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Manga / Fragments of Horror

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Even a fragment is frightening.
Marking a return to horror manga for the first time in eight years, Fragments of Horror is Junji Ito's fourth anthology of assorted short stories, closely following in the footsteps of the Voices in the Dark serials.

Numerous fears inhabit the stories in the collection, which are as follows:

  • "Futon" and "Tomio: Red Turtleneck": A man and his girlfriend are tormented by curses cast by a vengeful mistress.
  • "Dissection-chan": A woman begs to be cut apart on an operating table.
  • "Wooden Spirit": A family is disrupted when a boarder moves in and and finds love...with their house.
  • "Blackbird": A man lost in the mountains gets life-saving help which soon becomes his bane.
  • "Gentle Goodbye": A sad mourning tradition haunts a new wife.
  • "Magami Nanakuse": The truth behind a literally-quirky author's work is far stranger than the fiction it inspires.
  • "Whispering Woman": A girl who cannot make decisions may be receiving too much guidance from her caretaker. This is an older, previously unattached story added into the Fragments anthology upon the serial's compiled publication.

Tropes in Fragments of Horror include:

  • And I Must Scream:
    • The last panel of "Magami Nanakuse" shows that the protagonist has been put on display in the town hall where Nanakuse cavorts with the town leaders, apparently still alive yet trapped in her own paralyzed, disfigured body.
    • Those who encounter the Blackbird are doomed to become the very flesh she feeds them on.
  • Bait the Dog: Kaoru admires an author and writes to her, sending some of her pieces. Magami Nanakuse writes back and invites her to visit. It's to humiliate a fan, and later imprison her when Kaoru can provide inspiration.
  • Bird People: The titular horror of "Blackbird" is an uncanny woman-like bird-creature who feeds a lost hiker on his own flesh. The story ends with the bird-creature now doing the same thing to the protagonist, who has fallen into the same predicament as the aforementioned hiker.
  • Bittersweet Ending:
    • "Red Turtleneck." The evil fortune teller mistress is killed and Tomio is freed from the curse, but he's been traumatized by the whole thing and still goes around holding onto his head.
    • "Gentle Goodbye". Having realized that her husband doesn't respect her because Riko is only a construct of the real woman and that her in-laws will never treat her as a real person, Riko decides to leave. She goes back to her elderly father, wondering which of them will die or fade away first, but decides to make the most of their limited time together. At the least, they are happy to see each other.
  • Character Tics: A focus in "Magami Nanakuse", as the eponymous author writes about physical and mental compulsions, many of which she appears to have. The physical tics are a source of the horror once everyone at Nanakuse's parties ends up reflexively copying her in the same grotesque mannerisms and we see prisoners below her house developing them in isolation.
  • Cold Open: "Tomio: Red Turtleneck" has one, with the title page coming after a brief scene of Tomio walking home and seeking help.
  • Creepy Crossdresser: In "Magami Nanakuse", the eponymous author is portrayed as unsettling in multiple ways, being rude, crass, in control of bizarre physical tics, and by being an AMAB person who publicly presents as female. The character's personal gender identity isn't clarified but Nanakuse's presentation is not treated by the story as being genuine or respectable.
  • Daddy's Girl: In "Gentle Goodbye", Riko, the protagonist is terrified of her father's inevitable death and can't bear the thought of him dying. This is made ironically cruel when she realizes that she is nothing more than a fading memory, and returns to her father, unsure which of them will be gone first.
  • Dead All Along: In "Gentle Goodbye", Riko learns that her sister-in-law, Tomoka was actually an "after-image", a living memory created by the family to give them more time to let go and accept her death. So was Riko.
  • The Dog Bites Back: Riko has a husband who doesn't support her. The in-laws tolerate her and won't respect her requests to make a construct after her father dies. To top it all off, said husband has been having an affair and justified it with The Reveal that Riko died before their wedding and this Riko is a construct, technically not real. When she finds out, Riko quietly leaves the house before saying goodbye to Tomoka, who was always kind to her. She decides to spend the remaining ten years she has with her father, and is genuinely happy to see him.
  • Drinking Contest: After an already awful first impression, Magami Nanakuse takes her fan Kaoru to her bar, hoping to humiliate her further with hard alcohol. To her surprise, Kaoru outdrinks her and shows some strength that Nanakuse thinks may lend to some inspiration...
  • Eldritch Location: The house in "Wooden Spirit" becomes warped, decayed, and covered with eyes after Kino essentially has sex with it. Needless to say, it's stripped of its designation as a national treasure.
  • Evil Stepmother: Subverted with Manami Kino in "Wooden Spirit". While protagonist Megumi initially resents her intrusion on their family, she soon concedes that Kino is actually a perfect stepmother...before Kino's house-fetish kicks in and ruins everything.
  • Facial Horror: The protagonist of "Magami Nanakuse" is imprisoned and tries to stay perfectly still so she won't develop a grotesque tic for the eponymous novelist to write about. While she keeps her body still, whatever causes the tics seems to build up and emerges in full force in her face, leaving it horrifically rippled.
  • Fan Disillusionment: Invoked in "Magami Nanakuse", with the source of fear being the idea that your favorite creator is not who they appear to be.
  • Fan Disservice:
    • "Wooden Spirit" contains a sex scene. But it's also a woman making love to a house, which is weird enough before it impossibly warps the structure and turns her into wood.
    • "Dissection-chan" repeatedly shows Ruriko topless, but given her obsession with being dissected (which extends to posing as a cadaver so she can sneak into a hospital), it's far from titillating.
  • Fangirl: Kaoru Koketsu in "Magami Nanakuse". She is obsessed with the eponymous author and fancies herself a quirky person because Nanakuse's work is all about obsession and tics. Nanakuse is quick to call her out (albeit cruelly) on these pretensions, though it's all the worse for Kaoru when she gains Nanakuse's interest.
  • Genre Shift: In contrast with the rest of the anthology (and Ito's work in general), "Gentle Goodbye" is a tragic love story rather than a horror.
  • Hairstyle Inertia: Ruriko Tamiya's hair does not change between her childhood and her death of old age.
  • Heroic Willpower: Kaoru tries to resist the tics and compulsions that come from being locked up. Magami decides that's more fun and waits her out. After a few days, the compulsion hits Kaoru to contort her face so it's immovable.
  • Hikikomori: Tomio becomes one in "Futon", to the point that he starts wearing diapers so he can stay safe under the covers.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: A variation happens in "Whispering Woman". The father is a good man who genuinely wants to aid his mentally ill daughter Mayumi, though many maids have given up on her. He hires a new maid named Mitsu who shows competence during her interview test. However, as time passes on, he grows suspicious of her dedication and her showing up to work with unexplained bruises. After digging up dirt around her, the father realizes she's being abused by her boyfriend. Though extremely uneasy, he decides to try to put these thoughts to one side, reasoning he needs her to keep working hard for his daughter's sake. Cue her dying of domestic abuse, and ordering Mayumi in spirit to murder her boyfriend.
  • Hypocritical Humor: Magami Nanakuse berates Kaoru for wetting herself, citing her obsession with hygiene, the topic of one of her books. However, Kaoru is greeted with the image of Nanakuse picking her nose when the two meet.
  • I Want My Mommy!: Tomio cries out for his mother in "Red Turtleneck" when severely stressed by the threat of death should he ever let his grip on his severed head slip, and tired from his efforts.
  • Laser-Guided Karma:
    • Ruriko Tamiya in "Dissection-chan" is obsessed with being dissected from cutting up animals as a child, and visibly suffers internal pains. It turns out when she finally gets her wish (at her autopsy), her organs have mutated into a bizarre conglomeration of the animals she has tortured, killed and cut open.
    • Mitsu’s boyfriend refuses to work, sponges all the money Mitsu earns helping Mayumi, and ends up killing her after weeks of escalating domestic abuse. In response, Mitsu’s lingering spirit, still dedicated to her work in giving Mayumi instruction, orders Mayumi to kill him, and she does so without a second thought.
  • Losing Your Head: In "Red Turtleneck", Tomio's head is magically severed and he will die if he ever allows it to fully separate from his body.
  • Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane: The horrific imagery in "Futon" is either the work of a witch, or from hallucinations caused by a strange mold growing inside Tomio's futon.
  • Meaningful Name:
    • Manami Kino's name means "academics of wood", fitting because she is a student interested in a wooden mansion, and taken alone, "ki no", "wooden", foreshadows her ultimate state.
    • Magami Nanakuse's last name means "seven habits", here implying her multitude of tics.
  • Mind Rape: Regardless of whether she causes it or merely takes part in a greater force, Magami Nanakuse is able to cause others to reflexively copy her performed tics, and her prisoners always end up developing them in isolation.
  • Motif: Female/feminine horrors and twisted relationships and roles feature in each of the stories.
  • Muse Abuse: Magami Nanakuse's muses only exist due to abuse. She pushes her fans to a breakdown, sending the "weak" ones home crying and keeping the strong ones as inspiration for her books, waiting to see how they will develop grotesque compulsions for her to write about.
  • Nightmare Face: Done so in "Magami Nanakuse" after Kaoru tries resisting creating any tics while imprisoned.
  • Offscreen Teleportation: In "Dissection-chan", Tatsuro, the doctor protagonist, has an encounter with the titular character at a park. He runs away to home, but she's already there, undressed on his bed, ready to be cut open.
  • Off with His Head!: Tomio's fortune-teller mistress likes to collect the heads of her lovers, but before taking them, she enjoys making the men squirm with magical decapitation and torture.
  • Playing Doctor: This is what plants the seeds of Ruriko's obsession in "Dissection-chan", as she quickly moves to using real medical tools to cut apart animals.
  • Potty Failure: The protagonist of "Magami Nanakuse" gets so distraught when Nanakuse begins taunting her that she wets herself, which only increases the taunting.
  • Reclusive Artist: invoked Magami Nanakuse, who, given her frightening activity, is probably best where she is.
  • "The Scream" Parody: The cover features various characters from the stories collected in it, all posed together with Tomio being the one imitating the person screaming in his pose of holding his head on his neck.
  • Self-Deprecation:
    • "Magami Nanakuse" could be seen as a wry look at Ito's own role as an author (who frequently writes about obsession and compulsion, for that matter) taking inspiration from other artists and posing as a creator of a type he doesn't think he applies to (given the original Shōjo publication the stories ran in).
    • The end of the collection has a note from Ito wondering if he's lost his touch.
  • Shear Menace: Tomio's girlfriend Madoka stabs the wicked fortune-teller, Tomio's mistress, with scissors after the fortune-teller begins to torture him.
  • Shout-Out: The cover art centers on homaging Edvard Munch's The Scream.
  • Spoiler Cover: The print version's dust cover, while homaging The Scream, also features key imagery from all of its stories, most prominently the eyes in the wooden railing (referencing what ultimately happens in "Wooden Spirit") and Tomio and his blood-soaked sweater from "Tomio: Red Turtleneck".
  • Stable Time Loop: Used by the Blackbird in her titular story. She feeds lost hikers on small pieces of meat like a mother bird until they refuse her care, upon which she captures them and begins to do the reverse, feeding on small pieces of their flesh. This flesh is what she had fed the hikers before, taking meat from their future selves and feeding them until they become the future selves and the cycle continues. The birdwatcher at the end of the story knows the truth but ends up in the same situation, dreading not only the consumption of his own flesh but also his future as the food source to his current self.
  • Statuesque Stunner: Manami Kino is unusually tall for Ito's women, but she's no less least, before she turns into wood.
  • Titled After the Song: "Blackbird" is probably named after the eponymous The Beatles song. Ito is a noted fan of the band, even referencing them in the much earlier story "Where the Sandman Lives".
  • Token Good Teammate: Tomoka is the only one of Riko's in-laws that treats her with kindness, comforting her when they deny her request to turn her father into a construct. It especially becomes this trope when we learn that Makoto was cheating on Riko.
  • Town with a Dark Secret: Author Magami Nanakuse's town is explicitly described as a kusechi, a place of foreboding and disaster, which is why she decided to move there. It's theorized to have been the site of executions or devil worship, and could be the reason for the frightening physical compulsions suffered by its residents.
  • Unlimited Wardrobe: Regardless of what she actually identifies as, Magami Nanakuse is quite the fashionista in her female presentation, and she does not wear the same combination of wigs and dresses in any two scenes she is drawn in.
  • Unusually Uninteresting Sight: Kaoru is the only person who seems to register anything unusual about Magami Nanakuse and her tics. The town leaders she meets with and her editor don't seem to acknowledge her biological sex (whose contrast from her presentation is portrayed as a facet of her strangeness), and nobody caught up in the tics seems to notice anything being off.
  • The Walls Have Eyes: This is one of the ways the house transforms in "Wooden Spirit" after Kino loves it a little too much.
  • White Shirt of Death: Invoked in "Red Turtleneck", as Tomio's shirt starts out white before being soaked with blood from the head-severing curse.
  • Youkai: The Blackbird is implied to be a Tengu. This approach is unusual for Junji Ito, whose stories usually feature completely original monsters.