Saturday, 14 April 2018

Gyo by Junji Ito Review

Japanese scientists in WW2 plugged up some animals’ mouths and anuses and attached them to mechanical legs which operated on the creatures’ built-up gases. Years later, fish have become fused with this tech and have invaded the mainland.

Yes. That is actually the actual story of this actual book. SO many questions. How did tech from WW2 survive in working order at the bottom of the sea for so long? Who fused them to fish? Why have the legged fish chosen to invade now? What’s their goal – why invade land, why target humans? If the hosts are dead, who’s steering them? How does this outdated tech know how to do sophisticated things like hide behind/steer around obstacles? 

SO few answers! And that’s because Junji Ito is the manga equivalent of Ed Wood. To say that this dude can’t write is a massive understatement – he’s beyond incompetent. Basically he just wanted to draw fish with mechanical legs terrorising humans and damn making any kind of sense – it’s that contrived! 

But, like Ed Wood, the B-movie-type schlock Ito produces is entertaining in its sheer lunacy. Don’t let anyone tell you this is a horror comic because it’s not – if it exists, the genre would be comedy pseudo-horror. But, for me anyway, it was just plain comedy – I was howling with laughter through most of this absurd madness! It just got dumber and dumber and dumber as it went on. Suddenly sharks were getting butt-plugged, then whales, then humans, all of them propelled by farts; there were living fart spirits – who could take this seriously as genuine horror when it’s so, so, so silly?! Oh and the bonkers fart circus who perform their weird gassy show purely for the benefit of our protagonist – I dare you to keep a straight face during that scene! 

That said, I think Ito is aware of how retarded his story is. About the only question he anticipates, or at least acknowledges, is how could literally billions of these mechanical legs have been built and who would have made them? He throws in one ridiculous panel towards the end, mumbling something about evolution and bacteria… Yeah, he knows this is trash! 

Despite his significant failings as a writer, he does have a strong understanding of sequential storytelling so Gyo, like all of his comics, is a quick and easy read. And his art style is accomplished, visually arresting and somewhat creepy, though he can’t make someone fart/belch “menacingly” – it always looks utterly mental! 

Also included is an excellent short story called The Enigma of Amigara Fault where human-sized holes appear on the side of a mountain, drawing people to the site who believe the silhouettes are themselves and the holes are calling them in. A very imaginative and actually disturbing story. 

It makes sense that HP Lovecraft is a major influence of Ito’s as he too was a horror writer who told stories of remarkable vision but wrote them amateurishly. As shaky as the writing and story construction is in Gyo, it’s balanced out with eye-catching art and smooth visual storytelling. Mostly though, Gyo is an absolute hoot and worth it for the laughs alone!

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