Gyo 1-2 by Junji Ito: B+

Walking fish aren’t the usual sort of monsters one associates with Halloween, but their invasion makes for creepy reading nonetheless!

Tadashi and his high-maintenance girlfriend, Kaori, are vacationing in Okinawa when Kaori begins complaining of putrid smells. Soon after, a chase ensues between Tadashi and a barely glimpsed, fast-moving creature, culminating with the discovery that said critter is actually a fish with four spindly mechanical legs. This is just the tip of the fishberg, though, as Okinawa is soon overrun by walking fish, which quickly spread to mainland Japan and eventually the rest of the world.

Despite the attempts of the back cover to induce me to regard the series as “horrifying,” the primary adjective I’d use to describe it is “weird.” The scenes of walking fish—and sharks, squids, and whales—swarming down city streets are alarming but fun in a disaster movie kind of way. For most of the first volume, I actually smiled as I read. Things get more serious in the second volume, with revelations about what the creepy legs will do once they run out of fish bodies to use as fuel, but the weird only gets weirder—there’s a critter circus, for example—and the series never loses its page-turning momentum.

While I’d primarily classify Gyo as something fun that’s not too deep, it does offer some commentary on scientific ethics, particularly in the person of Tadashi’s uncle, who immediately begins trying to create a walking machine of his own. Some will be put off by the lack of a finite ending, but I find it interesting. If this were a disaster movie, we’d probably be given the opportunity to cheer on our battered heroes as they figure out the creatures’ vulnerability and blow them all to smithereens, but Gyo stops short of that point. Will mankind prevail? Will the world be overrun? We’ll never know.

Two short stories are included in volume two. “The Sad Tale of the Principal Post” is short and random, but I liked “The Enigma of Amigara Fault” a lot. In it, an earthquake has revealed a rock formation riddled with human-shaped holes that go farther back into the rock than researchers are able to measure. People have flocked to the site after seeing it on TV, somehow drawn to holes that seem to have been tailor-made for them. A young man named Owaki tries to keep his new female friend, Yoshida, from entering her hole, and suffers some vivid (and way more horrifying than the fish-monsters!) nightmares about what could happen to a person who enters. The final page suggests he was right.

In the end, I wouldn’t classify Gyo as amazing, but it—and “The Enigma of Amigara Fault”—are certainly entertaining and memorable. I may have to check out more from Junji Ito, like the spooky spiral menace of Uzumaki!

Gyo is published in English by VIZ and is complete in two volumes.

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  1. Eric Henwood-Greer says

    I’ve always meant to check out more Ito. I admit, Uzumaki (his only work I’ve read), creeped me out to such an extent that some of the imagery still does pop up in dreams I have (something that’s fairly rare for any horror film or book—at least since being an adult). It’s the kind of book I probably wouldn’t leave sitting on my bedside table, well—just *because*.

    Sounds like this wouldn’t quite have that affect, but I’ve always meant to explore his other works.

    • If one has an intense shark phobia (particularly sharks on land phobia), I think some images in Gyo are pretty indelible! Personally, I keep thinking about the final image in “The Enigma of Amigara Fault.”

      And speaking of Uzumaki, my Amazon order of same just arrived yesterday!

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