spiral into horror - UZUMAKI - a film by Higunchinsky

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About Japanese Horror

Interviews > The Junji Ito Interview:
A conversation with the creator of Uzumaki


If you didn't know who Junji Ito was and weren't familiar with his work--but were told that he was a manga artist--it would be impossible to guess the nature of the work he created.

Ito started creating manga in the first grade. Of course it was horror manga. The first manga he claimed to read was by Kazuo Umezu. Thereafter, his influences would include such horror manga luminaries as Shinichi Furuka and Hideshi Hino.

Akiko Iwane: What made you start to draw manga while you were still working as a dental technician?

Junji Ito: I found out being a dental technician was more stressful than I thought it would be. [laughs] At the time, Gekkan Halloween, which had just started publishing, was looking for work. I thought about submitting my art, and when they established the Umezu Award, I decided I'd better send them something.

AI: And the work you submitted was selected as an honorable mention. [Editor's note: no winner was declared that year, so Ito's "Tomie" was the de facto winner of the award.] You later serialized this work as Tomie.

JI: I was never interested in the seishun dramas [coming of age stories]. About the only thing I read that wasn't horror was Fujio Fujiko's Umeboshi Denka.

AI: But Fuji Fujiko's work sometimes contains an element of irrational horror.

JI: Yes, yes, you're right. I guess I'm just predisposed to horror. [laughs]

AI: Your work is distinguished by the combination of the frightening appaearance of the artwork and the impact of the original story concept. Do you start with the idea for the story?

JI: Yes. After coming up with the concept, I'll create the plot. With Tomie, the concept originally was that for some reason a dead person would come back to life and visit their former friends as if nothing had happened. Tomie's character and the idea that she was cut up into pieces came later. With Kubitsuri Kikyu (Hanging Balloons) [2], I combined two ideas: I thought it would be strange if dead bodies strung on balloons were flying around, and when I was a kid, I once dreamed that kokeshi-like dolls [TK] were flying around with ropes tied to them and they were trying to hang me.

That's why I later added on the part about the people dying if the balloon was popped. As for the artwork, that began to take shape later. Sometimes I do have work that starts from drawings, but usually the drawings get more and more complicated as I continue to draw. [laughs]

AI: Where do the ideas for such things come from?

JI: I just come up with ideas from my daily life. An idea could come from something I hear on the radio. It's interesting to take things and look at them from a backwards perspective. I don't specifically try to depict horror, or to come up with ideas that will be horrific, specifically. If I think of something interesting, I'll go with it and maybe add the horror part in later. So in my case, I don't really know what's considered scary.

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