“Countless tombstones stand in rows throughout a small community, forming a bizarre tableau. What fate awaits a brother and sister after a traffic accident in this town of the dead? In another tale, a girl falls silent, her tongue transformed into a slug. Can a friend save her? Then, when a young man moves to a new town, he finds the house next door has only a single window. What does his grotesque neighbor want, calling out to him every evening from that lone window?–Fresh nightmares brought to you by horror master Junji Ito.” (Viz Media)
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Viz media continues its collection of works by the esteemed master of the macabre, Junji Ito, with its most recent collection “Tombs” highlighting the mangaka in top form as a master storyteller in the horror genre. In fact, “Tombs” proves itself to be what is, perhaps, the best collection to date of the mangaka's work.
What makes the collection stand out is its variety in exploring the different elements of what Ito excels at, while also, thankfully, being devoid of any comedic segments. The collection offers up body horror, supernatural, metaphysical, otherworldly, and, the less explored aspect of Ito's storytelling, the horrors other people can inflict on one another. Furthermore, the series comes off the back of the recently released “Junji Ito Maniac“, and reiterates how superior the source material is to the underwhelming adaptation. Stories such as “The Strange Tale of the Tunnel” even have a different ending and additional details than the adaptation, making the short worth exploring beyond the anime. As far as ‘originality', the stories themselves are a mix of familiar, due to the TV series, and new to publication. In total, there are four stories (half) that have not been in print or adapted previously.
The strong collection makes it difficult to pick a favorite, though “Slug Girl” already having notoriety and being previously published does make it more of a welcome addition as a fan favorite as opposed to a definitive entry in the collection. However, the collection offers up pleasant surprises in the stories focused on human behavior, with “The Bronze Statue” showing avarice taking over characters and causing them to commit horrific crimes–it also contains one of the most ghastly deaths Ito has ever committed to the page. Comparatively, “The Clubhouse” captures paranoia among a group of warring students that showcases how Ito can excel as a mangaka in the horror realms outside of evoking sensational elements like the paranormal.
There is little to comment on when it comes to the art of Junji Ito that has not already been said, as his style and the way he crafts nightmarish visions are detailed and unique unto himself. Still, there are glorious defining moments of horror within, and entries like “Tombs” and “The Bronze Statue” contain some of the most grisly illustrations conjured by the mangaka. The book itself continues with the same quality as the rest of Ito's collected works, complementing the other hardcover releases that look so sharp on one's manga shelf.
The important aspect of the collection is that no segment falls short or offers a tonal shift that distracts from the elements that Ito excels. This makes it an ideal place to start for those unfamiliar with the mangaka, those wanting to introduce his work to others, or a collection worth revisiting when one wants a quick dive into the divine madness that only Ito can create. Ultimately, “Tombs” presents Junji Ito at the height of his skill as a masterful storyteller of the macabre and is a must-grab for fans.