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  • Writer's pictureTrusty Henchman

Reading Pile: Remina HC

I tend to enjoy Junji Ito books more when they're shorter stories as I digest his works as if they were just fever nightmares that he's translated into comics. I don't see much of a point in trying to figure out what they're about sometimes because like....c'mon.

In Remina's case it felt like a fun idea that he added a lot of padding to, and the padding is amusing, but ultimately forces you to take a 'don't think about it too much' stance a little too often. The story is basically about a scientist in the future discovering an alien planet that has emerged out of a black hole, naming that planet after his daughter, and then the planet quickly meandering across the cosmos as it eats and destroys planets on its way to Earth.

It's basically Lovecraft+Unicron+Ego. And before you 'um actually' me and say Galactus over Unicron, a planet eating a planet is a far more disturbing concept and Unicron has a more eldritch tone. And Lovecraft is obviously Junji Ito's jam so we're going with Unicron.

People go insane, blame the scientist and his daughter, and most of the story follows the plight of the girl Remina as the entire world is actively trying to murder her. Yes, the entire world. And don't ask why they're flying.

The sub-story focusing on the horror of mankind would usually be just the right fit for an apocalyptic tale like this, but it would help if Remina herself had any real characterization besides 'constantly helpless'. Which is a Junji Ito default because as most of his stories are short form his characters are supposed to be ciphers, blank slates we project ourselves onto. And you can argue that her lack of character is part of the theme of her identity being dissolved by the fame that was forced upon her, and yes that works. However, after a long sequence of would-be heroes of various motivations tossing her along like a damsel in distress hot potato, it just got a bit ridiculous. Giving her a tiny bit more agency would have gone a long way.

The insane nature of the concept and storytelling both walk a fine line between fantastic and wtf, so I have a very split opinion on this book. For example, the final character to take up the responsibility of saving Remina is a random homeless man who happens to be tortured by the crowds simply because he was near her. He actively becomes her savior, literally carrying her over his back as they jump and fly around the world (again, don't ask about that, it opens a different can of worms). Part of me is down with that, because it offers some hope in mankind as this random stranger wants nothing from Remina as opposed to all the previous male characters. On the flip side, he has an enormously unlikely payoff at the end that connects to a loose plot thread by sheer chance. It doesn't feel lazy, but it requires a little too much faith in kismet for such a nihilistic story.

For every positive there's an equal negative, but the negatives are all so ridiculously entertaining that I suppose it doesn't matter. Trying to impose too much sense in some Ito stories is the same as trying to impose order in a dream, and while there is most certainly meaning to be gleamed there's also just going to be people melting and giant tongues caressing the planet simply because.

If you read and enjoy Junji Ito you're most likely going to get this book regardless, and I think you'll like it. If you have never read anything by Ito then I'm not sure if I would recommend this to you as your first taste. I think I enjoyed works like GYO more, and collections of GYO include shorts such as The Enigma of Amigara Fault so it's a pretty great package. But even though I don't favor Remina above some of his other works, it's still engaging and fascinating, with plenty of engrossing nightmare imagery. And in the end, that is one of the major factors for collecting his books.

Just sit back, enjoy the weird visuals, and go with the goopy flow.

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