Long Dream is a short horror manga by Junji Ito. It begins with Mami, a woman admitted to the neurosurgery ward of a hospital because of her intense fear of dying. In the night, a figure outside her door (who she thinks is death personified) frightens her. The figure is not death, but Tetsuro Mukoda, another patient. He is having nightmares experienced as many days or months, when they actually last several seconds (hence the manga’s title). Each dream feels longer than the previous, eventually spanning to thousands of years and more. Just as language and biology change over such time, Mukoda has an evolved body and speaks differently when he wakes up.
After his body distorts beyond recognition, he seems to have an endless dream. His body crumbles like stone, leaving crystals where his brain would be. His doctor, believing these crystals are behind the long dreams, administers them to Mami (the death-fearing woman). Another doctor becomes furious when he hears about this, believing it is unethical. The manga’s final panel shows Mami, her body distorted much like Mukoda’s.
I mainly believe this story is about the human perception of death. Mami represents the fear of death. As she says, “I’m going to disappear from this Earth. I’m going to cease to exist.” Mukoda represents the fear of immortality. The horror in both allows the reader to sympathize easily with these ideas, but also shows how contradictory they are. It shows how both death and its absence are terrifying. This story may also reflect ethical concerns over medical advancements which aim to prevent old age, death, and the like. Some feel fear and disgust towards death and support these advancements (i.e. Mami and Mukoda’s doctor), while others believe they are immoral (i.e. the other doctor).