Junjipalooza: Mimi’s Ghost Stories 5: The Seashore

One of these people knows how this trip is going to end.
One of these people knows how this trip is going to end.

Due to the unrelenting crush of ghosty bullshit that her life has become, Mimi has allowed her shitty boyfriend Naoto to convince her to come with him and his pals on a trip to a beach. Things go about as well as you’d imagine. No, no, they go worse. They -always- go worse.

Anyway, Mimi’s turned into Cassandra and is making spooky predictions that Naoto utterly brushes off despite the fact that the last time we saw him he explicitly admitted the existence of spirits. More on that later. Anyway, they sleep in their car right in front of the beach because either there’s no hotels, they’re too broke for hotels, or they’re dirtbag teenagers. She is woken up in the middle of the night in time to see a horrible sea-monster, surprising no-one.

This is the face of someone who has just realized how poor her vacation is going to go.
This is the face of someone who has just realized how poor her vacation is going to go.

This is probably my favorite expression so far, where she’s obviously terrified, but just as equally confused and offended, because this is another goddamn day that will be totally ruined by some stupid goddamn bullshit and she is so sick of it. It’s perfect. If that face was on someone who was watching her boyfriend make out with someone else, that would be exactly as valid – the level of shock and indignation and sinking fear is somehow exactly the same to Mimi as watching a rotting sea-monster trundle out of the waves.

Anyway, the next day Mimi is hanging out at one of the little cafes because she understandably wants to go home. Naoto thinks she was just seeing things and keeps encouraging her to stick around. Naoto wants to continue hanging out the beach at his friends (who would also have to go home), so there’s a little tension there, that gets diverted when the creepy waitress shows up

This is why you don't get any tips
This is why you don’t get any tips

Anyway, rather than just giving them their fucking daquiri, she starts talking about ghosts and spirits. One of their friends hits on her, and while he’s busy doing that Mimi implies that Naoto is, if not cheating on her, at least a big flirt. I still have absolutely no clue why Mimi is with this asshole.

The group takes some pictures with the girl, at which point she says she can see ghosts and then names Furusawa (the guy that was hitting on her) as the one to be most careful of death. It’s too cold to bonfire, so they’re about to go back to the car when he throws himself towards the water in one of my favorite kinds of Junji Ito segments – the unexplained desperation! This is pretty close to the obsession, but more frantic, and the explicit point here is that nobody else is aware of what’s happening. Much like the girl last chapter who was the only one that could see the ash monster, Furusawa is the only one that can see what he’s seeing.

Long story short, he drowns, the snapshots of him are haunted, and the ones of the waitress are so horrifying their photographer can’t even speak of it because it’s too horrifying. The pages are gonna lose the impact if they’re described, so I’ll let you get to it yourself.

Body HorrorCheck! There’s the sea-corpse at the start, and then the photographs after are full of creepy baby-ghosts pawing at Furusawa as he grins obliviously into the camera. Good stuff!

Monomaniacal Obsession: One of the funner subsets, where there’s something that only the victim is aware of, and they are going mad Universal-Horror-Film-Style to try and deal with it.

Vacant Eyes: Just once actually, when Furusawa is dead! A couple of the ghosts have white eyes, but most of them are purpilled to show maximum horror.

Big Ol’ Screams: 

aaaaAAAAA
aaaaAAAAA

There may be a character bias in this one.

Douchebag Boyfriend: Naoto is such a loser. He has previously admitted to spirits existing and has also seen the hanged lady turn around and now he thinks that this is just a figment of Mimi’s imagination and he’s ALSO probably cheating on her what a piece of shit.

Fetishes Turned Into Horror: Erotic photography, bloating.

Junjipalooza: Mimi’s Ghost Stories 4: Alone With You

HOT DAMN DO WE HAVE A STORY

And by that, I mean we have another really classic styled Junji Ito story, one that would do great as a standalone and works even better in this context!

Nobody hangs out in a park at midnight with a can of petrol for wholesome reasons.
Nobody hangs out in a park at midnight with a can of petrol for wholesome reasons.

So it’s winter break now, and Mimi’s visiting her parents and sister! No clue what town or district this takes place in, but Mimi lets on she hasn’t been back in quite awhile – she might be trying to move back in or finance another move, or she just needs to stay with her family after her shitty last few months. Her sister is much younger than her, but they are really really undeniably related.

Mimi and Hana are sick of this crap
Mimi and Hana are sick of this crap

Hana shares Mimi’s fighty, noisy nature, but is clearly younger, being much more bratty and self-serving, ready to throw other people under the bus at a moment’s notice. However, their facial features and expressions have a lot in common, and it’s really cute to see. Her parents live in the same building as her bakery, which reminds me of the stores in Shiki, and makes me feel like this is a smaller town they’re in.

Incidentally, I wish a bakery this nice was in  my neighborhood because I would go there all the time!
Incidentally, I wish a bakery this nice was in my neighborhood because I would go there all the time

This one starts pretty quickly with a weird girl her sister is hanging out with who then desperately latches onto Mimi and won’t let go. Her parents are busy with the bakery and just teoo her to keep an eye on her, and she ends up being stuck with the girl plastered to her even at night in bed. We get glimpses of her family too – they own a bakery and have a second daughter, and based on the number of customers (although it’s just reopened from renovations), it’s pretty popular!

Oh, right, and the story OPENS with a woman killing herself in the park by self-immolation. Forgot that bit. My bad.

Anyway, the kid that Mimi is stuck with is kind of creepy, getting dark smudges all over herself, which is revealed to be ghost’s handprints, which culminates in an exorcism. The exorcism isn’t the climax of the story, of course. It’s never the climax of the story in Junji Ito! The real climax is, of course, the revelation of the problem, where the creepy thing that’s going on is exposed to the reader, both in understanding and in horrifying gory detail.

Goooooood morning!
Goooooood morning!

So, it gets exorcised and leaves ashes all over the bakery, so they have to close again to clean it up. Womp-womp! A ghost story with a punchline, who woulda thunk it!

Anyway, Junji Ito stories, vaguely, fall into one of two general themes – there’s a menacing, supernatural PERSON, or a menacing, supernatural ENTITY. Often, when the supernatural transgressor isn’t a person, people will act weird and uncanny around it, such as the girl in this one, in order to highlight that something strange is going on. The next two stories are a bit more obvious about this, and you’ll see what I mean.

Body HorrorThere is definitely some good detailed panels of a charred corpse-ghosts, complete with gnashing teeth and dead eyes, so watch out for that!

Monomaniacal Obsession: Only in the little girl this time, who refuses to be out of anybody’s sight! The weird, obsessive behavior people exhibit is almost universally a symptom of creepy ghost shit happening to or around them. Dear readers if there is anybody in YOUR life whose life is wholly consumed by one obsession or fear, and who ALSO has fully white eyes with no iris or pupil, you should probably avoid them.

Vacant Eyes: None! Fear doesn’t work with blank eyes, and it’s a tip-off that Kei is a victim by having her be constantly demonstrated to be frightened. If she was (somehow) causing some sort of disturbance, her eyes would definitely be white.

Big Ol’ Screams: HELL YES THERE ARE and here we go!

aaaaaaAAAAAAA
aaaaaaAAAAAAA

of particular note is the center Mimi one, and the top right Hana ones – this sort of circle-mouthed desperate horror is something I never notice in other mangaka, and they’re used to great effect in situations that might otherwise be less frightening in order to fully express how freaked out the character in question is. Also, bonus for white-eyes I missed up top.

Douchebag Boyfriend: Naoto is mercifully not present whatsoever through this entire issue! It’s a refreshing break from what will soon be the unrelenting crush of shitty, shitty boyfriends.

Fetishes Turned Into Horror: Wow uhh this one doesn’t really have any applicable fetishes that I can think of unless setting yourself on fire is a thing and I don’t know if even the internet has managed to make THAT one a thing yet.

Junjipalooza 3: Mimi’s Ghost Stories 3: GraveMan

Good view of the cemetery from here
Good view of the cemetery from here

So, based on her discomfort with sharing a house with a creepy woman made out of an erector set who wants to kill her, Mimi has moved to a new apartment. A new apartment with a ground floor balcony that faces directly against a graveyard. Now I’ve never been a young Japanese woman in similar circumstances, but I feel that moving into the Graveyard View House would be an undeniable move down in comparison to the creepy next door neighbor. She passed out right in front of the lady and didn’t even get hurt!

Anyway, this one is great because it’s so far the most -traditional- Junji Ito-styled story done so far, so there’s a bit more to talk about. Due to Japan’s high population density, cremation is the usual way to deal with remains, and so graveyards like this one remain mostly symbolic. However, when taking a walk through it with her boyfriend, he mentions that some of the features make him think that it actually has burial plots. Grave markers are one thing, but actual corpses that close sort of freak Mimi out, and the sounds she keeps hearing at night don’t help either, nor do the spirits she begins to see after some time.

Not lookin' so chipper there Mimi!
Not lookin’ so chipper there Mimi!

This is where we start to see the benefit from a single character – Mimi’s looking visibly less wakeful and chipper, and her shouty assertiveness has given way to stressed uncertainty. Her surprisingly helpful boyfriend Naoto is skeptical of some of her claims, and accidentally freaks her out a bit in order to help calm her down, but for the most part she’s muted and withdrawn. This honestly makes a lot of sense, and it’s even easier to tell that this is the case after the last one and a half stories.

She invites Naoto over to keep an eye on the spinning graves and the ghostly lights with her and discovers that her neighbour is actually interested in rearranging headstones at night in a speedo. There is no picture that I could show you that would do this justice. Anyway, the locals kick him out of town, but she still spends her nights being watched by ghosts and stuff. It’s implied that money’s too tight for her to find another, better place, so presumably she’s stuck here forever.

Body HorrorThe bodybuilder has some creepy underlighting, but besides that, a corpse, and some ghostly faces on the gravestones, everybody’s body is pretty normal!

Monomaniacal Obsession: Ding ding ding here we go! Swiveling around graves to face your porch so you can flex at them because it’s the ultimate ecstasy is pretty much the definition fo monomaniacal obsessions, and the dude next door doesn’t wanna do anything other than jiggle his pecs for specs. Specs being short for specters in this case, not spectacles.

Vacant EyesMimi-3-eyes

Not only is this one great for his vacant eyes, but of particular note is how in the panel he hears them shout at him for moving the graves, his pupils suddenly come back, as though he’s broken some sort of trance.

Big Ol’ Screams: Would you believe that there are NONE? Mimi and Naoto spend the whole encounter either confused, grumpy, or mad at Mr. Bodybuilder that they never even give of a good full-sized scream? Shameful.

Douchebag Boyfriend: Naoto is almost suspiciously useful, although his wealth of trivia mostly serves to frighten Mimi, he takes point at confronting her neighbor, especially when she’s sleep-deprived and frantic already. He even specifically advises her to “keep your mind off those spirits”, which means he’s tacitly acknowledging her thoughts on the matter and validating them, if not outright stating his belief in supernatural activity! If this was Naoto’s only chapter, he’d probably win the Junji Ito Best Boyfriend Award!

Fetishes Turned Into Horror: Bodybuilding, exhibitionism, voyeurism.

Junjipaooza: Mimi’s Ghost Stories 2

This one’s coming right back to back because it’s only a 10 pager, so not much to talk about! This one is mainly notable for being a the first undead-centric issuet hat Mimi has faced, as well as her boyfriend’s first encounter with her… troubles.

So, after the horrors of the previous encounter, what else would she do but go for a walk in the park with her loser boyfriend?

The contrysides were nice and the plants were singing  and the birds and the sun were almost down from the top of the sky
The contrysides were nice and the plants were singing and the birds and the sun were almost down from the top of the sky

Anyway, they don’t get far when they notice a rotting, hung corpse, which then starts to swivel to face them as they quickly run away in horror. Just a quick little thing!

Body HorrorNice close-ups of a hung-corpse’s face, but that’s just standard gore, sadly.

Monomaniacal Obsession: Ten pages long isn’t enough to buff out an obsession!

Vacant Eyes: There’s a nice rotted corpse with vacant eyes, but it’s definitely already dead (ish).

Big Ol’ Screams: 

aaaaaaaa
aaaaaaaa

Douchebag Boyfriend: First page Naoto tries to bang his GF in the middle of the woods on a walking trail. Then, he’s wrong about everything that happens and argues with her on every point she makes. However, make a note here that he has seen something that is pretty supernatural, and also that this is the second time that something unexplainable has happened to Mimi. This will be important for later. And by later, I mean tomorrow, since that’s when my next update should happen!

She clearly doesn't wanna bone in a forest dude
She clearly doesn’t wanna bone in a forest dude

Fetishes Turned Into Horror: Autoerotic Asphyxia

Junjipalooza: Mimi’s Ghost Stories Chapter 1

That's a HANDY trick! ...I'll see myself out
That’s a HANDY trick! …I’ll see myself out

In case you missed it, the introduction!

So, today, I’m starting with Mimi’s Ghost Stories, as they’re pretty solid ghost stories that all feature the same character. Because Mimi is in all of them, I’m just going to introduce you to her!

 - Junji Ito
Could that shadowy figure be… a ghost?????

Mimi is unfortunate enough to star in a several Junji Ito stories, which means that she is also the victim of several Junji Ito stories. In her first appearance, she’s mostly grumpy at her upstairs neighbour, and by the end she’s tired and weary from industrial-level haunting. She’s easily recognizeable due to her penchant for sleeveless turtlenecks, and she always wears her hair in this exact style.

Mimi-1
You’re lying if you can’t hear that voice in your head right now

She’s also prone to yelling at people! She spends most of her time running around trying to get away from places that have their haunt on, to varying degrees of success that range from “zero” to “negative”. The stories themselves are often really short, but you get a general sense of her character (and her character arc) from the way she deals with all this weirdness. In this one things are as normal as can be to her, so she’s way more energetic.

In Chapter 1: The Woman Next Door, Mimi deals with a noisy upstairs neighbour, which segues into her curiosity about the mysterious women who live next door to him. Once he moves out, she takes over his apartment and her curiosity gets the better of her. Turns out that the ladies next door is just one lady who is also an erector set.

Woman Next Door is fun because you get to see her neighbour get scared out of his apartment, which she then immediately decides to move into. The outcome is exactly what you would expect and this is not the last time that Mimi will make a housing decision of tremendously poor outcome. Perhaps the REAL monomaniacal obsession is Mimi with Poor Choices.

Body HorrorKind of! The mysterious next door ladies have extendy limbs and give off a great slenderman vibe. Mimi’s ghost stories are less on the bizzare mutation of a human body and more on awful external things happening, so this section (for now) might be a little bare! In the meantime, have a robo-spider in a hat

~~Does whatever a spider can~~
~~Does whatever a spider can~~

Monomaniacal Obsession: Mimi’s reacting to her external events here, so unless her curiosity about the weird ladies next door

Vacant Eyes: None! Vacant eyes only happen when the people are being monstrous and creepy, and it looks like Junji was trying extra hard to make this K’nex Lady look extra inhuman by not even giving her a face!

Big Ol’ Screams: 

Aaaaaaaaaa
Aaaaaaaaaa

Douchebag Boyfriend: Boy howdy do we ever! Throughout Mimi’s Ghost Stories, she’s stuck with her useless-if-well-meaning boyfriend Naoto, who is probably one of the least supportive boyfriends overall, as haunted ghosty shit keeps happening to Mimi and he will literally never take her word on anything. It’s glorious and you will see much more. I will do my best to find the least sympathetic panel of him I can.

Google "backpfeifengesicht"
Google “backpfeifengesicht”

Fetishes Turned Into Horror:  W-e-l-l I know that there are definitely people that want to get some robot-lovin’ on, and if David Bowie and Benedict Cumberbatch’s sex appeal has taught me anything it’s that unnaturally tall, slender humanoids ARE the hottest property around.

Junjipalooza: Who is Junji Ito?

I’ve finished school for the summer, and while I’m working (Or more accurately at this point, looking for a job), I’ve decided to undertake a summer project. That project will be nothing less than a commentary and evaluation of every single Junji Ito Horror Manga I can get my filthy eyes on. And so to commemorate this, I’m going to write a short post about Junji Ito himself, just in case you’re not familiar with him. WARNING: JUNJI ITO’S MANGA ARE ALMOST UNIVERSALLY GROTESQUE AND/OR DISGUSTING. THIS POST WILL NOT CONTAIN ANY BODY HORROR BUT ITS IMPOSSIBLE TO AVOID.

Junji Ito is a horror mangaka, and while he occasionally does long stories, his speciality lies in one-shots. Short single-issue stories that start vaguely creepy and only get worse over time. He has an assorted cast of characters that reoccur now and then, but in general all of his protagonists are almost entirely interchangeable.

Girl crying, leaning on mattress

It’s hard to describe, but he has a very distinctive style that is equal parts realistic and abstract. He makes great use of this in having his monsters appear in hideous detail whenever it’s appropriate. As a cartoonist, he’s excellent at the mechanics of horror comics. Faces and bodies are hidden offscreen or blocked, and the panel-by-panel layout forces his own set of pacing. Some of his manga have been adapted into anime (notably Gyo) but without his sense of horror timing, they’re kind of flaccid. One of his peculiar strengths is that no matter how bizarre, supernatural, or just plain ol’ weird his stories get, they never become too hard to disbelieve – something about his art style and the pacing and his finger poking in at your lizard brain keeps you from brushing that happens off.

Bannette Stalking a young girl

Recently, he may be notable for an upcoming collaboration with Pokemon (for some reason), and a reference to one of his most famous stories, The Enigma of Amigara Fault in Steven Universe. His manga Tomie and Uzumaki have been perennial favourites in the horror manga crowd, but as of right now, the longer series aren’t my interest. I’m probably going to end up writing more text for each comic than is in the story, but that’s O.K. by me. They’re mostly short, so feel free to read them if you want. I have absolutely no clue when I’ll be updating, probably a few times a week depending no how quick it is to slam through each story. Cheers! Due to Junji Ito’s particular quirks and favourite subjects, alongside a short synopsis and a general commentary on each short story, I have determined several paradigms that I will also be rating, counting, or checking off at the end of each post. Feel more than welcome to adapt these parameters into a drinking game, especially if your alcohol is also haunted, or possibly a witch.

Body HorrorDue to the visual medium of comics combined with Junji’s sublime art style, body horror and other forms of squick feature very very heavily in his comics. I’ll lead off each post with a warning for what’s to be found inside to avoid accidentally triggering anyone’s phobias or other issues.

Monomaniacal Obsession: One of the key features of Junji Ito horror is characters who are (or become) fixated and obsessed about a single concept or task to disastrous ends, often times compelled to do so by some sinister outside force.

Vacant Eyes: Junji Ito draws very expressive eyes, but he’s more than happy to leave them blank or shade them in all black when there’s a particularly creepy moment.

Big Ol’ Screams: Nobody in the entire world can draw a screaming mouth as well as Junji Ito can.

Douchebag Boyfriend: Every single girl in a relationship in the Junji Itoverse has a useless douchy boyfriend. I will rate his uselessness and douchebaggery here, where applicable. In manga where the main character is a boy with a girlfriend, I will rate how useless he is.

Fetishes Turned Into Horror: Most Junji Ito manga feel like a niche kink that has been unfortunately turned into a terrifying, monstrous version of its former self with white eyes and huge jaws and too much detail on its face. If so, it will be noted here!

Why Persona 4 Doesn’t Work: Gameplay Mechanics that Aren’t Made for The Game

After reading Vrai Kaiser’s excellent post about the social, sexual, and gender issues in Persona 4, I decided to finally get the blog post I’ve been ruminating on out of my system. Don’t worry, it’s not about any social issues at all. I am definitely not qualified to talk about those with any kind of authority. However, I do feel comfortable talking about the gameplay mechanics at the core of the games, and what makes them work or not work. Both games share more or less the exact same gameplay, and I’m going to talk about why that works for Persona 3, but doesn’t work for P4.

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