If you are a fan of all things horror and you love reading manga, then you should read the many Junji Ito manga series because he is the master of this genre!
The world of manga has many genres: comedy, romance, action, adventure, and more. These genres tend to be the most popular. But some people enjoy all kinds of manga, including the ones that tackle the obscure, bizarre, and mindblowing world of horror.
And when it comes to this genre, Junji Ito is probably the most renowned author. As a master of horror, the author does not mind approaching different stories and is unfaced in creating graphic scenes that cause strong impressions on people, even if it means relying on the grotesque and horrifying.
Some of his pieces are also beginner-friendly. Titles such as Mimi’s Ghost Stories and Junji Ito’s Cat Diary: Yon & Mu are good for starting your journey, even if you are not used to reading graphic series with many horror elements.
Of course, he has a vast repertoire of titles to pick from, but once you start this horror-filled journey, I believe following this list is an excellent way to tackle his work. With all that said, let’s begin the list with the most popular manga series by Junji Ito!
Best Junji Ito Manga to Read in 2023
Uzumaki tells the story of two Shuichi Saito, the boyfriend of Kirie Goshima. He claims that their town is cursed, not by any monster of the Japanese folklore or a regular person, but by the concept of spirals.
But why would Shuichi have such a thought?
If you carefully look around, you’ll see that many things are spiral-shaped. Everything seems to resemble spirals, from simple sea shells to the waters surrounding the town.
But things don’t go as far as that; madness slowly starts to swallow its inhabitants to the point of deforming their minds and bodies. It’s up to them to discover the mysteries of the curse and what lies beyond the spiraling reality they are facing.
Junji Ito is not only a master at creating a horror series, but he’s also well known for many of his manga collections, which cover a wide range of short stories. One of his most famous collections is Shiver, showcasing nine different stories.
For instance, Shiver, also known as The Chill, is one of those stories. It follows Yuuji, the neighbor of Rina, who has an unknown illness that causes her to see a swarm of bugs near her, which makes her regularly scream in despair. Rina’s family claims that she’s just hallucinating things, but as Yuuji gets the opportunity to see Rina, she notices that her body is filled with holes, similar to the hollows you would find in a hive.
The Shiver collection also consists of other stories, such as:
- Used Record
- Fashion Model and Fashion Model: Cursed Frame
- Hanging Blimp
- Honored Ancestors
- Marionette Mansion
- The Long Dream
The universe’s wonders are pretty much unknown to the people of earth. However, we have the opportunity to glance at a fraction of its mysteries. As a scientist observes a new planet in the distance, he names it after his only daughter – Remina.
Of course, Remina herself is acclaimed for having the same name as the planet. At first, she’s afraid of adoration and fame until the reality behind the planet is discovered. It’s a world-consuming planet approaching earth, destroying everything in its path.
The adoration Remina (the girl) once enjoyed quickly turns into fear and hatred as rumors spread, claiming that Remina and her father are the culprits behind the tragedy. Remina is then hunted as if she was a witch, and she and her fans do their best to survive in a world influenced by the planet’s shine, even when the end is near.
There are many frightening creatures in the world of horror fantasy, but Tomie is both beautiful and dreadful. When you look at Tomie, you could easily fall in love with her charms, especially her long and beautiful black hair and the small beauty mark below her left eye.
Men fall so deeply in love with her that things get chaotic, resulting in violent outcomes. And Tomie herself becomes the chosen victim, but she returns from the dead eventually.
This is all thanks to Tomie’s stratagems, manipulating others emotionally or psychologically to induce them into rampages caused by jealousy.
Anyone would say that Tomie is nothing but a puppeteer, but the more you get to know her, the more you understand that Tomie is a remarkable creature out of this world.
No Longer Human is Junji Ito’s adaptation and representation of an old literature piece from 1948, also known as “Ningen Shikkaku” in Japanese, which could be translated into “Human Failure.”
This story is rather sad and realistic, a unique approach to horror, following the steps of the novel’s author, Osamu Dazai. It follows the life of Ooba Youzou as he struggles to connect with others and is overwhelmed by his own thoughts.
To be perceived as “normal,” Ooba acts as a clown around his family and schoolmates. Still, inside, he is a rather calculative and intelligent person, overthinking everything to the point of not sleeping at night because of the smallest things.
This title is recommended for those looking for something combining human nature with a pinch of horror and the supernatural.
Like No Longer Human, this one focuses on another thing besides horror. I recommend this title if you want to get to know Junji Ito a little more as a person and if you want a unique, gentler approach to his work.
As you might have expected, this one involves J-Kun (Junji Ito’s drawn persona) as he lives with his fianceé and her two cats, Yon and Mu, showcasing his many experiences with them.
Junji Ito’s Cat Diary tells an ordinary tale about a person suddenly becoming responsible for two new creatures. Although there’s nothing scary happening in the story, the way Ito draws his characters gives the title a horror vibe. And although the story often feels a bit creepy and eerie, it’s anything but that!
The title is worth a read if you love reading Junji Ito manga but are not really in the mood to experience anything scary.
If you have never had the chance to read the novel Frankenstein from 1818 by the author Mary Shelley, you should give this one title a chance. As an adaptation of the story coming from Junji Ito’s perspective of the original book, it is acclaimed as one of the best adaptations you can find of the original piece.
As you might have expected, it is the adaptation of the original piece by the author involving a mad scientist wanting to create a living being from scratch.
Still, Junji Ito’s Frankenstein manga also contains other short stories! It’s a relatively affordable book as well, so I would recommend giving this one a try if you have never read something from Junji Ito and want to go for a short and easy-to-consume manga.
Gyo, which literally translates to “Fish,” is a horror story about fearful fiends from the depths of the sea. It is among the longest titles you can find from the hands of Junji Ito, reaching 20 chapters, just like Uzumaki. It also has a couple of extra short stories if you manage to get your hands on the manga collection.
The story follows Tadashi and Kaori, a couple who travel to Okinawa for their vacation and try scuba diving. Things become weird once they notice a fish with legs growing from its belly, and with its presence, Kaori quickly notices a foul stench coming from it, like the smell you would find from the rotting corpse of an animal.
As the story progresses, Tadashi, Kaori, and the residents of Okinawa face a horde of legged fish, followed by the smell of rotten flesh and death. An incredible combination of horror and supernatural, showcasing unpleasant and mind-crushing situations.
Also known as Yami no Koe or Voices of the Dark, Smashed is another compilation of stories by Junji Ito. This one is a good choice if you prefer reading short stories instead of stories that develop themselves as you keep on reading. I personally believe that starting with compilations is a good approach since they don’t take as much time, and you can finish them rather quickly.
This title is a collection featuring 13 short stories showcased in both Yami no Koe and Shin Yami no Koe Kaidan. Its first one, Blood Sucking Darkness, is the longest of the 13 stories, divided into seven parts. The other short stories include:
- Ghost of Prime Time
- Splendid Shadow Song
- Library Vision
- Death Row Doorbell
- I Don’t Want to be a Ghost
- The Mystery of the Haunted House (Including Souichi’s Version)
- In Mirror Valley
- Souichi’s Beloved Pet
10. Mimi’s Ghost Stories
Also known as Mimi no Kaidan, Mimi’s Ghost Stories is another compilation of short stories centered around a young girl named Mimi who is unlucky enough to deal with multiple paranormal and horrific situations. It has a total of 7 chapters, each portraying a different story Mimi experienced and the people surrounding her.
Mimi’s Ghost Stories is usually considered the lightest work from Junji Ito since, although it does portray some rather scary situations, it’s by far the less grotesque and bizarre piece of work you can find from him.
I would recommend it for those who want to start reading Junji Ito’s manga series but don’t have the heart to begin with other pieces since many of his titles are known for being very unsightly, which might put off newcomers.
Dissolving Classroom might be one of the most grotesque you can find solely because of its premise and its two main characters. It was claimed as one of Junji Ito’s best pieces, but it is not usually the one I would recommend for beginners.
If you have already read some of Junji Ito’s stories and are accustomed to his portrayal of horror, you might want to try this one.
The plot follows two brothers, Yuuma and Chizumi, as they (willingly and unwillingly) create a path of suffering, destruction, and pain wherever they go. Chizumi, for instance, is the devil reincarnated as a little sister. In contrast, Yuuma, an innocent and kind person, has the unique ability to melt down people just by apologizing to them.
12. Black Paradox
Black Paradox is a progressive manga with eight chapters, with the last two being one-shots. The title follows a group of people who involve themselves with one another for the sake of committing group suicide, each dealing with something.
For example, we have Marisol, who can predict the future and wants to die to avoid suffering the things she knows will happen. Taburou, on the other hand, managed to have an encounter with his doppelganger, an event rumored to end in misfortune.
Piitan was used as the model of a robot that surpassed him in all aspects, feeling that life was not worth living after that. And Barachi, a person with a facial disfiguration, claims that a new living being is growing from it.
All characters will involve themselves in multiple events, some involving paranormal situations that will change their fates.
13. Souichi’s Stories
This title is about Souichi Tsuiji, who can be described as an antagonist and villain. You can find two collections about him: Souichi’s Diary of Curses and Souichi’s Diary of Delights.
Sadly, these two have not been officially translated into English, but you can find fan translations on the internet if you are still interested in reading them.
Souichi is a rather peculiar character, even to Junji Ito’s standards. First, he’s regularly found biting or sucking nails to fight his iron deficiency, and he can spit said nails to use them as darts to fight other people.
He’s also a young man quite obsessed with the occult, to the point of entangling himself in rituals and similar approaches to the paranormal, regardless of the results they could cause to people, including himself.
The thing about Souichi’s Stories is that although they involve a lot of horror elements, just like many of Ito’s titles, this one also involves a certain level of comedy since many of Souichi’s plans tend to backfire, causing somewhat comedic situations that bite him as a result.
Like many Junji Ito manga collections, Fragments of Horror is also a collection of short stories first published in 2013 and 2014. It has a total of 8 short stories, each one independent of one the other.
Many of the stories from this collection were added in a 2018 anime adaptation known as The Junji Ito Collection by Studio Deen.
To showcase some examples of the stories you will find in this collection, you have:
- Futon, which features a man who refuses to leave his futon under any circumstances
- Wooden Spirit, which focuses on the relation of a couple with an accursed house
- Tomio and the Red Turtle Neck, which follows Tomio as he’s being hunted by a fortune teller she had an affair with
- Gentle Goodbye, which follows Riko as she leads a life filled with nightmares about her father’s death as she marries a member of the Tokura family, which has the strange ability to create and see afterimages of people
- Dissection Girl, which features a medical student Tatsuro Kamata who is stalked by a girl obsessed with the idea of being dissected
The background behind Fragments of Horror is also fascinating since Junji Ito had stopped drawing horror for eight years before drawing this title. This caused him to feel that the collection was not good to his standards, but the collection found some success regardless of what its author felt about it.
Deserter is another collection from Junji Ito, one of its longest since it contains 12 stories. One of the stories, Deserter, showcases the story of a family who hides a war deserter and constantly feeds him lies about war to make him think the war never ended.
Some of the other stories you can find also include:
- Bio House
- Face Thief
- Village of the Siren
- Where the Sandman Lives
- Unendurable Labyrinth
- The Devil’s Logic
- A Father’s Love
- The Long Hair in the Attic
- The Reanimator’s Sword
- Scripted Love
What Is Your Favorite Junji Ito Manga Series?
Now you know where to start if you are interested in reading some of Junji Ito’s titles. You can find most of his titles and collections online, officially translated into English, for you to enjoy in a physical format.
If you end up falling in love with Junji Ito’s pieces, you can always research even more of his work for you to enjoy since Junji Ito has been drawing for years now, coming up with different plots in most of his works.
If you are a beginner to horror manga and are easily perturbed by graphic scenes, you might want to start with its lighter pieces, though. Mimi’s Ghost Stories is a personal recommendation since it is the one I recommend to people who are new to the horror genre and want to dip their toes into its wonders.
After you get used to his style, you can start consuming more and more of the best Junji Ito manga series. I heavily recommend following the order of this list after you have read Mimi’s Ghost Stories!