I never enjoyed being scared like my peers did. I was the kid who refused to go on roller coasters, was terrified of the dark, and thought the Harry Potter film franchise was in the genre of horror. As I got older, I felt it was time I developed more of a tolerance for spooking myself. I tried to push myself to increase this tolerance by watching movies like IT and The Conjuring, and seeking out horror books. One of the books I ended up liking was Deserter, a horror story collection by Junji Ito, an incredible horror fiction author.
Deserter contains 12 short manga stories about 20-50 pages long, showcasing his earlier works. His stories are incredibly imaginative, his artwork is admirable, and the end of each story is bound to send a shiver up your spine and have your eyes darting around your room at the slightest provocation.
Seeing as his stories are presented in the form of manga, it would have been quite easy for Ito to simply start with an obviously creepy situation—like a lone child entering a haunted house—proceed with a few well-placed jump scares, and be done with the whole thing. But instead, he starts his stories with something eerie and unknown, often unthought of, and proceeds to take everything we thought we knew about things that go bump in the night and throw it out the window.
Ito takes ordinary things that might be a bit awkward, like exotic foods, mixing up identical twins, breakups, and nightmares, and turns them into deadly and horrifying sagas. The stories, like most horror stories, start with strange phenomena: wine not tasting quite right, something being a little off in your best friend’s mannerisms, stories not quite matching up, etc. Some are simply eerie and unsettling, others go right into the gory deaths, and others involve such complex motives that it is impossible to tell hero from villain.
Junji Ito’s Deserter is not what I thought I would find when I looked into horror—his stories are captivating. If you would like to find a set of incredibly good stories that just so happen to keep you up at night, Deserter is the book for you.
Deserter by Junji Ito. Viz Media, 2021. Buy the book here and help support Stone Soup in the process!