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Fragments of Horror

A friend confided in me about a peculiar, long dream that he had while sleeping over at his cousin's apartment. In the dream, he opened his eyes to a vast landscape that was blooming with striking and grotesque images. There was a man bleeding severely from the neck because his head had been cut by a strand of hair; his hands were struggling to support its vulnerability as any slight aggravation could bring instant death. Death itself had manifested through a gypsy woman with a perverse fascination for human heads; she was gloating over the man's suffering from a corner.

A beheaded fish provoked the notion of the man's pending destiny; from afar stood three wisps of evil anticipating a time of wicked fun. My friend realised that he had been walking on a bridge with railings full of protruding eyes. Beneath was a meandering river that revealed illusions of the dead gradually thinning against the backdrop. Along the river stood a headless sculpture overlooking a couple of little children 'playing tag'. A seemingly intoxicated woman was displaying the wrong ends of a tap dance. Another woman was resting atop a straw hill in the nude. As my friend marvelled at those peculiar sights, a giant black bird hovered across the orange sky.

I listened to my friend in awe but that was soon frayed by bubbling suspicions which in turn triggered a counter remark. Weren't those sights part of horror mangaka Itou Junji's recent anthology in eight years titled 'Ma no Kakera' - Fragments of Horror? The original Japanese edition had been released in July 2014, and features eight shorts that were published between November 2009 and May 2014. The Chinese translation by Taiwanese publisher Tong Li came out just a couple of months ago, and an English one by Viz Media will hit shelves sometime in June.

No prizes for guessing which version I've got. Anyway, several readers if not all would have known of Itou Junji and his vast breadth of masterpieces over the years. I paid tribute to a couple of my favourites late last year - 'Gyo' and 'Frankenstein'. Itou-sensei's creativity and imagination can't be properly described even with the most fancy vocabulary around. His stories continue to challenge readers unapologetically with nothing short of disturbing, and disturbing is only a little fragment of what awaits beyond. As mentioned, there are eight shorts in this anthology.

Naturally, I would love to be biased and say that all of Itou-sensei's stories are the best and deserving of every bit of the reader's attention. Yeah, in fact I often wish that his anthologies were longer. I finished Fragments of Horror in a single seating, and the withdrawal symptoms have already acted up pretty enthusiastically. Nonetheless, I shall attempt to curb those feelings in favour of this write-up. The most unsettling stories of the lot have to be 'Kaibou-chan' (roughly translated to Dissection Girl) and 'Kuroi tori' (Black Bird).

Remember the couple of little children running along the river? Without spoiling too much, I will say that they are related to 'Kaibou-chan'. As for the black bird, it would be ideal to stock up on antacids or whatever that stomach medicine is called before reading it. Actually, you might want to refrain from meat for a good while. The man bleeding from the neck is Tomio, and his story features a red high-necked top. There is also another story on Tomio, though I think that it is a standalone. The milder stories in this book deal with love, family, illness, death, psychological and physical abuse complete with occasional gushes of blood. Go figure. I'm so re-reading it!

Eccentrically Yours.

Written by J.Fluffysheep ♪

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