The tumultuous digital age we find ourselves in has become a modern horror story for professional voice actors and artists witnessing “AI” machine-learning technologies go from being harmless-seeming fun to capitalist tools of extraction that copy and sell their voices and art without permission or compensation. Things have gotten so dire that the legendary horror mangaka Junji Ito is feeling a bit perturbed by AI-generated art successfully aping his style.
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In a recent interview with the Japanese video game website 4Gamer, Ito talked about his fear that manga will eventually be drawn with AI tech and that, even though AI art lacks originality, it may one day “make” something better than his own creations.
“Fundamentally, I don’t think people’s fears have changed that much over time. On the other hand, I always have the desire to create something new and scary,” Ito said in the interview, as translated via Google. “It’s like something that you didn’t think you were afraid of before suddenly becomes scary. I once drew a manga called Uzumaki. The swirl pattern that exists naturally and fear are connected, and the swirl pattern that was casually seen until then becomes scary. In this way, I would like to create a story in which the unexpected becomes frightening before AI.”
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When asked whether or not he believes modern manga readers’ taste for horror series has evolved from being mesmerized by the uncanny hand-drawn horror of Uzumaki’s shell spirals to the amalgamations of machine-generated works, Ito said readers prefer the former because of their human elements.
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“Unlike the old days, there is a word ‘hitokowa’ [‘unmasking’]. In the sense that people are afraid of the psychopathic side of humans, I feel that this tendency is stronger than it used to be,” Ito said. “However, it does not categorize or verbalize fear, so there are things I do not understand well. If I can analyze those parts, I can incorporate those tendencies into my work and create something that sells.”
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Ito thinks Hideo Kojima is a cool dude, not a rival
During the interview, Ito talked about how much he enjoyed working with Wizards of the Coast in designing the illustration for the legendary Elesh Norn, Mother of Machines card. Prior to collaborating with WotC, Ito had never heard of the card game. Likewise, Ito spoke highly about Death Stranding, in which he makes a cameo, and touched on whether or not he views Hideo Kojima’s supernatural USP delivery service video game as a potential rival to his manga as well.
“It’s not like we’re looking at each other as rivals. I think director Kojima of Death Stranding is also an amazing person, and I just admire him,” Ito said. “Manga is drawn on paper, and games are something you participate in yourself, so I’ve never been conscious of it.”
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If anime can’t encapsulate Ito’s horror, AI definitely can’t
Keeping it a buck, Crunchyroll and Netflix’s Ito anime projects, Junji Ito Collection and Junji Ito Maniac: Japanese Tales of the Macabre, haven’t had a great track record of successfully encapsulating the gravity and detail of the mangaka’s legendarily creepy horror stories. Last year, animation studio Production I.G announced that its upcoming Uzumaki anime adaptation would be spiraling into its third delay because the team required additional time to recreate “the quality of the intricate designs and detailed line work” of Ito’s popular horror manga.
If even Production I.G’s Uzumaki anime fails in successfully adapting Ito’s magnum opus (knock furiously on wood), chances are AI art won’t have a snowball’s chance in hell to match or surpass Ito’s terrifying art style and storytelling. Hopefully that will be some consolation to him.