This was a story I strayed away from just from the tiny image I saw, it alarmed me from the image of two people stitched together. Any sinister story Junji Ito crafts into a cultivating tale of terror. We never know what to expect. This one took many different turns to the ending that was sewn into our psyche.
I read this tale of terror thinking, "There is no way this can get worse for the characters in this story." It wouldn't be a Junji Ito story if I was proven wrong.
Because this story has some grotesque scenes that I will be talking about. If you are uncomfortable with some of the body torture that will be discussed, please think of what is comfortable for you. If you haven't read Army of One, please read it and come back since I will be going over the story's plot without giving away the ending, but I will still be going over major plot points.
This story has a parallel between the ones who refrain from connection and extrovert activities and those who navigate through life in the company of comrades. Normalcy in life that we trust our friends, greet our neighbors, or even a stranger. Especially during the time of Christmas when the time-frame of this story starts. Trust existed in this town and it changes when a missing couple now floats deceased in the river, stitched together horrifically.
The way this story is explored is through a twenty-year-old introvert named Michio, who wants to live his life as a hermit and nothing more, as he disregards the idea of connection. An eerie song that is the opposite of how he feels about connection when the surprise radio broadcast is singing-
"Gather round people, all together now! Nobody likes a lonely only. Everyone's your friend! Everyone's your friend! When you join hearts and sing- Army of one, We're an army of one. Everybody join hands now, everybody join hearts now, Army of oooone."
Much like Uzumaki, in the plot of a town in terror. It has the same vibe of a violent nature that does terrible things in this town. But with a commentary on the connections in our society, no one should be left out at all, and safety is in numbers. Now, that's not the case. As Michio begins to make up for a lost time by the urging of his classmate (and former crush) to come to various social gatherings and get involved. The strange parallel begins as the bodies begin to pile up, and with it, a rain of papers with the words, "Nobody likes a lonely only, everybody join hands now, everybody join hearts now"
Any event that comes up, singles events, reunions, and even Christmas celebrations mean the death of groups of people to the "stitch murders". Something grotesque and inhuman has happened to multiple human beings and is found in an artistic statement, along with the papers, and the odd radio transmission. And the number just increases by the group.
When I was recalling this story, there is a comparison in mind to an episode on Hannibal where victims are found of all different colors to make the appearance of an eyeball. The whole show has artistic forms of a brutal murder in a statement. Watch this specific one in season 2 (first two episodes) and read the story, then compare and contrast.
The message in the macabre murders is no one likes to be lonely. Now it appears that your own solitary company would mean survival instead of relying on or trusting others. These murders have broken that trust in others because of the fear to stay alive. Even the townsfolk that remains begin to part ways with each other to maintain the survival that this is what life will be like with the threat still out there taking away a staggering number of people in the twisted message that no one was lonely, look how they died, they died together. Now safety is no longer in numbers, the public safety is to no longer be in crowds of people to reduce being targeted from the threat.
As the story progresses, Michio begins having an interest in the investigation of what is happening to the citizens. Although the timing of this sinister event unfolding, this would have been the opportunity for his nature as an introvert to guarantee his safety. Instead, he ventures out of his house for his curiosity as well as the safety of Natsuko. The sudden motivation he has comes at the wrong time because no one is safe in any type of socializing.
After the murder of every one of the attendants to the school reunion, except Natsuko and Michio not being present at the time the attendants were taken. The hope is lost. Natsuko was the one that always had a home to bring everyone together. Michio began to be one to reach out to others and miss out on a life he never lived with friends. Now that has all changed as the city declares quarantine for the citizens. To stop this killer, everyone remaining must give up on their trust in one another. It's a rare concept that a whole city has been shaken to the core and broken the relationships to live as others mourn the one they lost to the murders.
That is all I will say, as I cannot give away the ending. It has to be experienced without my commentary.
This in my opinion is one of my favorite stories of Junji Ito, to explore the ideals of trust in society and the nature of yearning for others because of lonely lives. It's a story that is more than its graphic gore, it delivers on the intrigue and questions our introvert or extrovert natures. The idea of living a life or staying inside. Connect with someone or stay out of the crowd for safety despite the loss of a possible connection. This story has more to offer than just the intelligent shock value of what befalls this city folk.