Book Review | Deserter by Junji Ito
There will be spoilers for the manga Deserter.
Trigger Warning: Discussion of blood and gore as it appears in the manga Deserter.
This is a collection of one-shot horror manga from early in Junji Ito’s career. Most of the stories have an element of vengeance or malice leading the story along. The titles of the stories are as follows:
Where the Sandman Lives
The Devil’s Logic
The Long Hair in the Attic
The Reanimator’s Sword
A Father’s Love
Village of the Siren
The variety is the strongest point for this collection. There is a nice mixture of stories here rooted in different levels of realism. So you’ve got a story that is straight-up devil-worshipping craziness alongside psychological eeriness. While not every story is a winner, in my opinion, there is something in there for everyone.
The second strong point is definitely the fact that we are getting a collection of Ito’s older work, which is difficult to find anywhere, much less in English. So it’s interesting to see the evolution of Ito’s work from this collection to some of the other, newer pieces we have of his.
Finally, the best story is definitely the title story, Deserter. I felt it was the most well-crafted and strongest piece, which makes sense as to why it was chosen for the title of this collection. It also brings home the theming of the entire collection, which is vengeance. Not all of the pieces have revenge in them, or at least, it isn’t as strongly presented as it is in Deserter, but I feel the more interesting stories were the ones that explored the different forms that vengeance can take. This story, in particular, was the most interesting one with that theming due to the way it presented misplaced vengeance.
The worst part for me is the artwork. It is very reminiscent of the beginning of Tomie, which I also felt was not the best to look at, especially in comparison to some of his newer work. There were many moments where I was overly distracted by the art and couldn’t really appreciate the story.
Also, many of the pieces were just weak to me. The final two, Bullied and Deserter, were the strongest of all the stories, and they also explored the theming of vengeance in an interesting way. Unfortunately, the collection starts with some of the weakest stories and ends with the strongest, so it can feel like a chore to read this collection.
I actually was a bit disappointed by this collection. I have pre-ordered and purchased every Junji Ito manga available for Kindle, and of all of them, I find this to be the weakest. Admittedly, I am incredibly picky when it comes to art in anime and manga, which is why I will never read Mob Psycho 100, so that is probably why I disliked this so much. However, I also found many of the stories themselves to be on the weaker side compared to works like Uzumaki, No Longer Human, and The Enigma of Amigara Fault.
I am still glad that I have it because I am a huge Junji Ito fan in general, but it certainly isn’t the favorite of my collection.
Have you read Deserter? Did you enjoy it? Do you disagree with my assessment? Please let me know your thoughts in the comment section below