Tombs: Junji Ito Story Collection is a horror manga anthology by Junji Ito that includes nine stories.

Tombs: Junji Ito Story Collection
Written by: Junji Ito
Publisher: Asahi Shimbun Publications Inc.
English Publisher: VIZ Media
Release Date: March 28, 2023

The first story in the collection is “Tombs.” Not only is it the story that provides the title for the anthology, it’s also the longest story in the volume. A girl named Kaoru receives a letter from her friend, Izumi, inviting her to come visit her strange town. Kaoru’s brother, Tsuyoshi, drives his sister there. On the way, he hits a girl who walks into the middle of the road. As they’re heading toward a hospital, the girl dies. When they realize she’s dead, instead of taking her to a hospital, the girl is put into the trunk of Tsuyoshi’s car. When they reach the town where Izumi lives, they discover tombs in the middle of the road. They learn it’s a custom to put a tomb where the person died, because if they don’t, the deceased will not find peace. It’s also revealed that Izumi’s sister, Ayumi, went into the woods and hasn’t come home. If you guessed that the girl Tsuyoshi hit was Ayumi, then you’d be right. The rest of the story focuses on what happens to Kaoru and Tsuyoshi after they realize the truth. As soon as it was mentioned that Ayumi had gone missing, I knew she was the girl that was hit. Outside of that easy prediction, though, I thought that “Tombs” was a rather solid story.

Next is “Clubhouse,” which sees three high school friends (Yukari, Chikako, and Minae) going to a haunted house, but Yukari refuses to enter. When Chikako and Minae go inside, Minae goes to the second floor while Chikako stays on the first. After this incident, Chikako and Minae stop talking to each other, and Yukari is trying to figure out what’s going on. Chikako takes Yukari to the house and they find a group of university students who are part of a student movement. Things get strange, though, when Yukari is accused of being a spy for the group on the second floor. After learning from her father that the building has been abandoned for 20 years after a student movement group experienced infighting, split into two groups, and things got so bad that the fighting led to bloodshed. When Yukari realizes that she and Chikako must have been seeing ghosts of these activists, she talks to Minae, who promises to take her to a psychic… who happens to be on the second floor of the abandoned building. Let’s just say that things get strange quickly for Yukari. This story was kind of weird, but that’s what I’ve come to expect from Junji Ito. Even though it was strange, it was still interesting and intriguing.

This is followed by “Slug Girl.” A girl named Yuko, who used to be quite talkative, hardly talks anymore… but when she does, she has trouble speaking clearly. Her friend, Rie, becomes concerned after Yuko quits coming to school. When she goes to Yuko’s house, she finds Yuko’s parents dealing with a slug problem. A few days later, it’s discovered that Yuko’s tongue has turned into a slug… and the rest of the story details the attempts that are made to take care of Yuko’s tongue. There’s a tragic ending to this story, but in a lot of ways, I expected this one to end in this kind of a manner.

“The Window Next Door” sees a family moving into an older house and discovering that one of the houses next door only has one window, which faces their house. They learn that its rumored that a middle aged woman lives in the one window house. However, no one knows for sure because no one ever leaves the house. Hiroshi, the son in the house (who appears to be in his late teens or early 20’s), has the bedroom upstairs, and his window faces the window of the mysterious neighbor’s house. Hiroshi starts hearing a voice calling to him at night, and he sees the mysterious neighbor in the window across from his. The mysterious neighbor is basically stalking Hiroshi, and the rest of the story shows Hiroshi trying to deal with the situation, especially after his parents don’t believe him. I think Ito’s design for the mysterious neighbor was perfect, because he gave her such a creepy vibe that felt like it came straight out of a horror movie.

Next is “Washed Ashore,” which tells the story about the curiosity behind the corpse of a massive sea creature washing up on a beach. Two characters who hate the sea are drawn to the location of the corpse: one who developed a phobia after visiting an aquarium, while the other came to hate the sea after her fiancée was in an accident. Something surprising is discovered inside the carcass, which leads to the conclusion of the story. Of the two characters who are introduced, I thought the one who lost her fiancée at sea had the stronger motivation for hating the sea yet wanting to see the sea creature’s carcass. It wasn’t a bad story, but to me, at least, it wasn’t quite as strong as the other stories in this compilation.

This is followed by “The Strange Tale of the Tunnel.” A young man named Goro returns to his hometown after 20 years in order to see a particular tunnel. He recalls how his mother died during his childhood after walking into this tunnel and being hit by a train. Not long after that, the tunnel went out of use. However, a few years later, Goro’s little sister keeps wandering into the tunnel because she’s being drawn to it. One day, when their father goes to look for her, he disappears and is never seen again. Goro finds his sister, as well as a scientific lab in the middle of the tunnel. Goro’s flashback reaches its peak when he and the scientists discover the truth about the tunnel, and what led Goro to leave his hometown. I really liked how Ito built up this story, and as a reader, I found I really felt for Goro after seeing how this strange tunnel ended up destroying his family.

“Bronze Statue” focuses on the wife of a former mayor who had bronze statues of her and her husband erected in a park. However, the statue looks nothing like the wife, and several of the mothers who visit the park make fun of the statue. A new mother and her child join this group at the park, and the other children insist that the statue of the woman talks to them. One day, all of the mothers receive an invitation to the former mayor’s wife’s home for a meal and to unveil a new statue. But these women learn something about the statue in the park, and the former mayor’s wife takes out her revenge against these mothers. But the former mayor’s wife is in for some shocking surprises, which ultimately lead to the conclusion of the story. Of the stories that appear in Tombs: Junji Ito Story Collection, this was one of the weirdest ones. That’s not to say that it was bad a story, it just was much more on the weird side in comparison to most of the others in this compilation.

Next is “Floaters,” where we see a high school boy named Masao trying to catch some strange, black objects in the middle of the night. At the same time, he hasn’t been at school for a while. The next day, his friend, Ryoichi, finds one of the strange black objects on a tree. It speaks in Masao’s voice and says that he’s in love with Ryoichi’s girlfriend, Kyoko. It’s discovered that these black things are coming out of Masao’s body, and they each include actual thoughts that Masao has. A classmate named Kazuya discovers one of these black hairballs and becomes obsessed with catching them. When more and more people start developing the same issue as Masao, Kazuya becomes even more obsessed. The story reaches its peak in a rather dramatic fashion, and the ending is on the bittersweet side.

The final story of the compilation is, “The Bloody Story of Shirosuna.” A young man named Doctor Furuhata arrives in the village of Shirosuna, and he discovers that most, if not all of villagers, appear to be anemic. After encountering a young girl who is bleeding profusely, but then stops bleeding without dying, he learns from the girl’s sister that many people have this same affliction. Doctor Furuhata takes it upon himself to try to determine what’s going on, and what he discovers is a terrifying secret. Unfortunately, Doctor Furuhata does not escape unscathed from this experience. While this is an interesting story, I also have to admit that it’s also on the strange side. However, I’m not sure which story is stranger: “Bronze Statue” or “The Bloody Story of Shirosuna.”

In my more recent reviews of Junji Ito’s collections, I have commented that I felt that several of them weren’t as strong as Venus in the Blind Spot. However, I have to say that Tombs: Junji Ito Story Collection is one of the strongest collection of Ito’s works that I’ve read in a while. I wouldn’t quite rate it as high as Venus in the Blind Spot, but I think it comes a close second.

This collection includes a lot of the types of stories and Ito’s storytelling style that I enjoy. The weirder stories were kept to a minimum, but even the weirder stories were still engrossing and interesting. I really didn’t want to stop reading this compilation after I started it. I think fans of Junji Ito’s work will really enjoy Tombs: Junji Ito Story Collection, and I would highly recommend it to readers who are curious about Ito and his work.

The reviewer was provided a review copy by VIZ Media

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