Manga Review: Sensor

Sensor is a seven-chapter manga that tells a cosmic horror tale.

Sensor
Written by: Junji Ito
Publisher: Asashi Shimbun Publications Inc.
English Publisher: VIZ Media
Release Date: August 17, 2021

The story opens with a young woman Kyoko Byakuya hiking at Mount Sengoku and coming across gold-colored volcanic hair that’s falling from the sky. She is approached by a man who says that he’s been waiting for her, because the amagami (the “heavenly hair” that Kyoko found) told him and that she would come. He takes to his village, which is called Kiyokami, and it turns out the village is blanketed with the “heavenly hair.” This strange hair also attaches itself to the people who live there.

While in the village, Kyoko hears a story about how this village had sheltered a foreign missionary during an era when Christianity was prohibited, and how the missionary and those who protected him were thrown into the mouth of Mount Sengoku. The “heavenly hair” has rained down ever since, and it’s believed to be the hair of the missionary. The hair has brought happiness to the villagers and they have come to worship it, as well as the missionary who was thrown into the volcano. The title of Sensor comes from the fact that the “angelic hair” has the power to amplify the five senses (aka the “sensors”) in the human body. Suddenly, a shadow appears and shoots out jet black hair… and the village is destroyed.

We then learn the mountain has erupted for the first time in 60 years. Rescue workers who go to the mountain find a cocoon made with the “angelic hair.” The cocoon melts, and Kyoko Byakuya emerges from it. However, he hair is now the same as the beautiful, golden “angelic hair” and not the hair we originally saw her with.

It seems like the story is going to be narrated by Kyoko, but the second chapter shifts gears to Wataru Tsuchiyado, a no-name reporter who witnessed a cloud near Mount Sengoku while he was on an airplane. Nothing appears on the news, but he discovers after some digging around, that someone has posted a picture of the cloud on the internet. After learning where the photograph was taken, Wataru goes to the location and sees Kyoko Byakuya running through the woods. But she, along with Wataru, is captured by a group called the Indigo Shadow. They’re a supramysticism group seeking universal truth. In the incident that took place with Kyoko, she gained the power of clairvoyance, and this group is using her as a medium in order to access the Akashic Records. A tragic accident occurs when the group tries to meditate and bring about more of the Akaschic Records, but Wataru is able to escape with Kyoko.

After the second chapter, the rest of the manga is told from Wataru’s point of view. He spends time trying to track down Kyoko Byakuya. The connections he discovers and the events that Wataru goes through fit in with the type of horror stories that I’ve come to expect from Junji Ito. This particular story also utilizes a form of “time traveling” in it, both for Kyoko and Wataru. The story of Sensor evolves and the stakes become higher and higher as more revelations are made. In a lot of respects, it doesn’t quite go as “over the top” as Remina did, but it still becomes a bit of a wild ride. It was interesting to see how various elements introduced throughout the story come together in the climax and to see how everything falls into place in order to bring the story to its conclusion.

When it comes to the art in Sensor, there is a chapter where Wataru finds out about a clinic where Kyoko had received hypnotherapy after being found in the cocoon, and Ito was able to use some of the grotesque style that he’s known for when one of the therapists becomes so enamored with Kyoko that he puts himself under hypnosis. The bugging out of the eyes and the transformation this character goes through is almost “nightmare fuel.” These are panels I’m not going to forget easily.

In the Afterword, Ito admits that this manga hadn’t gone in the direction he had intended because the characters weren’t cooperating with him. He addresses how Kyoko was supposed to serve as the narrator, but the story quickly evolved into one where she couldn’t play that role. Wataru’s role also ended up not quite being what Ito had originally intended, either, because this no-name reporter was refusing to write about his investigation into Kyoko Byakuya. Having this background information after reading the manga, I have to say that Ito still pulled off a riveting horror story, even if it hadn’t turned out the way he had initially envisioned it.

Now that I’ve read several of Ito’s works, I have to say that he has a distinct style for both his art and his writing. This isn’t a bad thing, though, because I never feel like he’s truly recycling old story ideas. His art style is distinctive, and while some of the characters may have certain qualities to their designs, I never feel like characters between stories look so much alike that he’s being lazy on his character designs.

If you’re already a fan of Junji Ito’s work, then you should give Sensor a try. If you’re a fan of horror manga, this title would also be worth giving a look at. For those reading this review who have no familiarity with Junji Ito’s works, I would recommend starting with one of his compilation manga titles, such as Venus in the Blind Spot in order to get a feel for Ito’s style before delving into a long-running story like Sensor or Remina.

The reviewer was provided a review copy by VIZ Media

Additional reviews of Junji Ito’s work:

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