Gyo by Junji Ito: Fish Heads, Fish Heads, Roly-Poly Fish Heads

Junji Ito is, by far, one of my favorite manga storytellers. He’s also the best horror writers I’ve ever read because of his penchant for Lovecraftian terror, forcing his victims to suffer through deep, existential dread by an unknown force. Uzumaki is a favorite and serves as a great introduction to his style of surrealist horror. I love being scared by Ito’s stories, which is funny because I’m usually a wimp when it comes to scary stuff.

Just this week, I purchased the digital version of Ito’s Gyo from a Viz Media sale and while it’s not my most favorite of Ito’s works, it nonetheless provides no shortage of creeps.

Gyo is a story of technology run amok. Tadashi, on vacation with his girlfriend Kaori–depicted here as a woman with hypersensitive smell–struggle to keep their relationship afloat, unaware of the horror that awaits them. During their stay, Kaori constantly complains of a fishy smell that just won’t go away. They are soon beset by a rotting fish, the source of the foul odor, skittering around with a pair of robot legs grafted onto its body. Tadashi manages to subdued the creature and bury it inside a plastic back in the backyard. The event distresses Kaori greatly, who comes down with a fever just as the beachside town is suddenly invaded by an army of dead sea creatures, including octopi and great white sharks, with the same grafted appendages.

In typical Ito fashion, there is more than meets the eye and before long, humans find themselves in the unfortate position of being used as hosts for unchecked technology originally designed during World War II. Humanity faces its extinction and Tadashi gets a front row seat to Armageddon as he is mysteriously immune to the horrifying transformation process but helpless to save the world. Along the way, he encounters crazed survivors, a group of which has turned the dead animals into a profane circus act. We’ve seen this sort of thing before in Hellstar Remina, another personal favorite, in which people faced with their demise will do the strangest things to cope with their situation. The story ends like so many others: devoid of a happy ending and more questions than answers. Again, it’s not my favorite because the nature of the horror is man made. Still, it’s pretty creepy stuff, especially when the robots get their hooks into humans.

My digital copy of Gyo, which was split into two volumes, also included two short stories. The Sad Tale of the Principal Post is a hilarious tale about a father getting inexplicably trapped under a house. It’s more funny than scary because there’s no setup for the events that take place. There’s no time to be scared because the story ends as suddenly as it starts. It’s a good, fun laugh in light of Gyo‘s dark ending.

The Enigma of Amigara Fault, on the other hand, is a killer read. It also holds a special place in my heart because it was what introduced me to Junji Ito in the first place. It’s also the most evocative of his work due to its pure psychological terror. A series of earthquakes reveals the presence of human shaped holes that have no reason, in nature, to exist. Told from the point of view of a young man, he watches as people are drawn to the mountain to search for their “hole.” Those who go in don’t come out the same. Seriously, Gyo is worth owning just for this story alone! It’s so beautifully creepy and the more drawn out it gets (the story is about 30 pages), the thicker the dread.

Presented in his distinctive artistic style–ringed eyes, terrified faces, and exquisite renderings of terrible body horror–this is a must own for anyone who counts themselves a fan of horror and Ito’s work.

Title: Gyo
Author: Junji Ito
Publisher: Viz Media
Media: Digital
Genre: Horror, Psychological Thriller, Supernatural
Pages: 402
Release Date: 10/22/2012 (volume 1); 11/26/2012 (volume 2)
Purchased Or Received For Review? Purchased
Where to buy: Viz

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