Halloween is fast approaching and it’s time to indulge in some frightful Japanese horror. Sadly, it’s not a genre that translates well to anime and manga, but having recently discovered the abnormal works of manga-ka Junji Ito, there may well be hope for us yet. This time I’m talking about the claustrophobic “Enigma of Amigara Fault”; a remarkable 30-page short that has abducted my thoughts since falling victim to its spell last night.
The ambiguous story begins as an earthquake scythes open the titular Amigara Fault; a gigantic rock riddled with human shaped caves. Nervous people from all over Japan are inexplicably drawn to the landmark, haunted by nightmares and convinced they have recognized individual caverns that perfectly match their own unique body shapes.
Amidst the anxious crowds are curious scientists trying to explain away this baffling enigma, as one by one, and despite their obvious panic, the attracted people can’t help but enter their caves and eventually, completely disappear into the darkness. All rescue attempts fail after 5 metres and given the perfect shape of each hole, it’s completely impossible to turn around, so despite being overcome with a palpable sense of anxiety, confinement and enclosure, the organic victims can only hobble forwards, onwards into the twisting Amigara Fault, as its shaped caverns ever-so gradually distort, shrink and stretch into deformed positions.
As if you couldn’t tell by reading the above summary, “The Enigma of Amigara Fault” is a striking and bizarre short story, regularly playing on our aversion to and fascination with the unknown. Ito immediately establishes an air-tight sense of claustrophobia, allowing the readers imagination to conjure an unexplained and obscure power that’s sadistically pulling these depressed people towards their inescapable and lonely fate. It’s impossible not to be fascinated by the mystery of the fault as we’re lured into a disturbing finale that you won’t forget for a very long time.