A Review by Jesse Baker
“Junji Ito’s Remina”
A Review by Jesse Baker
In the storied bibliography of horror manga artist Junji Ito, one of his most celebrated works has long been unavailable in the US until just recently. “Hellstar Remina”, now rebranded simply “Remina”, has finally received a US release in hardcover format by Viz Media.
Junji Ito’s work has long been compared to that of H.P. Lovecraft, with his emphasis on cosmic horror, elder beings, and the cold cruel indifference of the universe when it comes to inflicting horror and suffering upon people. But with Remina, all of Ito’s themes and horror tropes came together to create one of his most successful (if not bleakest) manga stories in his career.
“Remina” is the story about the apocalypse, a young woman named Remina, and the star that her famous astronomer father named after her. Having spent most of her life as nobody, young Remina finds herself turned into a celebrity overnight when her father names his discovery after her. A singing contract, endorsement deals, fan clubs, TV and movie offers, and romantic inquiries from wealthy young bachelors all suddenly suddenly pop up for the shy young woman.
But the fame is fleeting, as horror beyond one’s imagination suddenly threatens humanity. The star that Remina’s father discovered and named after his daughter is not just a star. It is a giant cosmic abomination: a sentient planet with one blinking eye and a giant tongue that it uses to consume entire planets. Pluto, Neptune, Uranus, Saturn, Jupiter, and Mars suddenly disappear from the night sky rapid. Remina’s father is driven mad with the revelation that his discovery is a planet eating horror that is making it’s way to Earth.
As humanity discovers that it is going to be eaten alive by a sentient planet, chaos and insanity consume mankind. And serving as ringleader over the insanity is a mysterious cult of masked madmen. These masked men declare that the only way to hold back the destruction of Earth is to kill the planetary abomination’s namesake, Remina and her father.
What follows is a horrific series of events as Remina is crucified and forced to watch her father be murdered in front of her. Though Remina escapes from the cross she has been tied to, the angry mob that is humanity slaughter anyone those who seek to protect Remina while others in Remina’s circle betray her to save themselves. In the end, with only a homeless drifter for protection, Remina must find fight her persecutors even as the Earth itself is destroyed in graphic fashion by the unspeakable hellstar that shares her name.
While most of Junji Itto’s works are episodic and slow moving in nature, “Remina” is a fast paced serial that doesn’t get led up. Starting with Remina on the cross about to watch her father die, the story flashes backwards to show the events leading up to her crucifixion and then shows her frantic bid to survive even as the hellstar destroys the planet as she flees her tormentors. Bleak, depressing, and filled with the sort of existential dread that comes from knowing the apocalypse is inescapable, “Remina” shows how far a doomed race would fall to try and stave off annihilation, filtered through the lens of ritual murder/sacrifice. It also show the fickle nature of fame and fortune; one minute Remina is a normal girl, then she’s Japan’s top pop idol, then she’s been tied to a cross and blamed for humanity’s impending death.
The Hellstar Remina is a monstrous and unspeakable engine of destruction and only cares about consuming planets because it can. The planet does show considerable intelligence, with the way that it lures and horrifically murders a band of greedy wealthy types that sought to flee the Earth and ride out the end of their planet as stowaways on the Hellstar. But the Hellstar never speaks and never communications with humanity. It comes to destroy and then moves on to it’s next meal. There is no bartering with it, no ancient artifact of life and creation that can be used to destroy it, no weapon of mass destruction that can be used to make it back the fuck off and go away. Hellstar Remina comes, eats, and moves to the next planet to eat.
Yet in spite of this unspeakable horror, the story features one of the few upbeat endings for a Junji Ito stories. Remina, her homeless savior, and several random survivors manage to find shelter in an underground pod that survives the destruction of Earth. Though the pod has enough food and oxygen to last a year, the characters remain somewhat positive that a miracle will save them from a slow and agonizing death in space.
If you’ve never read Junji Ito’s work, “Remina” serves a perfect entry point for new fans. Meanwhile longtime fans will take delight in one of his most famous works finally being available to read without having to track down fan translated copies of the story online.