Junji Ito is an established manga artist known for producing horrifying stories with bizarre concepts. From strange occurrences to grotesque creatures, his stories are unlike any others.
And while Junji Ito primarily works in the manga format, some of his stories have been adapted into anime, including Studio Deen's adaptation of Junji Ito Maniac: Japanese Tales of the Macabre. If they weren't unsightly enough, adding eerie audio just makes it that much worse.
The thing about Junji Ito's creations is that the horror isn't simply in their appearance, but the nightmarish contexts of their stories. Often the story is straightforward with a creepy twist and terrible repercussions.
Of course, the art itself creates a dark and ominous atmosphere. With every stroke of his pen, you'll notice that he infuses each panel and scene with disturbing details that are downright nightmare fuel.
Here are my picks for Junji Ito's most horrifying creatures ever made and what makes them so remarkable in this crowded genre.
10. Frankenstein's Monster (Frankenstein)
There are many versions of Frankenstein's infamous monster, but Junji Ito created a brand new take on this iconic creature in Frankenstein.
The story features drama, revenge, and horror, following the sinister experiment of Victor Frankenstein that gave birth to a living corpse consisting of multiple parts from several dead bodies.
This creature, an 8-foot-tall man, started to learn the meaning of life right after he escaped from Victor's makeshift laboratory. As the days pass by, he learns to yearn for companionship, which leads him to blackmail Victor into creating an "Eve" for him.
9. The Balloon Heads (The Hanging Balloons)
The Hanging Balloons, as the title suggests, features balloons—but these are far from the ordinary balloons you might know.
In this story, there are large balloons that look like heads and seem to have minds of their own. The balloons take on the appearance of real people and will chase the ones whom they're depicting.
When they catch their victims, they use ropes and nooses to hang them up in the sky to float endlessly.
To make matters worse, these balloons can't be eliminated easily—if one of them pops, so too does the person it resembles.
8. The Long Hair (The Long Hair in the Attic)
Anyone can style their hair the way they want to. But what if your hair turned out to be sentient and liked the way it's styled, refusing to be cut down in length and styled another way?
This is the premise of The Long Hair in the Attic. Some girls go through a rebound phase where they cut their long hair short after a breakup, but in the case of Chiemi, her beautiful long hair "cuts" her head off!
In the anime adaptation, the hair (along with the head) even goes off to the ex-boyfriend's house to kill him as well.
7. Jack-in-the-Box (Uzumaki)
The real-life jack-in-the-box children's toy is startling and frightful enough as it is. But in Jack-in-the-Box, it's downright terrifying. Two of them are featured in the story, and both are horrifying.
One is an actual jack-in-the-box that Mitsuru gifts to Kirie, who doesn't open it until Mitsuru's untimely death. When she finally does open it, the toy pops out and tells her that Mitsuru is coming back to kill her.
The second jack-in-the-box is the corpse of Mitsuru, who pops out of his coffin and hops up and down while chasing Kirie and Shuichi.
6. Tomie Kawakami (Tomie)
Tomie Kawakami is the titular character of Junji Ito's most famous and iconic horror story, Tomie. Unlike the other creatures on this list, she's actually quite beautiful—so much so that her beauty literally drives men crazy, leading to murder and death.
One aspect that makes her more disturbing is that she seems to be immortal, able to create copies of herself through tumorous growths and severed parts. However, her copies seem to hate each other.
In one chapter, she stands up even after getting two of her heads chopped off, only for a new head to grow in their place.
Between her beauty and immortality, Tomie is a nightmarish being who's deceptively more evil than her appearance makes herself to be.
5. Caterpillar of Heads (My Dear Ancestors)
My Dear Ancestors tells the creepy story of someone wants to keep their family line alive—and not just the family line, but also the knowledge that was accumulated over the years by their ancestors.
The story features a caterpillar (or centipede), with each segment consisting of one ancestor's head containing their brain. Each segment is alive and can think individually, putting great stress on the body.
It gets even creepier when the current body, Shuichi Makita, starts chasing Risa, the one who will continue the family line.
4. Mr. Mukoda the Dreamer (Long Dream)
Long Dream is the story of a man who lives out many years in his dreams, but in reality, it's only been a matter of hours. It's a creepy premise, mainly because it feels like a natural occurrence that could happen to anyone.
But it's even creepier: as Mukoda dreams, his body transforms—the longer he dreams, the more grotesque his body becomes. Nobody wants to turn into a nightmare while dreaming, right?
3. Sleep Demon (Den of the Sleep Demon)
This story, titled Den of the Sleep Demon, explores themes of the dreamworld, alter ego, and body swapping, which ends up delivering a uniquely horrific story about the terrors of sleeping.
The sleep demon, as described by Yuri (the main character), is another version of himself who lives within his dreamworld and wants to emerge in the real world.
But the problem is, allowing it to do so would make it take over Yuri's body—by flipping his body inside out and emerging from his mouth!
2. The Headless (Headless Sculptures)
If you have a fear of dolls (pediophobia) or other inanimate humanoid figures (e.g. mannequins), then you may want to skip this one.
Headless Sculptures is a story where headless creatures go around decapitating their victims and using their heads as their own.
And the ending is somehow even more disturbing, as many headless figures want to get their hands on one unfortunate victim's head.
1. The Holes (The Enigma of Amigara Fault)
The Enigma of Amigara Fault was a bonus story included in Junji Ito's Gyo. It has no connection to the main story of Gyo, but it delivered such a spine-chilling tale that it became a viral hit on the internet.
The story revolves around the discovery of a strange fault caused by an earthquake. There, investigators find all kinds of human-shaped holes along the side of the fault.
As it turns out, each hole appears to be a perfect fit for different individuals, and it's as if the holes are calling to them—people are driven by an irrational desire to enter these holes.
You can imagine how claustrophobic this would be if it actually happened: shimmying through a tight, dark hole with no end in sight, encased in a darkness that's suffocating and unspeakable.
The holes themselves aren't creatures, but they act like one—especially once their victim is deep down inside, at which point the hole starts to change shape while their person is still within.