It’s been an enthralling year for fans of Junji Ito, the acclaimed master of horror manga. In 2023, we’ve witnessed a chilling series of events unfold that have kept us on the edge of our seats. This year’s journey through Ito’s dark and twisted worlds began with Netflix’s anthology adaptation in January and is set to conclude with Adult Swim’s take on “Uzumaki” by the end of the year. But right in the heart of this macabre journey is a new collection of his work in English known as “Mimi’s Tales of Terror,” a series of short stories inspired by urban legends that are sure to send shivers down your spine, making it a perfect companion for dark, cold October nights.
“Mimi’s Tales of Terror” is an intriguing adaptation in itself, as it takes nine stories from “Shin Mimibukuro,” a collection of Japanese urban legends authored by Hirokatsu Kihara and Ichiro Nakayama, and transforms them into Junji Ito’s signature brand of horror manga. The central character of this chilling collection is Mimi, a university student who, for reasons left tantalizingly unclear, finds herself drawn into various supernatural predicaments.
The journey begins with simplicity – Mimi is driving down the street and notices something peculiar on a utility pole before it inexplicably vanishes. This four-page opening tale serves as a prologue that sets the tone for the rest of the book. Just like much of Ito’s work, “Mimi’s Tales of Terror” delves into the ambiguous boundary between life and death and explores how the deceased can insidiously infiltrate our modern world.
Throughout the book, we encounter a diverse range of eerie phenomena. There’s a mysterious red dot in a hidden room with a disturbing appetite, tombstones that mysteriously reposition themselves each night, and a perplexing enigma involving a little girl’s repeatedly dirty face. Each story begins in an everyday setting – a beach trip with friends or Mimi’s visit to her family – but swiftly spirals into madness as someone or something grapples with terrors from the other side. Moreover, this collection introduces one of Ito’s most terrifying monsters yet – a next-door neighbour (or neighbours) with extendable, mechanical limbs that would make anyone want to put down the controller and walk away in a video game.
What sets “Mimi’s Tales of Terror” apart, as always, is Ito’s meticulous and intricate artistic style. His portrayal of urban landscapes is so detailed that it makes the otherworldly horrors leap off the page, intensifying the fear factor. In this collection, Ito showcases his artistic versatility by conjuring a wide range of eerie entities, from crazed bodybuilders to ethereal, long-limbed ghosts. Perhaps one of the most startling moments in the book is a simple shadow – a reminder that the relatable can be just as horrifying as the otherworldly.
This English reissue includes an additional story that doesn’t feature Mimi, and a delightfully illustrated afterword from Junji Ito. In the afterword, Ito reflects on how he changed and expanded on the source material, expressing gratitude to Kihara and Nakayama for allowing him the creative freedom to craft his nightmarish vision. This creative liberty has always been at the core of Ito’s unique and haunting storytelling.
In a year brimming with adaptations of Junji Ito’s work, “Mimi’s Tales of Terror” serves as a stark reminder of the unparalleled terror that can be unleashed on the pages of a manga. Ito’s unbridled imagination and his ability to blur the lines between reality and horror have once again enthralled and terrified readers. As we delve into this collection of urban legends and eerie tales, it becomes clear that Junji Ito’s mastery of horror transcends any medium, and “Mimi’s Tales of Terror” stands as a testament to his enduring brilliance.