My Manga Shelf Presents: Lovesickness
I don't wanna know my fortune thank you VERY much
Anyone who knows me knows that I am 100% that “hiding behind a pillow” bitch when it comes to horror. I love myself an intriguing story, but if it’s horror, it’s “lights on, broad daylight” hours in my house.
That being said, when it comes to horror manga, there’s no better name than Junji Ito, and his latest release, Lovesickness, continues an ongoing trend of slow build-up storytelling that leads to a visual explosion of stunning frights. If you’re a fan of Ito’s work or just a horror enthusiast, then you should definitely make room on your shelf for this one.
Synopsis for Lovesickness
Ryusuke returns to the town he once lived in because rumors are swirling about girls killing themselves after encountering a bewitchingly handsome young man. Harboring his own secret from time spent in this town, Ryusuke attempts to capture the beautiful boy and close the case, but …
Starting with the strikingly bloody “Lovesickness,” this volume collects ten stories showcasing horror master Junji Ito in peak form, including “The Strange Hikizuri Siblings” and “The Rib Woman.”
As stated in the synopsis, this is a collection of multiple horror stories. However, a good portion of the manga centers on Lovesickness with a few of the follow-up stories linking back to Ryusuke and the strange town he’s returned to. Each chapter, while having its own conclusion, continues the build-up of Ryusuke’s story and his determination to stop the beautiful boy who continues to bewitch those who are unlucky enough to ask him to tell their fortune.
Lovesickness and its overall arc take up over half the manga, the other half dedicated to other stories (and ones like The Strange Hikizuri Siblings also have multiple stories).
What I like about this manga is how it tells these stories, especially the main one. While Lovesickness is, primarily, in Rysuke’s POV, we get to see how the beautiful boy’s words have affected people in different ways and how everything links back to the same source. It’s not as simple as the boy telling people to kill themselves (though that DOES happen), in some cases he’s telling people they aren’t worth his time, or to worry about bigger problems, things that get twisted up in horrific ways.
I absolutely LOVE that we never get a definitive answer on where the boy came from, in fact, we don’t get definitive answers on where any of the horrors in this anthology come from. I have my suspicions, of course, especially when you learn more about Ryusuke’s backstory, but it’s left ambiguous. The boy could be a reflection of our main character, or he could be a result of the foggy town, or he could be a representation of, well, lovesickness, that moment where you have such a single-minded view of love that you lose all sense of reason, only, in this case, it leads to bizarrely horrific consequences.
A lot of the horror in this (besides the EXTREMELY detailed artwork) lies in how the characters react to the situations they’re in. This ranges from the lengths these women go for the sake of love, to the disturbing family in The Strange Hikizuri Siblings and their cruel actions toward other people, and each other. A lot of times, the situation escalates quickly because of the characters doing things for their own selfish reasons. They know about the danger, they just aren’t willing to listen, because they want what they want.
I, for one, would NOT go out to try and get my fortune read if I heard that girls were killing themselves at alarming rates.
I, for one, would NOT go to a strange family’s house because I’m interested in a seance, especially when this guy’s sister showed up at my door because “oh yeah, my brother followed you home the other day.”
I think what I like best about this manga is that the conflicts are surprisingly relatable, there just so happens to be supernatural forces at play. We can understand the body insecurities in The Rib Woman, there are just some terrifying forces at play that make you wanna grab this girl by the shoulders, tell her she looks fine the way she is, and pull her away from what’s bound to be a spine-chilling encounter.
At some points while reading, I felt a strong sense of “people rely too heavily on others deciding things for them” and “you have to make decisions for yourself because listening to others can severely hurt you,” at least that was the case with the beautiful boy. With Ryusuke (and some other characters later in the anthology) it very much felt like, “I gave you advice, but it’s not what you wanted to hear, so you’re not gonna listen to me.”
While I’m not a regular Junji Ito reader, my wife is, so she’s assured me that his style is all about, “everything looks fine, then you turn the page, and suddenly there’s a full page of nightmare fuel.” Lovesickness doesn’t get AS bizarre as, say, the imagery in Uzumaki, but there are some striking visuals that are a mix of OMG I DID NOT NEED TO SEE THAT and “holy shit, this art is amazing.” I cannot stress enough how detailed these pictures get. It’s a prime example of how, even if I’m a crybaby when it comes to horror, if the story and visuals are good I can’t help but take a closer look.
That’s what this manga is.
You can check out Lovesickness over at Viz today!
(Image: JI Inc./Asahi Shimbun Publications Inc.)
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