Horror Manga Artist Junji Ito Interview: Creepy Stuff Inside His Head

Junji Ito is one of the most prolific horror manga artists to ever put ink to paper. Over 30 years, he's published stories of small children turning into dolls, people disappearing into walls and a slew of unspeakable nightmares. His most recent work is his interpretation of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein , which captures the magic of the original and slaps it together with Ito's twisted mind. Newsweek spoke to Ito about his childhood, where his creations came from and how he feels about the anime adaptation of his work.

What was your childhood like?

JI: Even though I was a scaredy-cat, I loved ghost stories, kaiju and UFOs, so I consumed a lot of movies and manga about those things.

Do you study human anatomy and the science of human decomposition?

JI: I studied a bit about human anatomy when I was in school to be a dental technician. For reference, I also bought a book on human anatomy originally meant for medical students, but I've never studied about the science of decomposition.

A scene from Junji ito's Frankenstein Viz Media

Where do these terrifying images come from?

JI: I've gotten inspiration from all sorts of different things that I've seen and heard, including photos of dead bodies.

How long does it take you to draw a page?

JI: It depends on the content of the drawing, but maybe two days for time-consuming ones.

How has your process changed in the digital age?

JI: My process is essentially the same as when I did it analog, but Sumi Beta (black inking) and pasting screentones can be done so much faster digitally.

How has the manga industry changed since you first started?

JI: Magazines and books don't sell as well as they used to.

In the modern version of horror, jump scares are everywhere. How do you feel about the "shock" scare tactic?

JI: For movies, I think you're right in that a lot of modern movies take the approach of shocking the audience with things like jump scares. I grew up with the old-timey Hammer and Universal horror movies which focus more on creating a scary mood, so I prefer movies that gradually scare the audience with eerie atmosphere. Jump scares can certainly make people scared in the moment, but it's sort of a fleeting fear. I suppose it's all a matter of taste.

Words cannot describe the horror this makes me feel Viz Media

How do you feel about modern horror manga?

JI: I can't speak much to this, because I actually don't read that much manga. I'm the type of reader who mostly reads titles from my favorite creators.

How do you feel about the anime adaptation of your work?

JI: I think they showed a lot of respect to the originals when they made the anime. I'm very satisfied with it.

What's your favorite short story you've created?

JI: "The Enigma of Amigara Fault"

What do you hope your legacy is?

JI: I want to produce as many great works as possible.