The Liminal Zone by Junji Ito

The 15 Best Junji Ito Books, Ranked

Japanese manga artist Junji Ito is one of the preeminent horror icons of our time, with multiple books and stories that evoke a visceral fear of everything from ghosts to dark holes. In 2022, he released The Liminal Zone, a four-story collection based on some of Japan’s most famous myths. It made The Mary Sue‘s list of the best comics and graphic novels of 2022, and its popularity has inspired new fans to seek out Ito’s older works.

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If you’re looking for the best works from the Japanese artist, look no further. These are the 15 best Junji Ito books, ranked.

15. Venus in the Blind Spot

Venus in the Blind Spot cover art by Junji Ito
(VIZ Media)

Venus in the Blind Spot collects 10 of Ito’s creepiest short stories, including fan-favorite “The Enigma of Amigara Fault,” in which two hikers meet on their way to see a strange fault left behind from an earthquake, and an adaptation of Ramp Edogawa’s seminal horror story “Human Chair,” in which an author receives a letter detailing its anonymous writer’s list of crimes. The hardcover book also includes special color pages and illustrations from Ito’s long-form manga No Longer Human.

14. Black Paradox

Black Paradox cover art by Junji Ito
(VIZ Media)

In Black Paradox, four people wanting to die by suicide meet through the eponymous website and come together to find “the perfect death.” Nurse Maruso agonizes over the future; engineer Pii-tan struggles to exist alongside his own robot clone; Taburo is tortured by his doppelganger; and Baracchi absolutely hates the birthmark on her face. Together, they attempt to find “the perfect death” and open the door to a strange, unexpected destiny.

13. Remina

Remina cover art by Junji Ito
(VIZ Media)

What happens when a strange, destructive, new planet is named for a girl who may or may not be responsible for its path of annihilation? In a word: chaos. Remina follows the daughter of a scientist, Dr. Oguro, who names an unknown planet that emerges from a wormhole after her. She becomes as famous as her dad and the new planet, but when Remina (the planet) begins speeding through the galaxy destroying everything in its path and eventually threatening Earth itself, people begin to question (Remina) the girl’s influence.

12. Tombs

Tombs by Junji Ito cover art
(VIZ Media)

Tombs collects nine stories that explore death, body horror, and more. The titular story, “Tomb Town,” takes place in a community where dozens upon dozens of tombstones stand together, stretching as far as the eye can see. It tackles guilt head-on, as the protagonist struggles to reconcile accidentally killing someone he knows in a car accident in said town.

Other stories feature a nonverbal girl whose tongue is turned into a slug and a young man who moves into a new town next to a house with only one window, from which his neighbor calls to him every night.

11. Deserter

The cover of 'Deserter' by Junji Ito
(VIZ Media)

Although Deserter hit shelves in 2021, it collects a dozen of Ito’s earliest horror stories, including a Sandman-esque tale about a boy whose nightmares are threatening to enter the real world and another about an army deserter whose host family convinces him World War II never ended. This collection hints at Ito’s later, more expansive works, while standing out for its psychological terrors.

10. Tomie

The cover of Tomie by Junji Ito
(VIZ Media)

Tomie is one of Ito’s earlier works, and it ostensibly tells the story of the eponymous character, a high school girl with a supernatural hold over men of all kinds. When she’s accidentally killed during a school trip, her classmates panic and try to hide the crime by dismembering her body and hiding the pieces. The next day, Tomie is back in class as if nothing has happened—as it turns out, she’s an immortal succubus. And no matter how many times the men she seduces turn their passionate rage on her, Tomie will never be gone for good.

Although this classic series is named after Tomie, it isn’t technically about her: It’s about the people in her radius who can’t help but fall under her spell. She’s a catalyst more than a character.

9. Smashed

The cover of Smashed by Junji Ito
(VIZ Media)

Smashed contains 13 of Ito’s original stories, which is more than any of his other available collections. From the earthbound people who cannot leave their current residence for the rest of their short lives to the haunted house that leads its visitors into actual Hell, this collection plays on some of our worst and most mundane-seeming fears and says, “Yes, you should be afraid.”

8. The Liminal Zone

Cover of The Liminal Zone by Junji Ito
(VIZ Media)

Ito’s newest release, The Liminal Zone, is a collection of four stories based on Japanese myths. In one, a couple disembarks a train and encounters a life-changing “weeping woman.” In another, a different couple visits the infamous suicide forest Aokigahara to die together by suicide, only to have their plan interrupted by something otherworldly.

The Liminal Zone illustrates how much Ito’s art and storytelling have evolved, and it’s yet another masterclass in horror.

7. Junji Ito’s Cat Diary: Yon & Mu

Cover of Junji Ito's Cat Diary: Yon & Mu
(Kodansha)

Junji Ito is not a cat person. And in his graphic memoir Junji Ito’s Cat Diary: Yon & Mu, he applies his iconic horror style to a much more mundane story: that of becoming a cat parent. In this book, Ito (as J-kun) builds a new house and invites his fiancée, A-ko, to live with him. She brings along Yon, a family cat, and Mu, a fluffy Norwegian forest cat.

J-kun is a dog person, and being silently stalked by his pets distresses him deeply. However, he eventually comes to find both Yon and Mu very cute, and attempts to gain their affections. As any cat parent can attest, this involves a fair amount of trial and error, and the comedic horror is delightful to read.

6. Gyo

Gyo cover art by Junji Ito
(VIZ Media)

In Gyo, the stench of death hangs over Okinawa, where Tadashi and Kaori live. Then a terrifying fish with legs emerges from the sea, sending them both on a horrific spiral into the sea. Considered one of the creepiest stories by Ito to ever hit shelves, Gyo invites readers to face death head-on in one of the scariest environments on Earth.

5. Lovesickness

Cover of Lovesickness by Junji Ito
(VIZ Media)

The titular story in Lovesickness follows Ryusuke, a secretive young man who returns to his old town where he hears rumors about girls dying by suicide after encountering a bewitchingly handsome young man. Ryusuke wants to capture the man in question and stop another tragedy from occurring, but it isn’t as simple as he hopes.

In addition to the eponymous tale, Lovesickness contains nine more stories, including two about the disturbing Hikizuri Siblings and another focusing on the Rib Woman, whose name is as distressing as her story.

4. Frankenstein

Cover of Junji Ito's Frankenstein
(VIZ Media)

Ito’s adaptation of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein is perhaps the best version to date, thanks to the beautiful marriage of Shelley’s characters with Ito’s storytelling. Ito remains true to the source material but filters it through the lens of his singular artistic style, putting Dr. Frankenstein and his monster in a whole new light.

Also included in this volume are 10 original stories by Ito. Six of them focus on one of his recurring characters, the high school student Oshikiri, who lives in a dilapidated old mansion connected to a haunted parallel world. In these stories, Oshikiri encounters doppelgängers, murdered friends, and more. Ito’s Frankenstein also includes a story about his family dog, Non-non the Maltese, which gives readers a nice break from the horror.

3. Sensor

Cover of Sensor by Junji Ito
(VIZ Media)

Sensor is one of Ito’s most beautiful books, both in imagery and in story. Kyoko Byakuya walks alone at the foot of Mount Sengoku, where she meets a mysterious man who claims to have been waiting for her. He invites her to a nearby village where everything is covered in super-thin volcanic glass fibers that shine like gold. It makes the village look like it’s covered in hair.

At night, the villagers gaze up at the stars and see hundreds of unidentified flying objects—all of which are aiming directly for their small, golden village. Sensor is a cosmic horror story that examines the meaning of the universe and explores the ongoing battle between light and dark.

2. Shiver

Cover of Shiver by Junji Ito
(VIZ Media)

Shiver is perhaps Ito’s scariest story collection to date. In “Hanging Blimps,” murderous balloons appear in the sky, bearing the faces of their intended victims; in “Fashion Model,” an amateur film crew hires the terrifying model Fuji, leading to a bloodbath.

These are just two of the collected works in this nine-story epic, which relies heavily on gore and tryophobic imagery (playing on the fear of small holes). But Ito also puts a unique spin on the horror genre as a whole and the ways in which we understand greed, illness, sacrifice, and even dreams.

1. Uzumaki

The cover of Uzumaki by Junji Ito
(VIZ Media)

What could be harmful about a spiral? The three-volume epic Uzumaki has a surprising answer to this question in what is widely considered to be Ito’s magnum opus. It’s also a seminal horror story worthy of multiple reads, as long as you can stomach it. There are no monsters here; just a curse, an inescapable obsession, and death.

Uzumaki takes place in the fictional coastal Japanese town Kurouzu-cho, which is haunted by the titular spiral—a hypnotic shape that the residents of the town can’t stop obsessing over. Soon, obsession turns to tragedy, and teenager Kirie Goshima is determined to figure out what’s happening. Her boyfriend, Shuichi Saito, would rather get the hell out of dodge.

(featured image: VIZ Media)

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Samantha Puc
Samantha Puc (she/they) is a fat, disabled, lesbian writer and editor who has been working in digital and print media since 2010. Their work focuses primarily on LGBTQ+ and fat representation in pop culture and their writing has been featured on Refinery29, Bitch Media, them., and elsewhere. Samantha is the co-creator of Fatventure Mag and she contributed to the award-winning Fat and Queer: An Anthology of Queer and Trans Bodies and Lives. They are an original cast member of Death2Divinity, and they are currently pursuing a Master of Fine Arts degree in creative nonfiction at The New School. When Samantha is not working or writing, she loves spending time with her cats, reading, and perfecting her grilled cheese recipe.