Slowly but surely, my horror manga collection grows, and April 2021’s new addition just so happens to be Junji Ito’s Lovesickness. Viz Media has been releasing Junji Ito Story Collections for a little while now, and I am in love with their matching hardcover design. The soft pastels are so deceptive. Creepy tales, the kind that lead to uncomfortable dreams, live inside these volumes.
The core story in this volume is the title story, “Lovesickness.” Ryusuke returns to his childhood home, a town with a strange tradition of asking the first person you encounter at a crossroads to tell you your fortune. His middle school classmates have dabbled in the practice, but Ryusuke is not comfortable with it. He avoids talking about it by running away from such conversations. But rumors of a beautiful boy appearing at crossroads on foggy days begin popping up. And tied to the rumors are mysterious deaths. These appear to be similar to someone who committed suicide just before Ryusuke’s family first moved away. All of this adds to the unsettled feeling haunting Ryusuke.
Two of the shorter stories in this volume that lingered with me are “The Mansion of Phantom Pain” and “The Rib Woman.” “The Mansion of Phantom Pain” was particularly intriguing. A sickly son has the ability to feel pain beyond his body. In order to ease his suffering, his family employs others to soothe those aches and pains contained within their home. “The Rib Woman” is a twisted tale of women’s vanity leading us down a dangerous path. Unnecessary surgeries in the name of beauty are not worth the risk, people!
If there was one set of characters I could do without in this world, it would be the strange Hikizuri siblings. Only two stories featured this truly awful family, of which I am so very thankful. The stories themselves are well-drawn and written. Not one of the siblings is at all likeable. Each one is a monster in his or her own way.
I am never disappointed with Junji Ito’s artwork. He continues to amaze me with the detail tucked away inside his masterfully crafted tales of horror. The way the beautiful boy materializes within the fog as he nears his next victim is just stunning. His emaciated ghosts swarming en masse cause tiny goosebumps to form along my arms. And those little things he tucks away in the background, like an eerie face in the dark corners of a room, are just genius.
I know I am still hoping for an epic Kojima/Del Toro/Ito team up to bring us some fantastic video game experience. Until then, I’ll be devouring every volume of work Viz brings to North America. Lovesickness is just the latest to offer people bite-sized, horror snacks.
Lovesickness will officially join Viz Media’s Junji Ito collection on April 20, 2021.