Junji Ito is my all-time favorite mangaka. The man is a literary and artistic genius. These aren’t empty or unearned compliments either, as he’s globally renowned as a master of horror manga. As a longtime fan who’s read nearly all of his works, I was eager to read and critique his upcoming manga volume Sensor.
The first thing I noticed about Sensor upon reading it is that unlike most of Ito’s works which consist of short-term stories and one-shots, the manga has a complete volume with a full story that’s as long, if not longer than some of his other series like Gyo, Tomie, and Uzumaki. However, while this initially had me teeming with anticipation, I realized upon reaching its conclusion that Sensor is far from his most remarkable work, mainly as a result of its odd execution and convolution.
Of course, many, if not all of Ito’s works are chuck full of convoluted plot points with eccentric characters. Not everything makes sense to the reader, and the stories often leave them dumbfounded. However, these same stories also simultaneously engage, enthrall, shock, and mystify the reader. No matter the story, the reader will always leave with a strong impression. While this all stays true for Sensor, it’s hard not to point out its rough narrative execution regardless.
Sensor follows Kyoko Byakuya, a young woman who one day winds up lost in the foot of Mount Sengoku, where a mysterious man appears and takes her to a nearby village called Kiyokami. Upon arriving, she realizes the denizens of this village are rather peculiar, in that they all have the power of clairvoyance thanks to these golden hair-like strands they have on their heads called the Amagami. The village itself is also covered in these golden hair-like fibers which further plunges Kyoko in a state of unease. As the manga progress, we find out that these villagers are descendants and members of an old cult sect who are followers of a now-deceased psychic Christian missionary.
Each night, the villagers look up at the stars to “gaze into the farthest reaches of the universe” in hopes of connecting with their beloved leader. However, on the same night, mount Sengoku explodes and Kyoko, who just happened to be in attendance, is engulfed in the same golden hairs the next day and consequently gains significant paranormal abilities. The rest of the manga sees Kyoko being pursued for her newfound abilities and the knowledge that comes with it.
A Similar Scenario
Sensor is much like Ito’s other works like Remina and Venus in the Blind Spot. Like those other series, the manga centers around a beautiful female adolescent unjustly trapped in a bizarre and otherworldly scenario. And like the other female leads in Ito’s works, Kyoko barely has a personality or history and mainly serves as a catalyst to these strange events, while other secondary characters like Wataru Tsuchyado, a reporter infatuated with Kyoko who gets himself involved in the whole ordeal, only serve as a reactor to the manga’s events or as a tool to voice the reader’s thoughts.
Many of the events in the manga are displayed like a fever dream that’s hard to wrap your head around. The volume goes from one event to the next without giving the reader a chance to breathe as it introduces one plot point after another, from UFOs and supernatural cults to cosmic horrors and time travel. As a result, it’s hard to follow the manga from start to finish without feeling overwhelmingly confused. However, it’s safe to say that it is with these elaborate yet nightmarish events that Sensor succeeds at entrapping the reader, and a major contributing factor to this is the manga’s chilling art.
Ito’s art is still as exceptional as ever in Sensor. No other mangaka can simultaneously fill the reader with a sense of dread, intrigue, and discomfort the way he does. Ito is a master of the art of the page turn, a format where the reader can never guess what nightmarish monstrosities lie waiting for them at the other side of a page, and this creative tool is ever-present in Sensor. The thought-provoking and mind-numbing narrative also work well together with the creator’s stellar art and format to produce a memorable yet haunting tale.
Upon finishing the manga, I noticed a special message from Ito regarding Sensor. In the message, he reveals the manga’s original concept and how it was actually a much different, much older story of his now re-released as what we have now. He also outlines how different his initial intentions were for the manga, which explains many of the discrepancies and complexities that arose in the story.
Reading the message really helped me understand the manga’s story and how it was never going to be a perfect or well-executed tale due to the sacrifices made while writing it. He also reflects on how he wants to write more around the manga’s characters, which wouldn’t be impossible given the way it ends. It’s also worth noting (without going into spoiler territory) that Sensor ends much better than it started as it actually takes the time to explain its confusing elements as best as it could in the end, which I appreciated.
Sensor – Final Thoughts
Overall, despite its flaws, Sensor is still an enthralling and entertaining manga. If you’re a fan of Junji Ito or horror in general, then I heavily recommend you read Sensor and the creator’s other works. While this is far from his best work, it still offers the reader an insight into tales most would conventionally never think of as well as visual and body horror that will both petrify and engage you.
Sensor will be available to purchase on August 17th from VIZ Media.
A copy of this manga was provided for review by VIZ Media
Are you a fan of horror manga? What do you think of this manga review? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below.