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December 10, 2007 9:57 PM   Subscribe

The Enigma of Amigara Fault is an absolutely compelling and terribly creepy short manga story by Junji Ito about mysterious human-shaped holes exposed in a cliff by an earthquake, each perfectly matching the outline of someone who is then compelled to enter the confining, claustrophobic darkness. For more of Ito in English, there is Falling. Make sure to read from right to left.
posted by blahblahblah (72 comments total) 81 users marked this as a favorite

 
Damn.
posted by WCityMike at 10:07 PM on December 10, 2007


I like the guys stuff, I really want to read it, but brain... cannot... do... right to left... thing.
posted by Artw at 10:14 PM on December 10, 2007


Two comments: the first time I read it, I didn't know to do the right-to-left thing, and it is still perfectly understandable. Also, I should make it clear, at least for me, the story is very creepy, in a persistent, can't-stop-thinking-about-it way.
posted by blahblahblah at 10:16 PM on December 10, 2007


After Much Editing, A Spoiler-Free Comment:

I'm glad it ended the way it did instead of ending one of the other ways that it could have ended, because the other endings aren't as interesting as this kind.
posted by theiconoclast31 at 10:16 PM on December 10, 2007


DRR DRR DRR
posted by brownpau at 10:19 PM on December 10, 2007 [6 favorites]


Woah.

I'm glad it ended the way it did instead of ending one of the other ways that it could have ended, because the other endings aren't as interesting as this kind.

Actually, I would have taken out the last page entirely. Why have any ending at all? And anyway, I can imagine lots of other endings that are interesting, though that was...
posted by delmoi at 10:20 PM on December 10, 2007


Huh. Pretty cool.*

* But until people are making models of the fault out of mashed potatoes, well...
posted by maxwelton at 10:23 PM on December 10, 2007 [1 favorite]


Amigara Fault was nice and creepy, though I found Falling to be pretty ordinary. Not a very good ending, really.
posted by barnacles at 10:25 PM on December 10, 2007


I enjoyed Amigara Fault too, much more than Falling. Do all Junji Ito stories feature mysterious holes in the landscape?
posted by Kattullus at 10:42 PM on December 10, 2007


I lost some sleep over this last week. Every time I'd close my eyes I'd see that last panel...
posted by Pope Guilty at 10:45 PM on December 10, 2007


Oh god. Junji Ito.


Never again.
posted by p3on at 10:50 PM on December 10, 2007


Thanks, blahblahblah. This shit's going straight to my subconscious.
posted by Iridic at 10:55 PM on December 10, 2007


The Enigma of Bikini Bottom
posted by Pope Guilty at 10:58 PM on December 10, 2007 [28 favorites]


Wow. heart beating fast.
posted by PercussivePaul at 11:07 PM on December 10, 2007


I agree with delmoi about the last page. Actually, even cutting the last panel would work.


That said, can I sleep in your bed tonight? Pleeeeeeze?
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 11:23 PM on December 10, 2007


Cool. Very Lovecraftian.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 11:27 PM on December 10, 2007


Welp, I don't think i need to read that before I go to sleep. I got to page 5 before deciding to stop.
posted by puke & cry at 11:32 PM on December 10, 2007


"It doesn't have to make sense!"
Personally, I'm not so sure about that.. I managed with the right to left thing pretty well though.
posted by Chuckles at 11:39 PM on December 10, 2007


Reminds me of Haze.
posted by scodger at 11:44 PM on December 10, 2007


Am I the only person who thought the kid in the "Harvest" shirt was a girl until the caveman him had a beard?

Glad I read that, I guess, even if I'm even less likely to get over my insomnia now, on account of being all worked up over it.
posted by PhatLobley at 11:44 PM on December 10, 2007


Very Lovecraftian.

Lovecraftian? Perhaps, but I associate H.P.'s style with vast, paranatural, ahuman presences. The horror here is different, I think; it's psychological, suggestive, as personal as the individualized silhouettes in the rock. The threat here is not that of a malevolent presence, but of a hole, of an absence - of the grave prepared for you long before your birth, and the inescapable fate that forces you into it.

I agree with the others who felt that the ending didn't quite match the power of the premise. But it was a damn fine premise.
posted by Iridic at 11:47 PM on December 10, 2007 [3 favorites]


If you like this, read Ito's Uzumaki. (Read it, don't see the movie - the manga is much better).
posted by martinrebas at 12:01 AM on December 11, 2007


Juni Ito also has a whole series about a community that becomes obsessed with spirals. Spirals are so interesting, after all. So mesmerizing and powerful. Many things have spiral shapes... a basket, a sea shell, the swirl of cream dribbled into your coffee. You can form part of a spiral with your fingers, and with your arm, with your body. Why, isn't it a comfort to be curled up?
posted by zennie at 12:25 AM on December 11, 2007 [2 favorites]


well, shit. now I can't sleep. I kept looking at the dark doorway of my bedroom closet and seeing those silhouettes, then the panel with the guy when he gets stuck, and then the stupid final panel. hmph.
not even joking
posted by PercussivePaul at 12:49 AM on December 11, 2007


More Borges than Lovecraft, really.
posted by stammer at 12:58 AM on December 11, 2007


I found my hole!
I'm scared of my hole!
I plugged up your hole!
I unplugged it again, and then went in!
...
Profit!
posted by From Bklyn at 1:10 AM on December 11, 2007


Metafilter: I found my hole.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 1:17 AM on December 11, 2007 [7 favorites]


That was cool...but I'm glad it won't be dark here for a few hours! I agree that the last panel was a bit weak, but still a great creepy idea.
posted by jacalata at 1:34 AM on December 11, 2007


*mutter mutter* *huff huff*
posted by The Monkey at 1:44 AM on December 11, 2007


Like of a lot of Japanese horror that had an intriguing set up ruined by a dreadful ending.
posted by oh pollo! at 1:47 AM on December 11, 2007 [2 favorites]


PhatLobley, it was probably the eyeshadow.
posted by tehloki at 1:50 AM on December 11, 2007


SAME HAT! SAME HAT!

Man, this really must lose something in the translation.

I AM AWARE OF WHAT YOU PERPETRATED DURING THE PREVIOUS JUNE
posted by tehloki at 1:53 AM on December 11, 2007 [3 favorites]


Gah. I've always thought Ito's stuff was fairly average. The art is self-consciously creepy. I mean, why does everyone look like they're sulking all the time, and the plots are very straightforward.

You need time to tell a convincing horror story (unless you're Poe), and Ito always seems to rush.
posted by Geezum Crowe at 2:16 AM on December 11, 2007


[Glance]
posted by Mister_A at 3:16 AM on December 11, 2007


Concur with Mr. Crowe. The ending struck me as being on par with "THERE WAS A HOOK LEFT ON THE CAR DOOR OMG" and the pacing was way off.

But then, I'm not generally the audience a horror story is looking for anyway.
posted by DoctorFedora at 3:18 AM on December 11, 2007


Like a lot of Manga, this was crap. Bad art, awful pacing and a dire plot. Ugh.
posted by ninthart at 4:02 AM on December 11, 2007


oh pollo! writes: Like of a lot of Japanese horror that had an intriguing set up ruined by a dreadful ending.

My sentiments exactly. Also, like ninthart said just above, the pacing was bad. Very sluggish. Very stiff. The human-shaped holes and their compelling power over the characters in the story were the only things this had going for it.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 4:16 AM on December 11, 2007 [3 favorites]


The ending was bad. If he'd left the last two pages off, the holes could have meant anything. For instance, as a metaphor for life ("your life's journey through time is a you-shaped hole that only you can travel"), the kids fever dreams notwithstanding.

Also, the creepiest thing about this was the Jack Chick-style art.
posted by DU at 4:24 AM on December 11, 2007


...same hat??? SAME HAT! SAME HAT!
posted by nicolas léonard sadi carnot at 4:49 AM on December 11, 2007


The ending was bad. If he'd left the last two pages off, the holes could have meant anything. For instance, as a metaphor for life ("your life's journey through time is a you-shaped hole that only you can travel")

Of course, that metaphor still stands as a legit reading. In Junji Ito's world, by the end of your life's journey, you are a grotesque, gasping, DRRing monstrosity capable only of flapping your withered limbs and terrifying scientists.
posted by stammer at 5:14 AM on December 11, 2007 [5 favorites]


Maybe it's my dumb American ass, but I can't help but think that this kind of story is only really effective in a culture wherein conformity and compliance are a way of life. "It's a spooky hole... But it is in my shape! It would be impolite not to enter! AGH! Now everyone is doing it, how can i refuse?"

It's about as scary to me as those dopey kids who bitch about how they HAVE to go to a particular club each week.
posted by Uther Bentrazor at 5:35 AM on December 11, 2007 [6 favorites]


PhatLobley writes "Am I the only person who thought the kid in the 'Harvest' shirt was a girl until the caveman him had a beard?"

I thought so too.
posted by Bugbread at 5:42 AM on December 11, 2007


I liked how the holes accommodated the various hairstyles of the attractive characters.
posted by maryh at 5:46 AM on December 11, 2007 [1 favorite]


Uther Bentrazor writes "Maybe it's my dumb American ass, but I can't help but think that this kind of story is only really effective in a culture wherein conformity and compliance are a way of life. 'It's a spooky hole... But it is in my shape! It would be impolite not to enter! AGH! Now everyone is doing it, how can i refuse?' "

I'm going to have to go with "your dumb American ass" on this one (well, not nearly that strongly worded, though). What makes it spooky isn't just the holes, but the desire to enter these holes despite how scary and unknown they are. You see this same theme all the time in American horror stories, too. The person creeping towards the closed door knowing that inconceivable horrors lie behind it, and yet drawn inexorably nonetheless.
posted by Bugbread at 5:48 AM on December 11, 2007 [1 favorite]


I can't help but think that this kind of story is only really effective in a culture wherein conformity and compliance are a way of life.

This is a too-easy cliche. Conformity and compliance are a way of life in virtually all cultures on this earth. Perhaps at first glance, and/or going on the received wisdom, Japan seems to be more heavily bound by "conformity and compliance" than other societies, but I think we see plenty of conformity and compliance in US and all other societies. Not always of the same variety, of course, as each culture has different sets of standards and values, but too much is made of this notion of Japanese conformity, I think.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 5:51 AM on December 11, 2007


Maybe it's my dumb living-in-Japan ass, but I can't help but think that this kind of story isn't effective for you as an American because it doesn't have people shooting guns, explosions, and sex.
posted by Bugbread at 5:52 AM on December 11, 2007 [10 favorites]


I wasn't crazy about the way the story was told, but I found the idea of the deforming holes compelling. It's a good metaphor for addiction.
posted by maryh at 5:53 AM on December 11, 2007 [1 favorite]


To be fair, I would also read a comic featuring someone who could shoot sex as well as guns and explosions.
posted by Drexen at 5:58 AM on December 11, 2007 [3 favorites]


Some freaky stuff before breakfast. Thanks!
posted by chihiro at 6:02 AM on December 11, 2007


You see this same theme all the time in American horror stories, too. The person creeping towards the closed door knowing that inconceivable horrors lie behind it, and yet drawn inexorably nonetheless.

That isn't the same theme. These people weren't drawn to the holes by a desire to know. They were drawn by the fact it fit them. They showed little or no interest in other holes, only their own. And the main character seems to have known what was going to happen, so it wasn't curiosity.
posted by DU at 6:05 AM on December 11, 2007 [1 favorite]


I think this would be much scarier if I was claustrophobic. As it is, I did plenty of spelunking as a kid, and while I was reading that I could hear my instructor shouting "IF YOU THINK YOU CAN JUST ABOUT FIT THROUGH THAT HOLE, YOU CAN'T".
posted by xthlc at 6:05 AM on December 11, 2007


DU writes "That isn't the same theme. These people weren't drawn to the holes by a desire to know. They were drawn by the fact it fit them."

I probably should have been clearer. I wasn't talking about the most common "what's behind the door" theme (though that's what my example looked like, sorry, bad choice), which, you're right, is about the desire to know. I'm thinking more of the type of vignette sometimes used in American horror stories where some character is being compelled to shoot their self in the head, and is crying and pleading for someone, anyone, to stop them. They're not really "entranced", they're aware of what they're doing, and terrified of it, but nonetheless somehow compelled to put the gun to their temple and pull the trigger. And that's what makes it scary, while a regular "feeling suicidally depressed, shoots self" scene would be depressing but not horror.

The difference is just that in American horror, the viewpoint is usually a protagonist seeing somebody else terrified but unable to avoid shooting themself, while in Japanese horror, it's usually the protagonist who is in that position. I think this comes from the fact that, generally, American horror tends to be more "happy-endy". You have everyone die except the protagonist, who somehow gets away. You can't have the protagonist shoot himself. Japanese horror (I'm talking comics, I dunno about movies) is far bleaker, where the protagonist often also loses.

I think this comic is attempting to tap that same nerve, so I don't really see this as an American Individuality versus Japanese Conformity issue.
posted by Bugbread at 6:23 AM on December 11, 2007


I thought it was pretty crappy. Saw the end (nay, the whole plot) coming ten miles away, the artwork was only so-so, and the writing was wretched (the dialogue never strayed beyond the baldly declarative; the pacing was cloddish). Meh.
posted by Dr. Wu at 6:26 AM on December 11, 2007 [1 favorite]


Dr. Wu: The dialogue really suffered from the translation. Not because the translation was bad, but just because people talk differently in Japanese than in English. Expressions which seem awkwardly expository may be fairly normal, and vice versa. I don't have the Japanese version, but I mentally translated some of the awkward English sections into Japanese, and suddenly they seemed way more natural.

Makes me glad that the Japanese translation I do is technical manuals and the like, and not comics (which was my childhood translation dream).
posted by Bugbread at 6:33 AM on December 11, 2007


Bleeeeehhh. That made me really, really twitchy. I don't know why I clicked on that link - I know I hate horror. *sigh*
posted by Phire at 7:08 AM on December 11, 2007


I just finished Ito's three volume Museum of Terror, volume 1 of Uzumaki and I have volume 1 of Gyo Gyo waiting on the shelf. I've bookmarked these for later reading (got finals this week).
posted by anansi at 8:03 AM on December 11, 2007


Am I the only person who thought the kid in the "Harvest" shirt was a girl until the caveman him had a beard?

I thought it was a girl the whole time. Huh.
posted by delmoi at 9:16 AM on December 11, 2007


I thought it was a girl until the more obviously female character showed up. There's never more than one.

Coincidentally, I ran into this somewhere else for the first time the day before yesterday and... brbbghghh. Maybe I have no literary taste, but it worked well on me from beginning to end.
posted by jinjo at 11:00 AM on December 11, 2007


Heh. up to and including the kissing scene I was convinced it was just blatant fanservice and I definitely didn't realize it was a guy till the caveman scene.
posted by Phire at 12:27 PM on December 11, 2007


It seems to me that the holes are a pretty direct metaphor for life. You can only go forward, you have to do it by yourself and at the end you're a disfigured version of your former self. The metaphor also works for other things which happen in time, addiction, societal roles one assumes, work etc. But life kind of unites all of them.

Also... Junji Ito: Tales of Spelunking Women and the Men Who Love Them
posted by Kattullus at 12:58 PM on December 11, 2007 [1 favorite]


Iridic Lovecraftian? Perhaps, but I associate H.P.'s style with vast, paranatural, ahuman presences. The horror here is different, I think; it's psychological, suggestive, as personal as the individualized silhouettes in the rock. The threat here is not that of a malevolent presence, but of a hole, of an absence - of the grave prepared for you long before your birth, and the inescapable fate that forces you into it.

I read it and thought, who made this thing and why? The makers surely must be vast, paranatural and abhuman. I think it would make a great story for a Call of Cthulhu or Delta Green or similar horror role-playing game: What happens in the next panel? Even the means are beyond our comprehension, let alone the motive. Maybe those people were designed to fit the holes, rather than the other way around. Maybe its intended purpose is to reveal the truth to them, to repair their bodies and set their minds right.

Maybe it's a temple. Maybe it's an abattoir. Maybe both.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 2:06 PM on December 11, 2007 [3 favorites]


Did you know that you can fit through any hole your head can fit through? You might have to dislocate limbs, but ...

Very good story. It is weakened by the reveal, but not ruined.

It reminded me of the Lovecraft story Imprisoned with the Pharaohs.
posted by WPW at 2:10 PM on December 11, 2007


Yeah, I have to say I see some Lovecraft in here as well. Ancient unearthed ununderstood monolithic things, people driving themselves into unknown and incomprehensible but certain death, and the first actual depiction of the unearthly evil being exposed at the very very end of the story. All it would take would be a bit of insanity thrown in to complete the deal.
posted by Bugbread at 2:14 PM on December 11, 2007


I don't get this questioning of why the people went in, when it seems clear that it's some sort of compulsion. Each hole is immediately recognizable, but only by the person it is meant for. Once they have seen it, they begin to feel a compulsion to enter, however terrified they are of what it means. As soon as the main character found his hole, he immediately went from "why did she go into hers" to "I must go into mine". There's no choice here. Characters' actions could delay going in, but eventually they were overwhelmed by forces greater then themselves.

It's not curiosity or politeness, but compulsion that drives them in.
posted by Arturus at 2:24 PM on December 11, 2007


Oh man, at page 29 I got a page not available, like as if it was the end of the story. That was awesome (but refreshing the page reveled it was just a coincidence)
posted by parallax7d at 3:14 PM on December 11, 2007


My only visceral fear is claustrophobia, and more specifically, being buried alive or trapped underground. I have not finished reading this because about ten pages in I started to sweat.

But I cannot bring myself to just close the tab. I have to know the truth, no matter how badly it rips and tears my psyche.
posted by mkhall at 4:41 PM on December 11, 2007


Wow did that ending suck.
posted by puke & cry at 4:42 PM on December 11, 2007


@parallax7d — a cave story with an irritating-but-clever 404 page ending? Why, that would be precedented.

@mkhall — don't know what to say. If you're sweating by page 10, you *really* should not finish the story. But if I tell you that, I know that you'll do it. Compulsion, indeed...
posted by electric_counterpoint at 5:08 PM on December 11, 2007


Yeah, this was just bad. I'm assuming a lot of the badness is attributable to it being a translation from Japanese; the dialogue is unnatural and the exposition clunky.

But the real problem is the dumb ending. As others have said, the last two pages should not be there.

Good idea, poor execution.
posted by Justinian at 5:18 PM on December 11, 2007


Shit, I was hoping for tentacle porn.
posted by John of Michigan at 5:24 PM on December 11, 2007


Thank you for your concern, electric_counterpoint, but I survived. In a way, the 1950s twist (sorry) ending alleviated most of the stress, an unintentional laugh breaking the tension.

Maybe if The Vanishing had ended with a similar rim shot it wouldn't have wrecked my sleep for months.
posted by mkhall at 5:48 PM on December 11, 2007


To all those that thought Owaki was a girl - On page 4 he says "… I mean no offense, a woman hiker, all alone."
posted by tellurian at 8:43 PM on December 11, 2007


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