Reviewby Carl Kimlinger,
Tadashi awakes from month-long coma to find that Tokyo has continued to rot in his absence. The fish have disintegrated from their mechanical carriages, to be replaced by gas-bloated infected humans. In trying to discover what happened to his infected girlfriend Kaori, Tadashi is horrified to learn of the inhuman acts his uncle has been driven to by his obsession with the walking machines. His uncle is wounded in the altercation, and Tadashi leaves, searching for Kaori in a blighted land of rotting flesh and putrid gas. In his wanderings he encounters a circus-master exploiting the repulsive new abilities of his decaying charges, who then teaches the young man about the will of the death-stench. When that will results in the putrescent population of Tokyo waging a macabre war on the equally disturbing creations of Tadashi's uncle, it becomes clear that Tadashi may not even be capable of saving himself, much less his undead girlfriend.
With all that pesky introductory nonsense out of the way, Junji Ito gets down to what he does best: undiluted grossness. This final volume may be one of the most genuinely nauseating books ever to blight a shelf. The sight of platoons of grossly fat infected humans piled atop their slimy carriages, tubes jammed between distended lips and swollen buttocks, is an image that goes beyond the merely physically repulsive into the realm of truly disturbing. It takes a twisted mind to dream up something like that and twisted mind, albeit of a lesser order, to enjoy it.
For those of us with such a constitution, Ito makes enjoyment easy, heaping on the putrid inventions. A slime-shooting, putrescence-powered zeppelin, a cannon where both powder and ball are corpses, piles of human flesh that pull the nearby infected into their pipe-infested depths with ghostly fingers of stinking gas, rotting lovers exacting revenge on their firm-fleshed significant others. This isn't horror intended to frighten, but to sicken. Ito reinforces his disturbingly-detailed world of dripping fleshy horrors and clouds of living, skeletal gas with an equally disgusting, yet strangely sweet sentimentality. Affections in Gyo survive the grave, inspiring devotion that cannot be deterred by the mere decaying of one's partner. Who, outside of the well-adjusted, can resist a book whose most moving moment involves zombie jealousy? A book that ends, not with a bang or a cynical sneer, but with a moment of simple, melancholy sorrow?
None of this, either disgusting or sentimental, would be possible without Ito's obsessively detailed artwork, with its fine-lined cross-hatching, deceptively simple layouts, and omnipresent atmospheric effects. Tadashi's uncles gets a run for his money in terms of blank-eyed lunatic energy from the thoroughly unhinged circus master, and an eight-page tour-de-force in which a flaming cloud of gas attacks Tadashi with a nightmare array of snaggled teeth, staring eyes and grasping skeletal hands is Ito having fun in grand Lovecraftian style.
Viz fleshes out this somewhat scant volume with two extra stories, one an inconsequential short about a man crushed by his new house, and the other a more involved account of a prehistoric torture that dwarfs everything else in the volume in terms of pure, chilling claustrophobic terror. The rest of Viz's presentation hasn't changed from the previous volume. The artwork is unflipped, and reproduced in more faithful detail than is probably good for sensitive readers. The sound effects are all replaced with English translations, and other than the two short stories, there are no extras.
It is with some emphasis that it must be said that Gyo is not for everyone. This is strictly for fans of Junji Ito's decidedly physical brand of horror. It doesn't even have the mystical bent or sheer novelty value of Uzumaki, just mountains of dead flesh manipulated in some very inventive ways. However, for those less-than-well-adjusted folks who thought that the nastier bits of Uzumaki and Tomie were simply the tops, this will be a sloppy slice of heaven, and the twisted romance the pustular cherry on top.
Overall : B
Story : B-
Art : A
+ Perfect for fans of the utterly nauseating.