Anime Conventions SDCC

A Haunting Conversation With Junji Ito: Comic-Con@Home Panel

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Comic-Con decided to switch from their usual in-person convention to streaming panels in an event called, Comic-Con@Home. One of these panels is a Q&A of Junji Ito, a Japanese horror mangaka and an Eisner Award winner for his manga version of Frankenstein. Ito is known for his works of Uzumaki and Tomie, but his works go far beyond what is mentioned here and is worth it to check out! Junji Ito has been in the mangaka business for 30 years and with no end in sight for the 57-year-old. Especially with the recently announced news of Uzumaki becoming an Anime on Adult Swim or Toonami.

The Comic-Con@Home panel (in collaboration with VIZ Media) is hosted by Urian Brown, VIZ Media panel host, and interpreter, Junko Goda. The panel starts off with the introduction of the “master of horror manga” and soon follows with a Q&A and finishes with fan questions. Urian Brown also discussed Junji Ito’s new work that is to be released in Aug 18, 2020 called, Venus in The Blind Spot. Blind Spot contains short works (The Human Chair and The Enigma of Amigara Fault) as well as the Blind Spot story, special color pages, and color illustrations from No Longer Human. Now begins the Q&A that I transcribed below and consists of 15 questions!

The Human Chair (Credit: Junji Ito)
The Human Chair (Credit: Junji Ito)

Q: What is the secret to telling a scary story?

A: “So I’m not really conscious about making something scary. When I was growing up, I was naturally drawn to scary things and scary movies. So I would watch a lot of movies and scary manga. All this content I absorbed and so I naturally started telling scary stories and I think even as an adult, I have all this knowledge of scary stories and I’m not trying to mimic them, necessarily, but create something original that comes from me and my perspective on scary stories.”

  • Q: What was the inspiration for your title story, Venus in The Blind Spot?
      • A: “So Blind Spot actually exists in the human eye, there is a specific spot. So I started thinking about a story of someone trying to get away from a stalker by being in the stalker’s physical blind spot and so as I was developing this story, I found that humans when they’re looking, their eyes are going really fast. So how would someone physically put themselves in someone’s blind spot if the human eye is moving so much? So I ended up massaging at the idea the story a bit more and I came up with what is in the algeny.”
  • Q: Have you ever based any of your monsters, creature, or human, off of people that you know?
    • A: “So this should be kept a secret, but I had a friend who I did model a character after and in the story, this guy is being a creepy stalker and he stalks his victims by going through the sewer system and getting into houses and things like that and the character’s name is Nui in the story. In real life, the person I modeled the character after, he actually didn’t take baths that often. So it ended up being appropriate as a character. This is before I became a professional mangaka that I know this acquaintance. As far as I know, they have no clue.”
  • Q: When people find out what you do for a living, how do they react?
    • A: “So generally, I get a kind of a plain reaction or answer. When I don’t have to get very deep into what I do, I generally don’t tell people what I do. But if I have to, I tell them I’m a mangaka and at that point, they’re like, ‘Oh! That’s cool!’ So it’s not like a big surprise or doesn’t have a big impact on them necessarily. I don’t have manga in my back pocket, so I can’t just pick it out. But in general, I found that people don’t know my name as a mangaka.”
  • Q: Are there any other manga genres you would like to take a crack at?
    • A: “This is a question I get asked fairly often and I will say jokingly that I would like to try my hand at rom-com. It’s half-joking, but there is a part of me who wouldn’t mind trying it.”
  • Q: If you could work on a new series with anyone, dead or alive, who would it be?
    • A: “Starting with Umezu-sensei, Umezu-sensei is someone I’ve looked up to since I was young and I had the opportunity to meet him once when I was an adult and a professional mangaka and it was wonderful to meet and talk with him. In the short story, It’s basically my feelings taking on the form of manga. As far as people I want to work with, Hideshi Hino. Edogawa Rampo is really interesting to turn into a manga as well. So there are definitely other authors that would make very interesting stories. I also wanna add Stephen King as well. Stephen King is such a legend, so I would definitely wanna read up on him, study and study his works, and see what kind of story I can create.”
  • Q: Of all your numerous stories from Venus in The Blind Spot, which one was your favorite?
    • A: “I’m gonna say not just one, but two titles that are dear to my heart. First one is, The Enigma of Amigara Fault, and that is a story where they basically discover these very specific human silhouetted holes and that silhouette is specific to someone on the Earth and there are all these human holes. That’s the basic premise and I really love the idea and personally, I consider it my top three. The other one is, The Human Chair, which is an Edogawa Rampo original and I made some modifications and I really like how it came out in the end.”
Tomie (Credit: Junji Ito)

Q: Has your creative process changed over the years?

A: “When I first started as a mangaka, I started with pen and ink. It was very analog-like everyone else. But throughout the years, I realized the analog method was too slow to meet the deadlines. So now like everyone else, I am 100% digital and I still really love the analog (method). The analog (method) still has a lot of details that isn’t quite captured digitally. So analog I still love very much. As far as the story developing process goes, that is still the same.”

  • Q: Would you date Tomie?
    • A: “Would I date Tomie? Do I have a choice? I think that if Tomie asked me out, I wouldn’t have a choice and then I would probably just go down the path of self-destruction, unfortunately.”
  • Q: What was the inspiration for your Frankenstein design?
    • A: “It’s really hard to get away from the image that Karloff already established for Frankenstein and so when I stepped up to create the manga, of course, I didn’t want to make a copy of it. What I did was incorporate. I just let those Frankenstein images that already exist influence my own work to create something more original from my imagination.”
  • Q: What does the Master of Horror do to unwind?
    • A: “So unfortunately, I have a lot of deadlines. So I’m not able to carve out large chunks of time to relax. So instead I do intermittent relaxing. So at work, I would listen to jazz or classic music just to dissipate the daily stresses of work. But I can really relax when I’m taking a bath. A bath as in a Japanese bath where I’m in a tub. I’m usually up to my chin and I’ll sit there for about 10 minutes. It warms me up from the core and that’s really when I feel the most relaxed. What’s interesting is that even when I’m showering, I’ll actually start generating more ideas and I don’t know if it’s the effect of taking a shower or taking a bath. But it helps with the extraneous thoughts that are in my head. So if before I take a bath, I’m stuck about how to get through a storyline, for example, by the time I get out of the shower, I have a story. So it’s relaxation and also creativity all in one.”
  • Q: Which of your creatures do you find the most frightening?
    • A: “Yes actually, my character that is most frightening is from one of my older works called, Fashion Model. There’s a character named, Fuchi, she is a fashion model and her teeth are very shark-like and she has a long face and is 2 meters tall. Anyone she meets ends up getting killed. So yeah, she’s probably the most frightening character I created.”
  • Q: What frustrations do you suffer from?
    • A: “So recently I’ve been annoyed when I’m watching T.V., a live broadcast of what’s going on Japanese Diet (Govt.) and all these politicians who are not speaking the truth. So that really is very annoying for me.”
  • Q: Was there ever talk of making a Naruto x Uzumaki crossover?
    • A: “Not sure if it’s just gossip that’s out there. There is no Naruto x Uzumaki crossover plan. However in the past, I’ve collaborated with the fashion designer, Yohji Yamamoto, and I think we will be collaborating again in the future.”
  • Q: What were some of your favorite manga growing up?
    • A: ” It’s a very, very long list for me, but I can definitely say that Kazuo Umezu’s The Drifting Classroom would be my favorite growing up.”
Tomie (Credit: Junji Ito)

Now are the fan questions which consist of 12 questions!

  • Q: What do you think Tomie symbolizes to you?
    • A: “So Tomie on the outside is beautiful, but on the inside, she’s horrible and internally ugly. I felt that I could stuff all the bad about humans and all the negative characteristics about humans are just stuffed into Tomie. I might in the future draw more or tell more of her stories again.”
  • Q: Do you feel that monsters can be sympathetic and loved?
    • A: ” There is a lot of monster-like characters out there where they externally look really ugly or scary, but on the inside, they’re really lovable and there are a lot of artists and storytellers that do a really great job of having that balance and creating these popular characters that are very lovable. However in my case, I really just like to explore horror and what’s scary, very much in the vein of H.P. Lovecraft. So to create these characters that are beyond human comprehension is what I end up doing.”
  • Q: Do any of your stories come from dreams?
    • A: “So in general, not often. But in one of the stories I wrote, which is Hanging Blimp, that was actually from my childhood dream. What happened in the dream was that I found myself in a big space like an airport and I look up at the sky and there is these dolls made of dirt that are in the air and they are coming towards me and there is a rope hanging off of them. The dolls and the rope are coming towards me and that was a pivot dream that ended up turning into Hanging Blimp. The other one is Bog of Living Spirits and that was directly from a dream. I realized that when you’re in the dream it’s very, very scary. But once you wake up, it’s not as scary. So although Bog of Living Spirits is dream-based, I personally don’t think it’s one of my better ones.”
Tomie (Credit: Junji Ito)

Q: Are you involved in some video game development at the moment?

A: “So the simple answer is no. However, I do know director Kojima and we have been in conversation and that he might have a horror-based game that he might be doing. So he has invited me to work on that, but there is no details on it yet.”

Q: What inspirations for your art did you have growing up?

A: “Some of the artists I draw inspiration from are Giger, Dali (sic). So those are the big names that I grew up with.”

  • Q: Are there any experiences in your life that may have influenced your tendency of making horror from the familiar?
    • A: “My stories come from reality. But it’s reality and you tilt it a little bit. Even if I listen to the radio on walks, there is stories everywhere. For example, just a childhood story is that where we grew up there is a old tunnel that is no longer used. So as kids, we would go to this tunnel with flashlights and go on an adventure. Those experiences has made it to my stories.”
  • Q: Have you ever seen a ghost or experienced something paranormal in real life?
    • A: “Unfortunately, I have never seen a ghost or anything supernatural in the 57 years of my life. Although I have seen what I think was a U.F.O. I was outside late at night and looked up at the sky and I saw two balls of light separating and going on different paths. I think that was a U.F.O. In general, if I feel like there might be a ghost nearby, I just brush it off and figure it’s just me. So, unfortunately, I never had any direct contact with ghosts or the supernatural.”
  • Q: What scares the master of horror?
    • A: “So I haven’t confirmed in myself the existence of ghosts. But the thing that really actually scares me are when ghosts show up in photos. At night, I cannot go to the bathroom once I’ve seen those shows (that show ghosts in photos).”
  • Q: Do you enjoy sci-fi horror movies like Alien or The Thing?
    • A: “I love Alien and I love The Thing. When I was younger I was actually very obsessed with Alien and Giger had done the character design before the Alien and even now if there is a new Alien figurine, even if it’s expensive, I would buy it.”
  • Q: What’s your favorite animal to draw?
    • A: “This isn’t exactly an animal, but I really like rhino beetles and other beetles too. I like drawing those and I recently started drawing cats as well. So I’ve grown to love to draw cats.”
  • Q: Jason or Freddy?
    • A: “That’s kind of a hard question, but I think long claws are really interesting, so Freddy.”
Uzumaki (Credit: Junji Ito)

Then the panel finishes off with the final question:

  • Q: Do you have a message for your fans?
    • A: “Again, I’m Junji Ito and VIZ Media has been wonderful with distributing my work throughout the U.S. So I’m sure all U.S. fans will look forward to reading more of my stories coming from VIZ. Unfortunately, I was supposed to be in San Diego this year to see all of you, but with the Coronavirus, I am not able to. So I’m doing this here instead, but I really look forward to meeting you all in the states in the near future after all this is behind us. I will keep writing and creating and telling you stories and I hope you continue reading all of them!”
Twisted Visions (Credit: VIZ Media and Amazon)

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