Junji Ito Month – Human Chair

Everyday, I will be reviewing a Junji Ito story. I’ve read quite a lot of his works already, and by October 31, I’ll culminate it with my top 5 favorite Junji Ito stories. I’m giving LOTS of thanks to the Junji Ito Manga Index for making my job easier! I won’t be doing things in any particular order, and there is no way I’m reviewing every single one this month. I’ll be doing one story a day, sometimes two if it turns out to be a shorter story. There will be spoiler-free and spoileriffic sections so you can gauge whether you will like the story or not.

When will I start the reviews? Right now!

Take a seat, boys and girls, but be careful. What you’re sitting on might not be what it seems.

Spoiler-Free Section

To start: What the heck did I just read?!

I’m gonna be saying that a lot this month, aren’t I?

Human Chair is a great story that exemplifies Junji Ito’s mantra of fearing the unknown. While stories like Uzumaki focus on unstoppable eldritch horror, this story feels a lot more intimate. Too intimate, in fact. The fear of the unknown in this case stems from our female lead’s paranoia that maybe somebody is living in her chair.

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The story begins with an author passing by an old furniture store. She asks the clerk if they have any chairs. The clerk answers yes, and stresses the importance of a good chair. So important in fact, that a great chair can change your life. The author obviously smirks at the hyperbole, but then the clerk shows her to the back of the store, where a lone chair is found. The clerk then regales our author with the story of another female author, from the Taisho era, as well as how her chair changed her life.

I won’t say much more than that until you read it.

Instead, I want to talk about the fear that Junji Ito is poking in our minds here. It’s the fear of someone invading your personal space. Everybody has a favorite chair in their home. Sure, we don’t freak out if somebody else is sitting on it, but we’d prefer that we were the ones sitting on it. It’s our personal chair. This is where we feel most comfortable. At the same time, it’s also where we can be at our most vulnerable.

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There have been stories before of vagrants living for months in somebody’s home without their knowing. If you recall a story from years past, a man from Japan found that his home was getting…….odd. Toilet paper would be used, a few foodstuffs would be missing, and sometimes doors were left unlocked when he swore he had locked them. Paranoid, he left spy cameras around the house to see if any vagrants were trying to break in to his house.

The next morning, he reviewed the footage and was shocked. Slowly, but surely, a woman crawled out of his kitchen cupboard. The very same cupboard he was a few feet away from.

The woman would go out at night, take food from the fridge, use the toilet and go back into the cupboard before morning. There were no locks broken on his doors and windows, and neither did he leave the house open when he left. The woman had lived in his home, without his knowledge, for a whole year.

I believe it’s stories like these that inspired Junji ito to write Human Chair. It’s the same kind of fear as seeing something out of the corner of your eye, but combined with the very real fear of a stalker.

I’ll be spoiling the story from here on out, so please go ahead and read it! It’s a fantastic horror story and one that is sure to make you jump out of your seat.
Read Human Chair here!

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Spoiler Section

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Spoilers, there was someone living in the goddamn chair. This story is the closet woman story from above, multiplied by a hundred. The fact that a chair you’ve been so comfortable in for months, writing stories or just relaxing to pass the time, had a man living in it this whole time?

That’s just wrong.

I love the scene where the chair man stabs the husband and the police follow. The framing here is so dynamic and somehow makes the reveal more terrifying later.

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But Lumi, we already know that there’s a man in the chair? How does knowing make the reveal even more unsettling?

Just look.

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The police take a knife to the chair and cut it open. There are four, painstakingly long panels of the policeman just cutting the chair open. The final panel isn’t even the reveal, it just shows us a shot of our characters in pure shock. I personally believe this is one of Ito’s best page turners. In the very next page, we are greeted by this:

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What’s most upsetting about this image isn’t just the fact that the man was in the chair. He was living in it. There’s food and water for him there, as well as a chamber pot for when he needs to relieve himself. He presumably only leaves the chair to replace the pot at night. When the husband beats the chair, he shows a terrifyingly stoic resistance to pain. This man, whoever he is, was so obsessed with this woman that he couldn’t ever leave her side while she’s writing.

Or in this case, back.

From here on out, it does honestly get a bit silly and convoluted. We get another reveal, that the woman eventually became insane and decided to live in the chair with the chair man.

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I’m not even gonna ask why they’re naked.

There’s really no indication that the woman would be even remotely interested in the man who killed his husband and ruined her career, but what do I know about crazy?

It is then revealed the clerk is a descendant, and he quite obviously offers our modern day author the same “treatment”.

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She reacts about the way you’d expect.

Then the ending happens, and he somehow ships himself to her. Thankfully, the author reacts not with a chilling acceptance, but sheer terror.

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Again, about the reaction you’d expect.

Human Chair was such a macabre story. It’s not as scary as some of Junji Ito’s other work, but it is one of his more realistic tales. The attention to detail in regards to how the man lived in the chair was chilling, and I gave my couch a few kicks after reading. It’s a great read!

That wraps up our first story for Spooktober. Tune in tomorrow for the next one!

-Lumi

11 thoughts on “Junji Ito Month – Human Chair

  1. Moya hinted at this, but this was technically a Rampo Edogawa story adapted by Junji Ito (I believe there is also a No Longer Human adaption around somewhere, for fans of Dazai).

    I think it was because of Rampo Kitan that this is one of the only Ito stories I’ve actually read in manga format (bevause that coincided with when I relied a lot more on scanlations). The other is Masei (Demon Voice), just in case you’re going to cover it this month.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I’ve not read any Junji Ito because I don’t know if I could handle it but I look forward to reading more of your thoughts on his collection. Maybe it’ll give me the courage to check out his work.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Awesome review! Yes I am also writing more work by the master storyteller and fascinated by his art and storytelling abilities. I loved Human Chair for it’s creepy factor, and Long Dream for it’s terror filled plot line which stayed with me for long time. If you would like, do head over to my website and check out some of my reviews too, would appreciate it, thanks! https://wp.me/p6NIMh-m2

    Liked by 1 person

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