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Ideally, all of them. But I suppose only avid fans and manga collectors would do such a thing. So, if you’re new to Junji Ito, and want to know which one of his works you should get first, this article is made for you.
But before we proceed, I want you to know that the following list is based highly on my preferences. On the stories that I think are the most interesting and scary. So, with that out of the way, let’s move on.
Anyway, to present a wider selection of books, I decided to put Junji Ito’s works into four different categories and give you what I think is the best of each.
First up is…
1. The best full length manga: Gyo
These are the manga that focus on one story from start to finish. Take one chapter out of it and the story would not make any sense. The titles in this category are Gyo, Remina, and Sensor.
Gyo is a story about a fish with spider-like legs that come out of the ocean and invade the land. You’ll see absurd images of Tunas and Sharks walking around eating and infecting people. Yes, it is as absurd as it can get and filled to the brim with gore and disfigured people.
The reason why I pick Gyo is simply because it is the superior story out of the three. Not only that, it also showcases one of the strongest elements of Junji Ito’s brand of scary stories, the bizarre body horror.
2. The best short stories collection: Fragments of Horror
These are the collection of short stories jammed into one book. So each chapter is a stand alone story. The nominees are Shiver, Smashed, Lovesickness, Venus in the blind spot, and Fragments of horror.
Fragment of horrors is definitely one of the thinnest Junji Ito’s short story collections in this list. If all you want is simply more stories, then you can get more content in the collection like shivers or smashed. But if you prefer quality over quantity, then Fragment of horror is easily Junji Ito’s best collection to date.
The one story that stuck to me the most is about a man who tries to hold his head together after he just got beheaded. I can feel the horror and frustration of the character through every panel of that story.
3. The best interconnected short stories: Uzumaki
These are the manga that consist of what could be considered short stories but focus only on one object/subject. Take out one chapter and the story would still make sense. They are Uzumaki and Tomie.
Some people may consider this category as part of a full-length work, but to me it is clearly not. There is simply no beginning nor ending in a book like Tomie and I feel like Junji Ito will continue to use the character again later on in other stories.
Uzumaki, on the other hand, has a lot more cohesion to it, especially at the start and the end of the story. But the middle part is what makes it feel like a collection of stories connected only by the same theme. Just like Tomie. But it is still a damn good book though.
4. The best adaptation: Frankenstein
These are some manga that was adapted by Junji Ito from well-known novels written by other authors. The manga in this category are Frankenstein by Mary Shelley and No Longer Human by Osamu Dazai.
To be honest, if we talk about a more faithful and fleshed out adaptation, then the answer would be No longer human. But there are two reasons why I end up picking Frankenstein instead.
First of all, I believe Frankenstein suits Junji Ito’s style of horror and storytelling way more than No Longer Human. The former deal with existentialism through the lens of body horror, while the latter is also sort of about existentialism but through the lens of psychological horror instead.
Second of all, I’m just not a big fan of No Longer Human. Don’t get me wrong, it’s good, but just not my cup of poison. That being said, but both definitely featured some of the best art from Junji Ito.
Junji Ito is one of the most prolific mangaka in the industry, particularly in the format of short stories. There are tons of material that still haven’t even been translated to English yet.
That’s why I will update this list accordingly whenever any new Junji Ito’s book pops out in the wilderness.
I might change my pick if the new one is better than the last. Who knows, I might even invent new categories to accommodate the new titles. But until then, these four are the cream of the crop.
And one more thing, as you can see, there are affiliate links under each title to point you towards the relevant page on Amazon/RightStufAnime. If you’re interested in getting any of this manga, please consider buying it through those links. It will help this blog grow at no additional cost to you. Thanks for reading!