Manga Review: Venus in the Blind Spot

Venus in the Blind Spot is a horror manga anthology by Junji Ito. It’s a “best of” collection that includes 10 stories.

Venus in the Blind Spot
Written by: Junji Ito
Publisher: Shogakukan
English Publisher: VIZ Media
Release Date: August 18, 2020

Before starting this review, I need to be upfront with the fact that I don’t normally go out of my way to watch horror movies or read horror stories. However, I decided that I needed to read some of Junji Ito’s work, since he’s developed quite a name for himself as a manga artist. I figured I should at least have some familiarity with his work.

The first story included in this anthology is “Billions Alone,” and it sets up the concept of people who gather together disappearing and later reappearing as corpses stitched together with what appears to be fishing line. A group calling itself Billions Alone is jamming the radio waves and raining down flyers from airplanes with a message about coming together and not being alone. The main character of this story is Michio, a 19-year-old who has locked himself in his room for seven years. A girl named Natsuko Horie had been nice to him in elementary school and junior high, and she is on the class reunion committee. She manages to get him to come out of his room and see her and the other members of their class reunion committee. The reunion is scheduled to coincide with their coming-of-age ceremony. As the time draws nearer for the reunion and coming-of-age ceremony, more and more people go missing and return as sewn together corpses. It gets to a point where people are separating from each other in order to avoid becoming victims. When I read this portion of this story, it kind of made me think of what’s going on with COVID-19 at the time I’m writing this review. But I did not expect the plot twist that appeared at the end of this story, and I my jaw nearly dropped when I saw it.

Next is “The Human Chair,” and the original story for this one was written by Edogawa Ranpo. A female writer who is on holiday visits a furniture workshop and says she wants the shopkeep to make her a new chair for her work. He shows her a chair that’s in his workshop and tells her a story about someone living in the chair and the torment they brought to a female writer. It’s a creep story, and it’s no wonder the writer decides not to have this man make her a chair and run out of his shop. Doing her research, though, she finds that the story that she was told was true. This one has an ending that scares the female writer out of her wits. For a horror story, though, this ending felt a little on the predictable side.

The next story in the compilation is “An Unearthly Love,” which was also originally written by Edogawa Ranpo. The main character marries a man who seems normal at first, but he becomes moody and withdrawn as time goes on. The wife discovers a secret… and it ranks up there on the creepy side. But the story takes an even creepier turn after the wife takes action. Both this story and “The Human Chair” seem to show the kind of influence that Ranpo had on Ito’s own stories and work, when I look at these stories and Ito’s original works included in this compilation.

This is followed by “Venus in the Blind Spot,” the title story for this compilation. This horror story has a sci-fi component to it due to how the characters come together in the first place and the events that create the illusion that Mariko, the main female character, is disappearing in front of people’s eyes. This illusion drives the male characters crazy, especially since most of them have become obsessed with Mariko. Sadly, though, this story leads to a sad ending for Mariko. This one takes psychological horror and ups the ante with its sci-fi elements.

“The Licking Woman” sees a woman going around licking people, and her victims get a skin abnormality and die due to poison being in her saliva. A woman named Miku loses her fiancé to the licking woman, and she vows to get kill her. This is a story of being careful what you wish for because it may not be as happy of an ending as you think it will be if you achieve your goal. Of the stories included in this collection, I thought this was one of the strangest ones included.

Next is “Master Umezz and Me,” which can be best described as a “autobiographical manga” by Junji Ito about how he got into horror manga, especially works by Kazuo Umezz. It culminates with Ito being given an opportunity to work a manga version of a film that Umezz was working on. I liked the twist at the end of this one. And I have to say that of all the stories included in this collection, “Master Umezz and Me” was my favorite. Since it an “autobiographical manga,” it had a different feel from the rest of the pieces in here, even though it has a connection to horror because of how it tells about Ito and his interest in the genre.

The next piece is “How Love Came to Professor Kirida,” which is based on a story by Robert Hichens titled, “How Love Came to Professor Guildea.” This one sees a female writer dealing with writer’s block spending time at her parents’ house and stumbling across a journal that appears to have been written by one of her ancestors. This leads into the story about a professor who was an extreme misanthrope and remained single until his mysterious death. This story features the professor, a Christian preacher, a parrot, and a female writer who wants the professor’s approval. After the female writer attempts suicide, the professor is haunted by a female spirit… but there’s a twist to the spirit and its motives.

“The Engima of Amigara Fault” sees two people meeting after a great earthquake that devastated towns and created a huge fault near the epicenter. The news showed what appeared to be human shaped holes at the fault, and one of the characters was drawn there because she swears she saw a hole that had her shape. What they discover about these holes is quite chilling, and the ending of this one is creepy, yet also sad.

“The Sad Tale of the Principal Post” is one of the shortest stories included in this collection. While I would definitely agree that was happens here is sad, I’m not entirely convinced that it’s a horror story.

The final story in the collection is “Keepsake,” and it tells of a baby being born to a dead woman nine months after she died. This one was creepy, largely due to the idea of baby being born to a dead woman. However, there were also other elements in this one that were creepy as well. The explanation for how the dead woman became pregnant was just… I’m not sure how to describe how I felt about that.

Even though I’m not a fan of horror, I could still recognize that Junji Ito good at what he does when it comes to telling stories. His art style is also quite expressive, and it works well with the tales of horror that he weaves in his work. If you’re a manga fan who enjoys the horror genre, I would recommend Venus in the Blind Spot.

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