Comics Are Trying to Break Your Heart #171 by Drew Barth

Looking Space

Although I have talked about him and his work in the past, I can always talk at length about the wonderfully creeping horror of Junji Ito. Much of his most iconic work is typically found in his short stories, namely pieces like “The Enigma of Amigara Fault” or his longer-running Tomie stories, but when he is given the space to work on a single idea all at once, something particularly eerie bubbles up. Much like his acclaimed Uzumaki, one of his newer graphic novels, Sensor, stretches beyond his normal horror and into something more cosmically disturbing.

Kyoko Byakuya walks along the base of Mount Sengoku where, sixty years prior, a village had been wiped out by Sengoku erupting. But the village still stands, covered in these golden volcanic hairs—hairs that the people in the village claims lets them see to the furthest reaches of the universe. Out there, in the darkness of space, something is watching them as they peer and causes the volcano to erupt a second time. Wataru Tsuchiyado is a reporter that sees a picture of a black cloud hanging above the spot where the village had stood previously. Kyoko Byakuya wanders the same woods she had been in previously, this time with a full head of that golden volcanic hair. Wataru knows who she is, but Kyoko does not remember anything about herself. The small cult that has sprung up beneath the black cloud is looking to Kyoko to peer further into the depths of the universe and, maybe, to the being that was lurking there.

This is one of Ito’s first forays into a more cosmic, unknowable horror. Stories like Uzumaki touched on that unknowable horror, but its basis was something within the earth itself. This time we’re looking more toward the stars and what they hold. There is something ancient hiding at the core of this story, a figure that the villagers at the base of Mount Sengoku briefly glimpse, and its golden threads tie the story together. Coming from Ito, there isn’t much in terms of the body horror much of his famous work is known for. Instead, we have a story that creeps along with that ancient entity in the background. It’s a horror that build and builds these small moments into a realization of the kind of cosmic terror that is peering down at these people trying to scratch at the surface of its machinations.

Junji Ito’s work is a horror that can seed itself deep in a reader’s bones and remain in the marrow for decades—like me and the first time I got to the final page of “Amigara Fault.” But it is these stories like Sensor that really ingrain themselves into your psyche. Like any good piece of cosmic horror, it doesn’t reveal too much about the terrors beyond the stars, but Ito gives your mind a moment to conceive of it yourself. And you don’t want to do that.

Get excited. Get golden.


Drew Barth at Miami Book Fair in 2019.

Drew Barth (Episode 331, 485, & 510) resides in Winter Park, FL. He received his MFA from the University of Central Florida. Right now, he’s worrying about his cat.