Junji Ito is a master at storytelling and his distinctive art style and approach to horror have made his creations, like Uzumaki, which is one of the top horror manga, and Tomie to name a few, some of his best to release. Much like his other works, Lovesickness: Junji Ito Story Collection, outlines his characters’ descent into madness as they each become obsessed in various ways. This collection contains multiple stories, so it has quite a bit of content to dig into, but unfortunately, only one of its stories continued to haunt me by its end.
The collection opens up with “Lovesickness”, a story that follows Ryusuke, who moves back to his childhood hometown. In this town, people have become obsessed with “Crossroads fortunes,” which people receive by standing in an intersection and asking the first person who comes by to give them their fortune whether it be good or bad. But when a strikingly handsome boy appears, mysterious deaths start occurring and Ryusuke takes it upon himself to stop him, but of course, there’s more to the story that you’ll discover as it unfolds.
“Lovesickness” is by far the best story in Junji Ito’s newest release, and for me, it was the only one in the collection that I can say I enjoyed reading from start to finish. Luckily, it takes up a large chunk of this book, so it’s definitely still worth the read. The issues it explores, such as our obsession with idols or famous people, and how Junji Ito connects this story to our world, albeit through a far more twisted lens, is incredible.
On multiple occurrences, I felt uncomfortable or uneasy while reading, which is expected, and I could feel these characters’ struggles. Because of this, I at times became angry or annoyed. These are strong, unpleasant emotions, and while I don’t like feeling them, this one in particular was a success because Junji Ito did a fantastic job at pulling me into this story and its characters, especially Ryusuke’s, minds.
Since the opening story is so strong, the one that follows, “The Strange Hikizuri Siblings”, which is more slapstick, struggles to keep up and pales in comparison. One issue with this one is that I found the characters so annoying I couldn’t enjoy it at all. I get why, because they are despicable people, but I just couldn’t connect to anything in this story. The main problem I had, however, is that there wasn’t anything all that exciting about it.
The rest that followed kind of suffered from the same issues. They are short stories, so they have to be quick and concise, but they just didn’t really do much for me and kind of felt like afterthoughts in comparison to “Lovesickness”, which was longer and more hashed out.
As for the rest of the stories in this volume, “The Rib Woman” wasn’t terrible, but not incredibly memorable either. I didn’t mind the “Phantom Mansion” story, because it explored some interesting ideas and takes a new look at the concept of pain. And the last story, well, I’m not even sure what to say about that one. All I kept asking myself was, “Why?”. You’ll understand if you read it, but the last story in this collection, while left a lasting impression, didn’t leave a good one. Actually, it left a rather stinky one.
What all of these stories had in common though is that they featured amazing art. Junji Ito’s work is as gory and hard-hitting as ever in Lovesickness: Junji Ito Story Collection with horror-filled panels that gave me chills. Not just because they were mortifying to witness, but because they were so well-drawn as well. It’s definitely not his best release to date, but it has shining moments that make this one worth checking out.
Thank you to Netgalley, Viz, and Junji Ito for a copy of Lovesickness: Junji Ito Story Collection in exchange for an honest review!