Junji Itô, splendid master of horror, honored in Angoulême

The event dedicated to the ninth art, exhibits for the first time the work of the undisputed master of horror storytelling in Japan.

On the Japanese island of Honshū, a shy teenager drinks from the readings of Kazuo Umezu, the inventor of horror manga. A simple reading pleasure that will become a passion. Today at the dawn of his sixties, Junji Itô, considered one of the masters of horror manga, can boast of in turn fascinating millions of souls and entering the Pantheon of mangakas.

Celebrated this year in Angoulême with a major exhibition, adapted on screen on Netflix (which will inaugurate the animated series on January 19 Maniac by Junji Itô: Macabre Anthology), superbly reissued by Mangetsu, multi award-winning in Japan and the United States… the work of the mangaka, accumulates honors. “What is happening is colossal, raves Sullivan Rouaud, collection director at Mangetsu. Junji Itô is an author that we rediscover more than thirty years after his debut.

His work was patiently developed on the sidelines of a dental technician activity. The one who claims to be Lovecraft “for his way of approaching horror and the unspeakable”, has striven to cultivate and sharpen his passion for drawing, to the point of making it his new profession. In 1987 he published the masterpiece Tomiebecoming one of the major figures of the horror genre, like “of Carrie by Stephen King“says Sullivan Rouaud.

Tomie, recognizable among all with his bangs and his mole under the eye. Junji Itō / Tomie / AsahiAsahi

Endowed with a prodigious beauty, the young high school student Tomie is condemned to be reborn eternally after being murdered by the men she seduces. Over the course of her reincarnations, she develops a rage whose cruelty only equals an unquenchable thirst for revenge. This angel’s face hides a dark side which manifests itself by horrible growths appearing from time to time according to its endless adventures.

Combination of beauty and monstrosity, delirious visions, supernatural creature of unknown origins, violence, gore, mind-blowing body transformations… With Tomie, Junji Itô lays down the springs of his writing. Interweaving graphics with almost surgical precision to his delirious vision of the horror story, the author makes violence and bloody bodies aesthetic. Sometimes grotesque and absurd, his characters are nonetheless terrifying, his graphic virtuosity imbued with delicacy and elegance exalting all their monstrosity. Soichi, a young boy suffering from anemia and victim of bullying, is the perfect paragon. His childish face, his extravagant grimaces, bordering on burlesque, do not detract from the terror that the cruelty of his actions can arouse.

Soichi, a character as burlesque as it is horrifying. Junji Itō / Mangetsu

A fan of short stories, the mangaka illustrates morbid visions, steeped in urban legends, which he stages in delirious forms. Murderous balloons dotting the sky of a city with the effigy of its inhabitants who end up hanging from the end of their rope, vinyl triggering murderous impulses, fruits gorged with blood… At Juinji Ito, the horror is interferes everywhere. The street, the schoolyards, the family home very often form the decor. Everyday life is the author’s favorite playground, but he does not refrain from exploring other lands. With Spiral, another great title that has consecrated it, it moves away from this domestic horror and draws on science fiction to take the reader to the imaginary city of Kurouzu, caught up in the terrible curse of the Spiral. The cosmic horror of sensoris reminiscent of the harrowing and terrifying world of Lovecraft.

Curse of the Spiral… Junji Ito/ Spiral/ Asahi

“Juinji Ito is horror in its entirety between nightmarish worlds, mutilated and dismembered bodies, ghosts and obscure legends, without ever falling into the vulgar or the Gothic”, emphasizes Sullivan Rouaud. “He knew how to capture his deepest intuitions to give birth to them on paper, with the rigor of a scientist. All at the service of a very advanced quest for aesthetics”. Junji Itô’s spectral universe exalts horror in all its splendour.

“Junji Itô, in the den of delirium”, from January 26 to 29, 2023 at the Franquin space in Angoulême.

Junji Itô, splendid master of horror, honored in Angoulême