This beautifully produced volume collects ten short stories in manga form, two based on works by Edogawa Ranpo, one from a story by Robert Hichens, the remaining seven original to Ito. Already recognised as one of manga’s leading artists thanks to Tomie and Uzumaki, it goes without saying that the artwork Ito has produced here is as beautiful and imaginative as it is dark and visceral.
Venus in the Blind Spot delivers an impressive spectrum of storytelling. 'Billions Alone' is a genuinely unsettling study of loneliness and social inability set against a broader enigma of mass disappearances, sharing a similar sense of disquiet at the emptiness of modern life as Will Carver’s recent novel Nothing Important Happened Today. Elsewhere, ‘An Unearthly Love’ and ‘Keepsake’ explore the dark side of human relationships, ‘The Enigma of Amigara Fault’ trades in folk horror and the unexplained (Ito’s haunted landscapes subtly evoke Picnic at Hanging Rock), while the title story veers into sci-fi and is bound to appeal to fans of Black Mirror.
Surprisingly, in amongst the chills, gruesome set-pieces and twist-of-the-knife endings, Ito includes a heartfelt and energetically drawn paean to manga pioneer Kazuo Umezz. Part memoir of what Umezz’s work meant to the young Ito, part ardent fan letter, it’s a sharp contrast with the grotesquerie of the other tales.
For anyone new to manga and general or Ito in particular, Venus in the Blind Spot is an ideal starting point. I’ll certainly be exploring more of his work.
Neil Fulwood was born in Nottingham, where he still lives and works. He is the author of two poetry collections with Shoestring Press, No Avoiding It and Can’t Take Me Anywhere, with a third forthcoming in June 2021.