The Liminal Zone, created, written, and illustrated by Junji Ito, is a collection of short horror stories. From Viz Media, with translations by Jocelyne Allen, lettering by Eric Erbes, and cover by Adam Grano, the stories are stand-alone without connections between characters. Traversing transition from one state to another, The Liminal Zone lives up to its title with a dreadful cohesion by a master of horror. Junji Ito can squeeze eeriness out of anything.
A quartet of tales, each location and subject is different with an interconnected theme. “Weeping Woman Way” follows a couple, Mako and Yuzuru, passing through a town during a funeral. They hear a woman’s loud sobs and learn that there are women hired to cry at funerals. Strange, but then stranger still Mako starts crying and she does not stop. Tears usually mean sadness, but in the masterful hands of Junji Ito, they bring a foreboding. This story was one of my favorites because I expected something like the banshee or La Llorona but got a tale I did not expect.
The next, “Madonna,” follows a young girl, Maria, as she transfers to a strict religious academy. The drawings scared me more than the story because I never had an interest in attending religious institutions for learning. The couple who runs the academy are odd, but the wife, who students refer to as “angry witch woman,” fills students with terror, and something else. The religious tone does creep in as you read along with the horrified faces of students. Their expressions were chilling. So, though the story did not scare me as much as the others, I’ll likely see their faces when I shut my eyes.
Bathing In Spirits
Following that is “The Spirit Flow of Aokigahara,” which, if you know about Japan, is a famous forest people go to when they no longer want to live. Here an ill man Norio comes to the forest to end his life and his girlfriend, Mika, joins him. They discover a cave shaped like a dragon’s mouth from urban legends and decide to stay and see the spirits emerge. What follows is an eerie look at transformation and obsession as Norio’s appearance and personality change. As a general rule, I know that you should not mess with spirits.
Is He or Isn’t He
My favorite of the four, “Slumber,” reminds me of horror movies that tie in serial killers with a supernatural element. But that is not the only horror because Takuya is unsure if he is the killer. After all, he does not think he would kill a random person. But when asleep, Takuya dreams of killing people, then awakes to find the news reporting on the same victim. The story keeps you guessing until the end, and that last image is chilling.
Junji Ito weaves stories that are eccentric, fantastical, and chilling. The horror does not always arrive where expected. Distinct tales with a little something for everyone plus hair-raising drawings make The Liminal Zone a must-read for any horror fan.