Hell Comes To Earth
Tripwire’s contributing writer Laurence Boyce takes a look at Junji Ito’s Remina…
Writer: Junji Ito
Artist: Junji Ito
In works such as Uzumaki, Tomie, and Gyo the Japanese horror writer, artist and Eisner winner Junji Ito has ploughed an uncomfortable furrow with an often disturbing blend of universal and uncontrollable horror alongside the subtleties of human behaviour in the face of the terrible unknown. In Remina – firstly published in Japanese in 2005 under the name of Hellstar Remina – Ito tries to go full on with the existential dread and visceral horror as a new planet threatens the extinction of the Earth and its inhabitants.
After discovering a new planet that has appeared out of nowhere from a wormhole, renowned scientist Dr. Oguro names it Remina after his daughter. As the planet’s fame grows, so does that of his offspring who becomes a reluctant star with thousands upon thousands of screaming fans. But the heavenly body turns out to be rather more hellish – destroying the likes of Neptune and Uranus – and heading to Earth on a destruction course. As the behaviour of the planet becomes ever more bizarre so does that of the people on Earth; suffering a kind of mass hysteria in the face of planet wide devastation, a mob decides that the only to stop Remina the planet is to sacrifice Remina the girl. As she tries to escape, with the help of various friends and hangers on, the true nature of the horror that is engulfing the planet becomes apparent and the world descends ever more into chaos.
It’s unsurprising that Ito has cited HP Lovecraft as an influence in the past, with Remina recalling much of Lovecraft’s spirit – the constant air of the smallness of humanity and our powerlessness in the face of entities that go beyond our limited means of understanding. There’s very little hope on offer embedded within our protagonists either – people are either part of a selfish elite who will use their money and power to try and escape the oncoming horrors, or small-minded venal humans who regress into superstition and fear. Even our titular character (the human version) is something of a cypher, an innocent girl firstly sucked into the jaws of fame and later into the terror of infamy. The late appearance of another protagonist adds the possibility of some hope in the face of the abyss, but Ito does not let humanity cover itself in glory through the course of the story. It’s delving into subjects of mob rule and a populace driven by fear provide some uncomfortable parallels with the state of the world today.
Indeed, Ito tries to deal with many subjects in what is one of his first forays into sci-fi and perhaps sometimes bites off more than he can chew. Alongside aforementioned examinations of fame, power and superstition there are also of plenty sci-fi trappings. But Ito gets caught up with his grandiose horror and – even in the face of Armageddon – things do start to get contrived. A chase scene in which the protagonists float over an Earth knocked out of its orbit is commendable for its invention yet drifts into the realms of the ridiculous. Add in the fact that many of the characters are archetypes and underwritten, Remina is often left wanting on a narrative level.
But unsurprisingly Ito provides many bravura set pieces. A moment in which a character is crucified on the charred remains of their relative is gruesomely well done, a disturbing image of a world burning physically and losing itself to degradation and blasphemy. Another in which the titular planet lets loose a tentacle to lick a groove in the Earth is so bold that you cannot help but admire the sheer audaciousness of the idea. Ito’s style presents us with mess and decay, viscera and destruction. A world in which human order is destroyed by nature and the unknown forces of the universe. The wide-eyed characters – usually denoting a strain of innocence in Manga – here imply fanaticism and insanity. Ito creates a consistently disturbing world of darkness, of smoke and ash and brimstone. A literal Hell brought to Earth.
There’s a certain disturbing joy to Remina, as there is in much of Ito’s work, to experience the world descending into chaos. But the narrative flaws are noticeable and Remina is one of Ito’s more minor works in which atmosphere triumphs over coherence.
Remina by Junji Ito is available now published by Viz Media