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Nightmare Fuel / Junji Ito Kyoufu Manga Collection

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Ito's first works are known for offering some of his best scares, and rightfully so.

  • "The Bully" starts with a sweet woman telling about how, when she was much younger, she bullied a younger boy his mom trusted her to play with. She hurt him physically and psychologically, but he stuck around because he remembered how nice she once was to him and seemed to think she'd go back to being that way around him. As adults, the girl and the boy meet, fall in love, and get married. After having a son though, the guy goes off to work and never comes home. The woman does her best to be a single mom, but the stress makes her start to build up anger towards her son. She then notices that the son is the spitting image of the guy as a child, prompting her to dress up like she did as a child and begin subjecting him to the same horrific bullying. It's one long child abuse story. What may be the worst part is that there's nothing supernatural at all. With things like Uzumaki, you can rest easier in the knowledge that that could never happen in real life. But with The Bully? That could ACTUALLY happen!
  • In "The Hell of the Doll Funeral", a disease that turns children into dolls starts spreading, which is bad enough. The worst part comes when you don't dispose of their body. You can see it here if you have a strong enough stomach. Both a case of horror and Tear Jerker in regards to the parents' reaction to their daughter contracting the disease. Imagine a loved one suffering from an illness that first causes paralysis and then causes horrible growths to form all over the body. Now imagine there's nothing that can be done to ease their suffering except for death.
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  • If you're afraid of the sea or deep-sea creatures, "The Thing That Drifted Ashore" will surely make you shiver. Now, consider what they found inside the creature. Now, consider that the thing, whatever it was, probably isn't the only one in the ocean. The chapter also alludes to the possibility of even creepier creatures. Now, as creepy as the sea creature is, it's not even the real horror of the story. The main horror is what's inside the creature - the still-living survivors of a shipwreck who have been living for years INSIDE THE CREATURE LIKE HUMAN PARASITES, feeding off the creature itself and being driven mad both by their horrifying situation and the things they've seen through the creature's translucent skin. By the time they're released when the creature dies and washing up on shore, they're raving, screaming madmen.
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  • "Flesh Colored Horror" starts off creepily enough by introducing a little kindergartner named Chikara with a bad skin condition who attacks his school mates out of resentment. But then we get the real reasons behind his skin condition, and it just gets worse from there. Turns out the kid's mama and auntie have been experimenting on themselves and their own skins, and they've reached a point where they could successfully jump in and out of 'em like clothing. And now they've been researching for ways to do the same to junior, explaining his scars. Why? Because the mother believes that the human body, sans skin, is the most beautiful thing in the world, so she wants to spread her twisted sense of beauty to her child. One of the more unsettling scenes is after Chikara destroys his mother's skin. Realizing how screwed she is without it, she decides to "borrow" her sister's. By basically ripping her face off. And then Chikara defends his aunt. How? By grabbing his mother's leg muscles and ripping them apart. Ugh.
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  • "Den of the Sleep Demon". Here's a riddle: what's worse than a body turning inside out? The answer: a body turning inside out and swallowing another body in the process.
  • "The City Without Streets":
    • First off, there's dream the protagonist has of a Jack the Ripper-type guy who breaks into her room and kills a boy who has a crush on her.
    • Second off, there's the absurd escalation of the main character's loss of privacy and how her family goes to enormous lengths to spy on her and lie about it.
    • Things get much worse once she runs away to the titular town, There's the strange onesnote , who are, of course, depicted in good ol' Junji Ito levels of detail. Then there's the way everyone in the city just sort of accepted the absurd situation with the buildings taking over an entire section of the city, because there was nothing they could do, since anything that was torn down was just rebuilt again. It borders on Kafka-esque. Finally, a kind man in a mask who had helped guide her through the city turns out to be the same man who appeared in her dream and killed the boy in her room. And he had gone into her room to kill her while she slept, and only was kept from doing so because he was there, leading him to kill the guy out of frustration. Even worse, there's really no reason for this guy to be in the story. He's around in both the girl's old life and the strange city, so it's hard to know what is going on with him!
  • In "Honored Ancestors", the protagonist Risa loses her memory, but she keeps having a nightmare about being attacked by a giant caterpillar monster. However, it turns out it wasn't a nightmare, and there was no caterpillar. What really happened was that when she visited her boyfriend Shuichi's ailing father, she saw that his ancestors' scalps were still attached to his head alive and fully capable of thought and feeling. After the father dies, the scalps attach themselves to Shuichi's head and tell him to chase after Risa so she can bear his child and continue the family line. It seems to imply that Shuichi plans on raping Risa while she's mentally collapsed to the point of jibbering with a blank look on her face. Or at the very least, he plans on having her in a constant cycle of mental breakdowns and amnesia to facilitate their marriage.
  • "The Long Dream". In Mukoda's mind, he's lived for thousands- no, MILLIONS- of years, every night lasting exponentially longer than the last. After several days, one night of sleep is enough to wipe all his memories of the waking world. And then he ages, or evolves, into something resembling a gray alien mixed with a harlequin fetus, which crumbles into dust soon after. It then begins happening to the woman with the fear of mortality as well, and it's revealed that the main character found these odd crystals in the remains of Mukoda's skull, presumably the state his brain had evolved into, and used them as medication on the woman.
  • "The Hanging Balloons" is the surreal story in which giant floating balloon heads of random people start hanging the actual people they resemble using nooses that act as their balloon strings. One shocktastic scene is when Kazuko and her friend Chiharu escape being hung by ducking into an alley. A man who lives in the house next to it sees the giant faces floating and shoots Chiharu's balloon head with a crossbow. The giant face deflates... and so does Chiharu's head, in a gruesome display. And no, that's not the end of the story yet.
    • It gets more downright horrifying and disturbing on the doppelganger balloons' side. Capable of mimicry and are very devious along with the side of being resourceful. The fact that nobody can actually cause harm to a "balloon" without causing death to another (Or in most cases their own owners since the balloons home in on just the sight of their original victim's that they're based off of) and to be relentlessly hounded by them throughout the duration to the point of exhaustion... It's one of Itou's many stories where you can feel the entrapment and the helplessness of the atmospheric world that he's crafted, where you can't fight back and no matter where you go... they're always looming overhead.
  • "The Window Next Door" loses no time by already featuring a creepy opening illustration. Then it gets worse. Wait until the old lady next door actually appears...
  • "Near Miss!" starts with a disturbing premise, especially given aircraft accidents in recent history such as Malaysian Airlines Flight 370 and Air France Flight 447; a Boeing 747 has gone missing over Japan, and three people, Konishi, his sister, and his friend from university, Kawaguchi, have set out in their Cessna 172 to search for the plane, aware that one of their friends, a man named Takashio, was on-board. As the group look out over rural Shizuoka Prefecture, Kawaguchi relates a disturbing story from his past about being an eye-witness to a plane crash, seeing the gory aftermath. Suddenly, the 747 appears right behind them, forcing Konishi to take evasive action not to be struck by the plane, its engines ablaze and numerous holes torn in the fuselage, but the passengers on the 747, including Takashio, seem eerily calm. It later turns out that the 747 crashed into northern Shizuoka that night, shortly before Konishi and the others went out to search for it... Just what did they see up there?
  • "The Ice Cream Bus". A father and his son just moved to a new apartment complex that is visited by an ice cream truck every Saturday night. The driver of the truck gives the children free ice cream and takes them on a drive around the neighborhood before bringing them back. Sounds charming right? That is until the father lets his son go on the truck as well. One time he even catches a glimpse of what is going on in the truck and sees the kids licking huge mounds of ice cream. The scary part? The ice cream mounds are really the MELTED BODIES of the kids. Turns out the more ice cream the kids eat, the more their body becomes ice cream. It gets worse! Near the end, the father catches his son licking piles of ice cream-that used to his friends mind you- and is naturally horrified. He tries to stop his son, but ends up knocking off his head in the process!
    • The worst part is the kids realize they're turning into ice cream...and they don't care!
  • The short story "Slug Girl" is about a high school girl whose close friend, Yuuko, one day develops a Speech Impediment but refuses to explain why. When she visits her home the second time after Yuuko stops coming to school, she finds out why. Her tongue transformed into a huge crawling slug. When she desperately tries to cut off the slimy new appendage with scissors, the offending mollusk grows back and continues to return no matter how hard she tries. When her parents try to put salt in her mouth, she spits it out as if she can't stand it. Eventually Yuuko's body slowly begins to starve, since she can't control the slug so she can't eat anything, and as a last resort, her parents submerge her in a bathtub of salt hoping it would cure her condition. Instead, the rest of her body breaks down, leaving only her head which the parents wash down with water hoping it will grow back. However, the slug STILL DOESN'T DIE and just like a snail, the slug carries her head on its back like a snail and continues to slither around in the backyard while its "shell" will stare at anyone nearby with the saddest gaze. What's more, it's mentioned that Yuuko was terrified of slugs. Imagine having something you're phobic about inside your mouth, attached to you!
  • "Mold". The final shot of the protagonist scratching the skin off his face, sitting alone in the dark, helpless to stop his body disintegrating as he repeats "itchy ... itchy ..." as blood begins to pour from the wounds he inflicts... With a bonus close-up of his rotting skin! He can't leave, even if his mind weren't under the influence of the mold, because his legs have been completely rooted to the ground by the fungus, and the mold has covered every exit. The image of the kids covered in mold is also pretty horrific, especially the girl, since we only see her eyes glinting in the dark and the bottom of her legs. Now, imagine what the rest of her looked like...
  • "The Groaning Drain". The drain under the house of a clean-freak and her two daughters gets clogged and nothing will fix it. Then the girls' father is killed by their mother when he sneaks into the house to see his daughters, leading to a lie about the mother using self-defense. The blood left by the father's body can't be scrubbed away. Shortly after this, a horrible stench starts to come from the drain, and they can hear it groaning, almost like a human. The younger sister puts her hand down the shower drain to unclog it and declares she's stuck, but the protagonist believes she's playing a trick. Even as the sister screams and begs for help all night, the protagonist thinks she's tricking her... And then she comes into the bathroom the next day to see her sister's leg sticking out of the shower drain, blood on the floor, as her sister has spent the entire night being slowly and agonizingly pulled into the drain.
    • And then there's the question of how the guy got into the drain in the first place ...
    • Even worse, when the younger sister suspects that someone is hiding down there, her older sister tries to dispel the notion by pointing out that the drain is simply too small, and a human would somehow have to break their skull to fit inside. Now, consider what must have happened to the younger sister, as she was pulled head-first down the drain. Brrr...
      • A bit of Fridge Horror to make things even worse. Pipes tend to come in different shapes and sizes. What does this mean? Well, it means that not only would someone's skull have to be broken to fit inside, their entire skeleton would essentially need to be absolutely pulverized. Let that sink in a moment. Imagine being pulled into a drain pipe while your skeletal system is slowly and painfully crushed bone by bone, ligament by ligament, joint by joint... just so you can fit inside better.
    • The person who pulled her down was an unhygienic high school boy who had been harassing her older sister to go out with him. The younger sister took it upon herself to humiliate him by leading him to their house and having their clean freak mother pelt him with eggs. The younger sister realizes that he's the one in the pipes because of his body odor wafting through the drain. This guy destroyed his body and spent days drinking and defecating the water that came through the pipes, all to get back at the girls that humiliated him.
  • "The Supernatural Transfer Student". Human eyes growing out from flowers is bad enough, and that's before we see Shibayama return as a gigantic, hideous, bloated, projectile-vomiting zombie.
  • "The Back Alley". A student takes up a room on a boarding house. At night he's annoyed by the sounds of children playing on the alley next door. He manages to pull himself to the alley's wall to shout at the children, but it turns out the whole alley's sealed. Soon after, he hears the children calling for his landlady's daughter. Next morning, a man talks to him on the street, telling him that he stayed once at that very room, and that on the sealed alley, there's a bunch of bones belonging to a couple of kids and human silhouettes on the alley's wall, and he begs the student to see if he can confirm the story and report it to the police to put the bones to rest. The student finds a hidden window and a rope leading into the alley. Indeed, he finds the bones, but when he tries to go up again, he's knifed... by the landlady's daughter, a Serial Killer obsessed with ruling over the alley, and who has killed two kids, two classmates and her own father and put them in there. The student falls and breaks his neck. As the girl goes down to toss him with the other corpses, the rope breaks, and it's her, the corpse and the shapes in the wall...shapes that start to become three-dimensional...
  • "Shiver" will give anyone trypophobia. It's about a cursed jade statue that causes holes to appear on your body. And if that wasn't bad enough, you're constantly chilled when the wind blows through the holes and insects even swarm in them. It's implied your only hope is to pass the curse onto someone else by having them take the statue, and it has to be done before it does enough to your body for its messenger, appearing as an eldery doctor, come to claim the victim.
  • "Pen Pal". Much like the aforementioned "The Bully", what makes it even more terrifying than most of Ito's other stories is just how natural and realistic the scenario is. In the story, recurring character Oshikiri decides to befriend a introverted girl named Satomi in the hopes that she'll someday be his girlfriend. He soon learns that her only friends are three pen pals from different parts of Japan. Things start to get worse when Satomi starts to get increasingly harsh and insulting letters from her friends. However, Oshikiri soon learns that Satomi has actually been writing the letters to herself and is under the delusion her imaginary friends are real. It then escalates to the point where Satomi ends up killing herself while screaming for her "friends" to stop killing her. See, things like cyborg fish zombies and murderous lust-personifications are safely confined in the realms of fantasy. Insanity and hallucinations caused by a severely isolated lifestyle? That can really happen to some people in real life. To make matters worse, Oshikiri is also starting to hallucinate there's a doppelganger claiming to be the real him...though that's easily explained by the alternate-dimensional activity he frequently gets involved in.
  • "The Long Hair in the Attic". A young woman's boyfriend breaks up with her, deciding that even though she tried her best for him they just don't belong together. Depressed, she falls asleep, only to wake up and find a dead mouse entangled in her hair. She washes it out and decides to cut it all off, especially since her ex is the one who convinced her to grow it out. After her sister runs to grab her some scissors, she returns to find her headless body in the bathroom. The neighbors are concerned about a killer on the loose, but the truth is even worse. Her hair had decapitated her and crawled up to the attic, where it sits and waits until it's disturbed by her sister and their father looking for more mice. The hair, still with the woman's head attached, slithers out of the house and through the streets toward the ex's house. The story ends with him screaming in horror as the hair begins forcing its way through cracks in the walls.
    • The ex is awoken by a phone call in the middle of the night, but all that comes through on the other end is a weird grinding noise. He thinks it's a dumb way for to get back at him and hangs up, only to remember that it can't be her, since she died a week ago. He wonders why he thought it was her...and remembers that the noise was one always she made when grinding her teeth.
  • Ito's interpretation of the Frankenstein Monster is a sight to behold, and one which doesn’t stray far from the monster’s description in the original work by Mary Shelley. He’s not a patchwork man with green skin and bolts on its neck, he’s a thing with stitched yellow skin so pale, you can see his veins; Much like Victor's description of his creation in the original book, the Monster's hair is black, shiny and flowing, perhaps the only thing about him that looks less than grisly. Finally, his eyes are permanently bloodshot.
    • Like in the book, the Monster demands a mate. Unlike the book, Victor goes through with it, completing the Bride of Frankenstein by giving it the head of a maid who was friends with him. Said maid was beheaded after being framed for the Monster's crimes. The Bride awakens and attacks Victor, screaming at everything around her. And when she sees the Monster, she screams and attacks her counterpart, forcing him to destroy her. The Monster blames Victor for toying with him and doesn't hold back on his word of destroying everything Victor held dear.

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