My favorite stories in this volume are The smoking club, House of marionettes and Den of the sleep demon, those three stories belong to a group of stories by Junji Ito that remind me of the stories of the contemporary American writer Thomas Ligotti, I'm not going to To extend this much because he did not master English well but those who have read Ligotti know what I am talking about, it is that horror that some have called "ontological horror" or "philosophical horror" (another point of comparison with Ligotti and Ito is the creepy puppets as symbolisms of the human condition)
- Den of
the sleep demon
In this manga we find that story. Yuyi can not sleep, not because he does not want to but because he should not. The protagonist of his dreams -which is the same- has discovered reality and wants to live it by forcing him to "turn around" -literally- and live in his own dreams. So that it does not happen Yuyi asks for help to her friend Mary to whom it involves in the subject beyond a spectator.
-The smoking club
A high school teacher called Shikishima catches a group of his students smoking in the toilets. He confiscates their cigarettes, which they tell him were given to them by another boy called Nakaya who does not go to the school. The students dislike Shikishima because he strongly opposes smoking and always punishes them if he catches them with tobacco.
The town is in the shadow of a crematorium, and the playground has to be swept every day because of the ash from the chimney. While on playground duty Shirai invites a classmate named Kondou to join the "tobacco club." Shikishima shouts at them for talking too much, causing Shirai to worry that their conversation was overheard. He takes Kondou over to Nakaya's house. Nakaya's room is filled with boys smoking, and Nakaya agrees to let Kondou join them, on the condition that he keeps it secret. The cigarette smoke is extremely thick and black, unlike anything Kondou has ever seen before. He is taken aback by the bitter and "dark" taste of the cigarettes.
Nakaya confesses that he makes the cigarettes himself from leaves taken from outside the crematorium. He chose this location because he had heard that the ashes make plants grow stronger. Kondou is appalled that the cigarettes had been fertilized by human ashes but Nakaya figures it's no different from eating the food grown in the town. He talks about the exhilaration of exhaling the smoke and says that all he can see before his eyes is darkness.
-House of marionetes
Here we accompany a family of puppeteers who go from town to town with their show, however, there is something that worries the eldest of the brothers of this family, as their lives revolve around these curious dolls, which seem to be these those who control them and not vice versa. It is certain that?
This volume is again a collection of unrelated one-shots. The translation I read also included "Fixed Face", a short chapter included in the 2000 reprint of Volume 10, and there were other discrepancies in the page numbers; while I don't think this had any bearing on my actual experience, it may be helpful to note that I may not have read this volume in its purest form.
Story, 6: The premises were interesting and did a solid job at establishing an unsettling atmosphere, though nearly every one had an unsatisfying ending (at least for me; a lot of the unsettling feeling established throughout the chapter was
dashed with a rushed ending). These mostly dealt with ghosts or other demonic presences, though there was some biological horror in "The Sleeping Room".
Art, 7: Ito's art continues to be good. I wasn't blown away by any particular pieces, but it was pleasant (interpreted loosely) to look at.
Characters, 5: While I felt the protagonists of each chapter were more fleshed out (namely compared to earlier volumes in the Collection), the side characters felt extremely archetypal and only existed to exist. One character appears twice: in "Second-hand Record" and "The Sleeping Room, but these seem to be wholly unconnected from a story perspective.
Enjoyment, 7: Given the varied premises and imaginative scenarios, I enjoyed the volume in spite of myself. While I wasn't particularly thrilled with most of the endings, I thought each chapter had its merits.
Overall, 6: If you're looking for a quick read with some interesting stories, or if you're a fan of Ito Junji, I would recommend this. Otherwise, this may be one to skip.
Favorite Chapter: "House of the Marionettes"; Least Favorite: "Second-hand Record"