Ancestors and Greased are amongst his most disturbing stories of all time. While Honored Ancestors features one of Junji Ito’s most grotesque and bizarre scenarios, Greased is probably his most disgusting story to date. Both are, however, outstanding, ripe on horror and feature some of his best imagery to date.
Shiver itself is a tale of greed, and one high on trypophobia. Junji Ito’s art is outstanding in this tale, making it nothing short of disturbing and unsettling.
The last story I want to talk about is Hanging Blimps, my favorite Junji Ito story of all time. It’s the tale of the strangest sort of apocalypse I’ve ever come upon. One day, mysterious balloons appear, take on the face of people and come to hang them. It’s not only one of Junji Ito’s most bizarre ideas, but also a showcasing of the ‘Death Drive’ and a criticism of Japan’s idol industry. Even without these deeper themes, however, and taken at face value, it’s a fantastically creepy and unsettling tale.
Shiver is the best out of all the Junji Ito collections out there, featuring some of his best, most ionic stories of all time.