Guest of honor at the Angoulême comic book festival, which devotes an exhibition to him, the famous mangaka reveals to BFMTV the secrets of his most terrifying stories. Spoiler alert.
He is the rock star of the 50th edition of the Angoulême comic book festival. Assistant dental technician who has become a world star of horror manga, Junji Itō is the subject of an impressive exhibition, Junji Itō in the lair of deliriumwhich retraces his career based on a hundred original plates.
“This is the second time that I have been invited to the Angoulême festival”, explains Junji Itō to BFMTV. The first time was in 2015. I remember there was a big Jirô Taniguchi exhibition. I had been very impressed. I told myself that the great exhibitions were for the great authors.”
And to add, modestly: “I did not think that I would be exhibited one day in Angoulême. It is really a very great honor to be exhibited in a festival which has such a long and great history. It’s like a dream for me.
Rediscovered a few years ago by the younger generation thanks to its anime adaptations or its collaborations with Hideo Kojima (death stranding), Junji Itō influenced directors Guillermo del Toro and Alexandre Aja and writer RL Stine (Goosebumps) with its horrific stories tinged with philosophical reflections.
Also a follower of “body horror”, Junji Itō has built over the years a horrific work with an overflowing imagination, without limits. His stories, which testify to an extraordinary art of tension, are capable of setting up unease in a few seconds.
The keys to his imagination
Fascinated by all that is sticky, and fluids in general, he never stops exploiting everyday life and transfiguring it into tales as tragic as they are disturbing. Spiral (1998-1999) thus tells the story of a small village descending into madness after the appearance of spiral strangers.
In Tomie (1987-2000), a young woman of great beauty pushes men to want to kill her. In The Slug Woman (1991-1995), a young girl sees her tongue gradually transforming into a slug. Another of his most famous stories features the adventures of Soichi, a diabolical rascal with studded teeth.
On the occasion of his visit to Angoulême, this master of the 9th Art comments on some of the most significant boards of his career – taken from Tomie, Soichi, Spiral Where Love and Death, its latest novelty, to be released on February 1 by Mangetsu. He reveals its secrets, and delivers the keys to his imagination along the way.
“This is an excerpt from the first chapter of Spiral. It’s a climax scene. There is a large pool where the father of the heroine’s boyfriend is. His body is gradually transformed into a spiral and will fit completely into the pelvis.
I wondered how to make a body become a spiral and enter perfectly inside this basin. I thought in terms of logic: I told myself that the legs would be more outward, with the face towards the center, and then right in the middle, the hands with the fingers crossing each other.
Sometimes dreams inspire me, but in the case of Spirale, the images are straight out of my imagination.”
“It’s a short story of the series Tomiewhose name is The painter. This is the story of a very successful painter. He makes paintings of very beautiful women. He will find himself possessed by the beauty of Tomie. He will take her as a model to paint her. He thinks his painting is very successful, but we realize that he painted a monster!
It’s true that often, when I draw monsters, I’m going to work on their skin as if it were diseases of the epidermis, to give this grotesque impression. It’s a way for me to stage terror. At the moment, I have no particular ideas [pour faire revenir Tomie], so it’s not for now. But if I have the opportunity, I really want to draw a new [histoire de] Tomie.”
“I grew up in the countryside. I have lots of very funny memories. I was running in the plains. I wanted to draw children who grow up in the countryside facing horrific events. That was the point of departure from Soichi.
When I wondered how this story could take shape, I had the idea of creating a character like a kind of Joker: that’s where Soichi was born. For this character, I was also inspired by my own childhood. I was quite a dark and negative boy. I added elements of my own personality [à Soichi].
At first, I had the idea of a boy with a very pale face who would suffer from anemia. So I imagined that he would need iron intake. At first, I intended to make him suck pachinko balls all the time. I then thought nails would be a lot more fun!”
• “The Riddle of the Amigara Rift”
“An earthquake causes faults in the rock, which form holes that take on the shape of the humans who have found themselves stuck in them. Many people will find themselves possessed and attracted [par ces trous] and come together to find a hole that matches their body type.
This concept came to me quite naturally, quite quickly. On the other hand, I racked my brains a lot to wonder how a human being could fit perfectly into this hole. I tried to draw a deformed body that could fit in this hole, but I confess that I am not entirely satisfied. I think I could have done a little better.”
• “The Slug Woman”
“One day, while I was brushing my teeth, I was looking at my face in the mirror. Then I stuck my tongue out and had fun twisting it a little bit. I then realized that my tongue looked like a slug.
I thought to myself that it would be so unpleasant for my tongue to become a slug that I wanted to tell a story from this feeling. [Avec la bave de la limace]I also wanted to express this very unpleasant feeling that you feel when you have a liquid stuck on you that does not want to go away.”