Given how well Junji Ito’s work is respected, not just in manga but in horror generally, it is surprising that it has taken 15 years for this sci-fi horror series to be released in English. It contains much of what you would expect from Ito, including body horror – or, to be exact, heavenly body horror, as this story features an entire nightmarish planet.
No exact date is given for when Remina is set other than it being the 21st century, but given the designs of futuristic buildings and the fact that we learn that humanity has bases on the Moon and Mars, mid-to-late 21st century is most likely. We learn that one Dr. Oguro has won the Nobel Prize after a wormhole he discovered 30 years ago has resulted in a planet emerging from it. As it is 16 light years away and it was discovered on his daughter’s 16th birthday, the doctor named it after his daughter, Remina. Remina herself is shy, but eventually she steps into the limelight and becomes a celebrity.
Scientists on Earth then discover more about the new planet. It seems to be moving impossibly quickly, even faster than the speed of light. Eventually they realise that the images they first took of the world showed Remina 16 years ago, because it was 16 light years away. That means Remina is actually in our solar system. Not only that, but it is destroying everything around it. It starts destroying the outer planets of our Solar System, and eventually beings to reach Earth. Closer observations of the planet show that it can sprout tentacles and even has gigantic eyes.
Because Dr. Oguro discovered the planet and named it after Remina, many people blame the pair for the destruction that is inevitably coming Earth’s way. Gangs start to build crosses to sacrifice the two in an effort to stop the destruction. Thus Remina and her closest allies: her agent, her sponsor and the president of her fan club, try to team up to prevent Remina’s death, with the violent mob being led by a mysterious hooded man.
As is so often the way with Ito’s work, it is the art that stands out the most. The ghastly sight of the planet Remina is disturbing enough. It is even more so when humans try to explore the surface of it, with this world having a nightmarish visage and an atmosphere so deadly that it melts human bodies when they are exposed to it. Not just this, but this world appears to be one gigantic organism with eyes and tentacles. It puts you in mind of the Gaia hypothesis: the idea that the world is one single organism of which we humans are just a small part. Remina is thus the nightmare version of the hypothesis.
It is not just on this alien world where there are disturbing things going on. The hunt for the Oguros is a violent, chaotic one, with numerous scenes of crucifixions depicted in the story. Is this somehow a reference to the Passion? Is the girl Remina the saviour or the destroyer of the world? These are questions best left for the reader to answer.
In terms of the plot, the manga does go into an examination of class. There is talk, proven to be true, that the wealthy and privileged have their own emergency space ships to flee the Earth when it becomes clear the planet is doomed, while the poor will go to extremes to try and save themselves, in this case, believing that killing the Oguros will solve the problem, in a kind of religious sacrifice. As for the girl Remina, her greatest salvation comes in the form of a tramp that she stumbles across, who in turn helps Remina when he sees the injustice of the punishments inflicted upon her.
Regarding the production, the manga is available from VIZ Signature both as a hardback and a digital version. There don’t appear to be any issues with Jocelyne Allen’s translation of the story, but I found the lettering from Eric Erbes to be the more interesting development, with the use of a different, more doom-laden font for the hooded hunter to distinguish this character as being a key figure in the story. Although admittedly, the fact that the character is wearing a hood is surely indication enough that something is up with him.
Remina will appeal to fans of Ito, and this unusual venture into a more sci-fi driven tale sees the author working in different styles, while remaining true to the horror-driven work that has made him popular.