I talked about my experiment with, and affection for, Junji Ito’s Uzumaki a few days ago, and that led to me ordering two more collected editions of his work, including the above, called Gyo. And … uh … well, I have one more left and I guess we’ll see how it goes, because Gyo is … kinda bad? Like, “about fart monsters” bad. The big scary beasts in the book are literally fart monsters. There are lots of lovingly detailed drawings of fish, people, and various other living things with tubes implanted into their asses to harvest their internal gases. That’s not a joke. It’s not even a humorous exaggeration. They’re fart monsters. Their farts might be sentient. It’s unclear.
Fart monsters are not scary, no matter how you try.
Now, there’s definitely some creepy shit in here, and Ito’s art is awesome, particularly the way he ramps up the detail whenever he’s drawing anything particularly horrific, but the problem is that the creepy pictures are connected by story and words and talking, and the words ruin the cool pictures. Not the least because I hate the font this book is lettered in, which makes everyone look like they’re shouting, all the time. And a lot of time they are! There is quite a bit of shouting in this manga. Not always for a good reason.
It also features one of the worst female characters and one of the worst romantic relationships I’ve ever encountered in literature, period. Kaori is terrible in every imaginable way, and is a collection of every misogynist stereotype about women one could write down, and her boyfriend Tadashi is also terrible although not in an especially gendered way. You never for a second understand why these two even like each other because they are both insufferable and their relationship is toxic as hell, and I’m not sure if the book was deliberately written that way, but I don’t actually think it was. Like, she’s worse than him because her shittiness is so explicitly gendered, but they’re both terrible characters.
So, yeah, I didn’t like this one, although I’m still three-starring it, mostly on the strength of the artwork and the two amazing stories at the end of the book. They are both maybe the length of a standard Western comic book, so we’re talking two ten-minute reads, maybe, but the second one in particular, called The Enigma of Amigara Fault, is spectacular. The other suffers from a little bit of The Dumb; there will be some who won’t like it because it’ll fail the smell test right away and it isn’t long enough to win your trust back, but if you get past that it’s a great little short horror story. It also suffers a little bit from being translated into English; I assume the phrase “principal post,” meaning the main support column of a house, doesn’t sound quite as ridiculous when repeated in Japanese as it does in English. Amigara Fault, though, is great, from start to finish. It’s just that I’m not sure those two stories are enough to justify purchasing the entire volume, since Gyo itself is so Goddamned goofy.
One more, though, and then I’ll have to decide if I’m looking for more to read or retreating back into my superhero comics where I belong.