Review and brief summaries of Junji Ito’s short story collection Deserter
Spoiler Free Review
No one can stop the powerhouse that is Japanese horror manga superstar Junji Ito. At this point he has released dozens of books that are all well received within the community. Deserter is a collection of some of his earliest work that was previously unreleased, especially overseas.
Like any of his collections there are numerous illustrated short stories that contain his brand of grotesque horror. Like any short story collection some are better than others.
The title story, Deserter, is the final chapter of the book. It’s the story of a man who fled his wartime responsibilities and has been hiding away with the help of a family that secretly holds a grudge against him. Some of Ito’s stories, like this one, are less focused on his trademark body horror but they all have strong elements of the horrific.
Although these stories are his earliest they are certainly not his weakest. Many of the illustrations are less detailed than his later ones but the seeds of what his talent will bloom into are there. His creativity shines through with stories like The Face Thief and his emotional devastation is showcased in Bullied.
Weaker entries like The Reanimator’s Sword pad out the page length but do not detract from the more original works. There are more good stories than bad ones in this book for sure.
Honestly, there isn’t much to say about this release that couldn’t be said about any other Ito manga. It’s good. It’s not phenomenal like his longer form works but it’s good.
If you’re a fan of Ito’s there is really no reason to not pick up any of his books. If you’ve read some from him and it’s not for you then Deserter isn’t going to change your mind. However, if you’re new and curious you might as well start with where his career began and explore the early works here.
4/5 creepy spooky people 🕴🏻🕴🏻🕴🏻🕴🏻
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Deserter Short Story Summaries
Junji Ito’s Deserter contains 13 of his earliest illustrated short stories. These summaries contain spoilers.
A boss has his assistant over for an unusual dinner. She has expressed interest in enjoying unusual foods so he attempts to wow her with some of the most off putting. At the end of a meal including live insects he attempts to serve her his own blood. She doesn’t like the taste. In a further attempt to force her to drink it he cuts into his own neck to spray the blood down her throat.
A girl’s face changes when she spends a lot of time with someone. This strange power causes her to latch on to pretty girls so that she can adopt their beauty. She wants to use this to impress a boy she likes. The school becomes fed up with her and they run her off by wearing scary masks to change her appearance into that of a monster.
Where the Sandman Lives
A man’s dream self is trying to escape the confines of his body while he sleeps. The dream self keeps trying to turn the body inside out. This man tries and tries to avoid sleep but eventually asks his girlfriend to stay over and watch him so she can wake him if he starts to invert. The dream man overpowers both of them with the man turning inside out and the girlfriend stuck with him inside.
The Devil’s Logic
In this entry to Deserter death has an advocate in human form. They sneak up on people and whisper into their ears. Convinced by whatever death is saying they kill themselves in order to escape life and join the dead.
The Long Hair in the Attic
Continuing a tradition of Ito’s disturbing hair stories this short focuses on a couple whose boyfriend encourages the girlfriend to grow her hair long. After he eventually breaks up with her she becomes despondent and removed from family and friends. They find her body one day without her head. The head is in the attic being controlled by the hair, ready to get revenge.
A playwright hands out tapes every time he dumps a girl. These video recordings are his way of saying goodbye. The latest scorned girlfriend attempts to kill him before watching her tape. When she does watch it she finds that it’s a well written conversation with an accompanying script that she can read the lines back in time with his. She opts to finish killing him and live with the man on the tape instead.
The Reanimator’s Sword
In what I found to be the least remarkable of the Deserter collection a young man discovers a reanimator has brought him and members of his family back to life. He kills the reanimator and takes his sword and powers for himself. So ungrateful.
A Father’s Love
A man takes over his children’s bodies so that he can experience a youth he never got. In doing so he naturally drives them away. I mean, who would like being fully possessed by their father? He kills them as punishment for not approving of his controlling acts.
Hikers encounter a Buddhist cult in this short story. The cult performs living mummifications and the hikers find themselves in a terrifying labyrinth of mummies aging back generations.
Village of the Siren
A man returns to his home town to discover a new factory has been built and is employing everyone in the area. Residents are acting strangely, way different from what he remembers. Every night a siren alarms that brainwashes them into doing the bidding of a demon. The townsfolk are guided to fill a lake with the blood of babies. Classic baby cult.
My favorite of the Ito collection is the story of a very long revenge plan and the cycle of abuse. A girl bullies a younger kid relentlessly in their youth. Years later he returns and they reconcile and end up getting married. They have a baby and then he leaves her out of a long held grudge. Left alone without him to balance her out she begins to bully the son to punish the father who left them.
In the title story a family has been hiding a deserter from the war. The brother of the family blames the man for the death of his sister. Due to this they keep the man trapped away long past the end of the war. They tell him that it’s still not safe and that he must stay hidden and alone. In the end it turns out that the deserter has been a ghost the whole time. Who’s really punishing who?