Continuing my fascination with all things done by Junji ito is Lovesick Dead, or Undying Love as it is sometimes called. The story is a short, one-volume affair dealing with a teen who moves back to his foggy old Japanese town and finds that the inhabitants are obsessed with playing a game called “intersection fortune-telling.” The game involves waiting at an intersection until someone passes by, and then asking the person a question where they can predict your future. It’s supposed to be a spontaneous thing; you just say whatever comes to your mind. But a pretty boy has been seen walking along the intersections, saying terrible things to everyone who asks their fortune, and they generally end up killing themselves or messing up their life in some way.
Ito’s reliance on human obsession is again seen in this manga, but it’s a really original premise that continues to twist until the end. There are only four chapters, and they divide the manga into quarters. The first is the introduction of intersection fortune-telling and the pretty boy, which is grotesque and disturbing and gets the ball rolling with the themes of fascination. Every individual of the foggy town is somehow influenced very easily, except our protagonist Ryuusuke, who is thrown off by the similarities between the events of the present and a past experience. Ryuusuke is involved with one of his classmates, but is haunted by the fact that he feels like he killed her aunt in a chance encounter of intersection fortune-telling that ended in suicide.
Lovesick Dead continues to escalate with the ghosts of the suicide victims and weird encounters with obsessive girls who think Ryuusuke is the actual pretty boy. Toward the end of the manga, Ryuusuke is forced to find the pretty boy himself, and becomes addicted to it in that regard as well. Ito’s art is terrifying, and the ghosts are drawn with such violent hatred that it creeps out the reader. Ito is very good at showing the dementia of the character through expression, and it comes through here as well.
The obsession of the town escalates, and it’s really hard to trust anyone within the manga. This is a good thing – it leaves the reader hanging on, but with no ideas as to where the manga might be headed. However, the conclusion is a bit lackluster and anti-climactic. Ito’s writing style is generally like this, though – he starts off with a very twisted idea, branches off of it with more intricate and complex storylines, and then finds he can’t conclude them well. But this is alright for me – I’d rather Ito focus on the psychologies of fascination than have an unoriginal plot with a very succinct ending.
If you liked Uzumaki, you will most likely love this short volume. Where Uzumaki deals with obsession of a town, Lovesick Dead tends to look at people more individually and follow their breakdown to its end. Though its ending leaves something to be desired, Ito gives us more than enough eerie moments and interesting plot developments to keep us avidly reading until the grim end.