Although I haven’t read everything that horror mangaka Junji Ito has done, which goes back to the 1980s, I have read enough to express an opinion about what works and doesn’t work about his way of visual storytelling. His style of horror often works because of his impressive artistry, but when it comes to ongoing narratives where characterization and drama should be key, that’s where Ito starts to lose it. Enter: Remina.
Originally published by Japanese publisher Shogakukan in 2005 – now published as an English-language edition by Viz Media – Ito’s sci-fi horror centers on an unknown planet that emerges from inside a wormhole. Its discoverer, Dr. Oguro, christens the body “Remina” after his own daughter. The sixteen-year-old Remina becomes an instant celebrity as the planet itself picks up speed as it moves along in its curious course, eliminating planets and stars one after another, until finally Earth faces extinction.
I’ve always felt that Ito has always had interesting ideas that form the basis for his horror, as in the case of this title, it explores the fears of celebrity, mass hysteria and even cult-inspired movements. Remina’s character arc is about that journey of self-discovery that feels appropriate in the life of a teenage girl… until people start believing that she is the cause of the planet Remina accelerating to Earth. However, there is never enough time for these ideas to breathe, because Ito wants to rush to the horror as soon as possible.
Taking place in the future, Ito never delves into why the futuristic setting is significant to the story itself, instead seeming content to merely show that flying cars and space travel is a common thing. The story could’ve been told in a contemporary setting, though it falls into the same problem from Uzumaki, in that the longer the story goes on, it just gets so silly to the point that the horror element is no longer scary. As much as Ito is doing a familiar horror trait of making humanity just as monstrous if not more so, it’s hard to root for any characters, because they seem to get thrown into the narrative without much development.
Junji Ito is a better artist than he is a writer. He creates imagery that is haunting and stays with you, usually involving characters who look like they are on the brink of madness. Although the futuristic setting is bland overall, apart from the Jetsons-like automobiles, Remina is described as a “demon planet”, which is a pretty accurate description, from its giant eye and giant tongue that destructively slurps at our home planet.
Ito’s tale of a hellstar may have a chilling presence, along with quality art, but Remina is frustratingly lacking in substance.
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