Ma no Kakera was published in English as Fragments of Horror by VIZ Media under the VIZ Signature imprint on June 16, 2015, in Spanish by ECC Comics on March 25, 2015, and in Brazilian Portuguese by DarkSide Books on July 26, 2017.
This was my first foray into the world of mangaka Junji Ito and I couldn’t have asked for a better introduction. Fragments of Horror is quite simply one of the best horror anthologies I’ve come across in any medium.
Fragments of Horror is comprised of eight short stories of varying lengths. While some are better than others, they are all effective. It starts off with Futon, which consists of a mere eight pages yet masterfully sets the tone for the anthology. Eerie, quirky, shocking and unpredictable. Said tone is established and maintained by pretty much all of the stories featuring twist-laden plots often incorporating the theme
of paranoia with disturbing imagery often pertaining to the distortion of the human body. The standouts for me would have to be Gentle Goodbye, which was an oddly touching albeit simultaneously unnerving story that I could see hitting home with anyone who’s lost a family member and Blackbird, which had arguably the most bizarre plot and some of the most unsettling imagery in the anthology. Nevertheless, all of the stories in the anthology are worth reading.
Although the stories are definitely memorable and compelling, the anthology’s artwork would have to be its strongest aspect. The realistic characters and sheer amount of detail given to the viscera and supernatural entities makes the stories all the more engaging and disturbing. The way Ito lays out the panels is also worth noting as he does so in such a way that allows the viewer’s eyes to glide across the page, making it easier to read and giving it an oddly addictive quality. He also utilizes this so as to make the anthology more unsettling due to instances of it placing us in a character’s shoes by having an image of the character reacting at the end of a page with a detailed and horrific image of whatever the character was reacting to on the next, often making the turning of a page a nerve-racking experience.
In conclusion, I would highly recommend Fragments of Horror to anyone who enjoys the genre as well as anyone who would like to see the comic medium utilized in a unique way and am looking forward to reading some more of Ito’s work in the future.
Ma no Kakera has stand-alone chapters, with pretty simplistic stories, so don't expect something which will blow you away. Despite that lack of complexity, I didn't find most of the stories really predictable. They usually have a twist, which in some cases will leave you like WTF? (specially Nanakuse Kyokumi and Haunted Wood Mansion stories)
I find Ito Junji's art really great, and Ma no Kakera is not a exception. It fits the story well and creates a proper atmosphere.
The worst part of Ma no Kakera. They have no depth and are completly forgettable. However, being a totally plot-driven manga, the characters aren't
really important to enjoy it, so the lack of characterization doesn't affect the quality of the story.
Despite its flaws, I truly enjoyed this manga. I got hooked on it and I didn't stop reading until I finished it. It certainly is not a masterpiece, but will give you a good time.
If you liked other Ito Junji's works, specially his stand-alone manga, give Ma no Kakera a try. I'm almost sure you'll enjoy it.
There's something about Junji Ito's work that I have a hard time putting into words. While reading this, I didn't feel particularly fulfilled after each short story. Some were quite weak and some were pretty strong. Some had interesting premises and execution, some were just kinda silly. But even after reading some of the best stories in this collection, I didn't feel a lot of satisfaction. Then, after I finished the book, it dawned on me: Junji Ito's work is a slow burn. It just sticks with you, coming to mind when you least expect it. It haunts you.
Not that his work is particularly scary
to me, at least not these stories specifically, but it just stays with you. It hangs out in the back of your head, and when you see a trigger, you immediately think of one of his stories. Next time I see a futon, I will think of that silly futon short story. If I see a particularly nice house, I will think of the woman who had the hots for houses. If I'm having a hard time making a small decision, I will think of the whispering woman who constantly whispered detailed instructions on a girl's ear. This phenomenon occurred to me when I read Ito's Dissolving Classroom, a book that I thought was okay but not all that great. In that series, whenever the main character would apologize profusely to someone, they would eventually start to melt. So now whenever someone apologizes to me a lot, I always recall that book a crack a joke about it. As such, I have a higher appreciation for it than I did when I read it. I think the same applies to most of Ito's work.
The stories are good for the most part, but it's a mixed bag. The art, however, is great throughout, whether it be depicting mortified characters, gore, body horror, creatures, or insanely detailed spreads. The paneling remains simple, but very effective and well paced. My main complaint with the art is that some characters look too much alike. A few are pretty memorable though.
All in all, I'd give this collection an 8/10. Some stories were kinda weak, so I was gonna go a point lower, but I think that the strong stories of the bunch more than make up for it. Dissection-chan alone is worth buying this book for.
Quick individual short story reviews:
The shortest and simplest of the eight storiest. I thought the story itself was very weak, but the art was at its strongest here with some amazingly detailed spreads.
Wooden Spirit: 3/5
A twist on the haunted house trope. Not great, but still fairly enjoyable. The art was great, with some very detailed interiors. Story was just good enough to be creepy.
Tomio / Red Turtleneck: 4/5
This one actually got to me a bit. I could feel the existential horror of Tomio holding his head in place lest he lose it. The cockroach thing made me very uncofortable. Ending was good. Strong art that really showed the terror of the situation.
Gentle Goodbye: 2/5
This one's a big meh. It wasn't awful, but it was fairly predictable and unsatisfying. Weakest story and art of the bunch.
Easily the best short story of the book. Amazing premise and execution. Ended very appropriately too. The art was some of the best of the book, showing some detailed inner anatomy. The main character is very memorable, and her creepy face is one of the best.
I really didn't like this at first but by the time I was done, I was very creeped out. I think it could've been done better, but overall it was a satisfying turn of events and ending.
Magami Nakanuse: 3/5
Ehhh, I really didn't like this one much, but the premise of jailing people to see what tics they develop in captivity so you can write about it is very interesting. Besides that I found this one a bit boring. There was some cool art, especially the odd poses and faces.
Whispering Woman: 4/5
This one was pretty good. It's relatable to get anxious about decision-making, even when it comes to small things. Seeing decision-paralysis taken to a comical extreme here was interesting. There was a lot more development in these 30 pages than I expected, and the ending was quite good.
Note: I also wrote this review on Goodreads under the name Animelove24 but it is still my review.
This review will be consisted of what I thought of each story.
Futon: A nice short start to the collection. A little bit horrifying, and a little bit funny. I gets you prepared for how all the other stories are going to be.
Wooden Spirit: This one I just found really weird. I didn't really get why the woman was there or why the house turned into a monster. I definitely liked the first one better.
Tomio. Red Turtleneck: Here is where I feel the 'Horror' part of Fragments of Horror
began. I liked the fortune tellers curse aspect and Tomio getting his comeuppance was nice. And the visuals with the gore were done spectacularly. If I had one problem with this story, its that the curse kind of really had no rules put to it. The whole main plot of the story was that Tomio had to hold onto his head so it wouldn't fall off but at one point he takes his head completely off and then puts it back on and doesn't die. It really takes away a lot of tension the character is seemingly immortal. I also found the introduction of the children near the end to be pointless. I guess the author was trying to explain why the fortune teller did what she did, but the children only stick around for a few pages so its kind of moot. It would have been better if there had been no explanation. Overall the story was nice and gory which is what I think it was trying to be so I would recommend reading if not for the story, but for the visuals.
Gentle Goodbye: This is probably one of favourite stories from the whole book if not my favourite. It's a nice sweet story that's full of gore or disturbing images which is a bit of a nice break from the first few stories. Of course is has some supernatural elements, which I can't really mention without spoiling it, but they're not too intrusive as to mess up what is essentially a love story. I would definitely recommend this one for anyone who loves a good supernatural Tale but without it being too scary
Dissection-chan: Dissection-chan is weird. Very, very, extremely weird. Its a story about a psychotic girl who wants to dissect herself/ have someone dissect her and a boy whose life has been intertwining with hers since childhood. It's well written story with some creepy images and good character development with the girl Dissection-chan with you at first thinking she is just plain crazy and then slowly develop into thinking that there might be something to her wanted to be dissected with it going back and forth between those thoughts until the very last panel which in my opinion is one of the most disturbing in the book.
Blackbird: I really liked the visuals in this horror The bird woman in particular is a nice blend of creepy and beautiful. The story itself is odd. I didn't really understand what was happening, perhaps a weird bit of time travel or something. Some bits were a bit horror of course and as such it was slightly disturbing but I was mostly just confused. That being said if you can get by ignoring the confusing time travel and just pay attention to creepiness and visuals its a nice little read.
Magami Nanakuse: This story didn't really make much of an impact on me. It was very short, there wasent really a lot of development within the main characters journey, and all I can really say is that the surprise reveal with the main characters fate is of course a super creepy image that I loved.
Whispering Woman: Hands down my favourite story. Pictures: Gorgeous. Story: Slightly creepy but with a bit of a realistic relatable element which are the creepiest sort of stories to me. In this story a woman is hired by a girls father to help her make decisions since the girl is incapable of doing so and the woman does so by whispering suggestions in her ear. As the story goes on you begin to wonder if the woman is all she appears to be as her appearance starts to become more and more deteriorated the more the girl listens. It's not as creepy or horrifying as the other stories and there aren't a lot of disturbing images, but I think that point serves the story well. I would definitely recommend this above all others.
TL;DR: The whole book itself is a nice collection filled with stories ranging from terrifying to funny with some drawings in it that are quite beautiful in their own disturbing way and is a good introduction to Junji Ito's work.