Lovesickness is a collection of horror short stories by author Junji Ito.
Classic Junji Ito. He has been quite prolific the last few years, pumping out numerous short story collections faster than most readers can keep up. This collection features 5 stories with his usual disturbing imagery. Fans of Ito should consider this one a must read, but really, which ones aren’t?
The thing to keep in mind about Ito is that his stories are essentially the Japanese version of Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark. They are short and basically only the scary part. His story telling is… meh and the endings are nonexistent. Most of them just kind of stop with a wave of the hand dismissing the reader from the reality he created.
Once you accept that these are campfire stories and not high literature the mangas become much more entertaining.
Lovesickness is the first and title story of the book, spanning about half of the pages. The basic premise is that if you go to a crossroads during a foggy evening you ask the first person you see to tell your fortune. Most of the people participating in this little folk rumor are young women asking if they will find true love.
Then a beautiful boy starts appearing to give people bad fortunes. He tells the girls that they will not find love, that their lives are hopeless, and other devastating news. This is so distressing to the girls that they commit suicide right in the street.
This becomes a sort of self-fulfilling prophecy which results in the deaths of many many women. Ito always goes over the top and then keeps going and this story is no exception. His drawings are the star here as we see gruesome images of the streets filling with the blood of these cursed fortunes.
The Strange Hikizuri Siblings
The second entry to Lovesickness follows the Hikizuri siblings, an ugly group of children and young adults who are living alone after the death of their parents.
Spanning over 2 sections these siblings are cruel, disgusting, and supernatural. Once again the stories focus on suicide in a way that may be foreign and insensitive to American audiences. Consider yourself trigger warned.
The 2nd issue in which the siblings attempt to hold a seance to talk with their dead parents was my favorite of the two. It’s a classic twist of when a prank turns real and scares the prankers. I don’t like mean spirited pranks so I’m always happy to see those tricksters get their comeuppance.
The Mansion of Phantom Pain
The Mansion of Phantom Pain is my personal favorite in the book. It’s about a boy who feels phantom pain but not just from a missing limb. He feels pain around his whole house. The family has hired people to help massage the pain away.
These employees run around the mansion and are instructed where the pain is. They don’t really believe it but they’re getting paid fairly well. However, the workers start getting injured and not noticing their own pain. The boy seems to be absorbing it all into himself. This has disastrous consequences.
I really appreciate Ito’s creativity. His stories explore ideas that I’ve never seen before. He’s willing to take leaps and sometimes really sticks the landing.
The Rib Woman
Ito plays with the concepts of traditional beauty a lot in his books. The Rib Woman starts with a young woman who is unhappy with the shape of her body. She thinks that if she can get two ribs removed then she’ll finally be content with the narrow waist of her dreams.
Girls who have this procedure done start hearing unusual music and find a strange woman in a park playing a sort of hand harp made out of human ribs. You can see where this might be going.
Once again the key is Ito’s drawings. The story is fairly simple but his manga are about the images.
Memories of Real Poop
Good grief I hate that title. Clearly, this is my least favorite story of the bunch. I honestly don’t even like that it was included in the book.
It’s about a boy, probably actually Ito, who sees realistic fake poop at a market. He buys it but feels shame about spending his money on it. He uses it to prank people anyway.
Huh? Okay? Is this a confession for a boyhood misdeed? Eh, skip this one, not worth it and icky.
Lovesickness got 4 out of 5 stories right for me. I do consider myself a big fan of his and continue to read anything I can get my hands on. He always delivers with something I’ve never seen before and that’s worth a lot in this over saturated market.
4/5 falling in loves 💘💘💘💘
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For more horror manga check out Another