Tuesday, March 17, 2020

MARIAH's THOUGHTS on Uzumaki: Spiral Into Horror

Manga/Graphic Novel
Japanese Literature
3 in 1 Deluxe Edition
Publish Date:
October 15, 2013
(First English Edition, 2002)

Spirals... this town is contaminated with spirals...

Kurouzu-cho, a small fogbound town on the coast of Japan, is cursed. According to Shuichi Saito, the withdrawn boyfriend of teenager Kirie Goshima, their town is haunted not by a person or being but by a pattern: uzumaki, the spiral — the hypnotic secret shape of the world. This bizarre masterpiece of horror manga is now available in a single volume. Fall into a whirlpool of terror!



**About the Author**
Junji Itō (伊藤潤二) Born in Gifu Prefecture in 1963, he was inspired from a young age by his older sister's drawing and Kazuo Umezu's comics and thus took an interest in drawing horror comics himself. Nevertheless, upon graduation he trained as a dental technician, and until the early 1990s he juggled his dental career with his increasingly successful hobby — even after being selected as the winner of the prestigious Umezu prize for horror manga.

The most common obsessions are with beauty, long hair, and beautiful girls, especially in his Tomie and Flesh-Colored Horror comic collections. For example: A girl's hair rebels against being cut off and runs off with her head; Girls deliberately catch a disease that makes them beautiful but then murder each other; a woman treats her skin with lotion so she can take it off and look at her muscles, but the skin dissolves and she tries to steal her sister's skin, etc.

Ito's universe is also very cruel and capricious; his characters often find themselves victims of malevolent unnatural circumstances for no discernible reason or punished out of proportion for minor infractions against an unknown and incomprehensible natural order.

His longest work, the three-volume Uzumaki, is about a town's obsession with spirals: people become variously fascinated with, terrified of, and consumed by the countless occurrences of the spiral in nature. Apart from the ghastly, convincingly-drawn deaths, the book projects an effective atmosphere of creeping fear as the town's inhabitants become less and less human, and more and more bizarre things begin to happen.

Before Uzumaki, Ito was best known for Tomie, a comic series about a beautiful, teasing and eternally youthful high school girl who inspires her stricken admirers to murder each other in fits of jealous rage. Eventually, unable to cope with her coy flirtation and their desire to possess Tomie completely, they are inevitably compelled to kill her — only to discover that, regardless of the method they chose to dispose of her body, her body will always regenerate.

In 1998, during the horror boom that followed the success of Ringu, Tomie was adapted into a movie. Since Tomie, many of his works have been adapted for TV and the cinema.

Stay connected with Junji Ito


*My Thoughts*

Note: This Review contains SPOILERS

The seinen horror manga Uzumaki written and illustrated by Junji Ito, much like the name implies, entrances its readers into the sick and spiraling town of Kurōzu-cho. This thrilling manga, originally published in 1998, has since gotten a film and an anime adaptation. The story follows high school student Kirie Goshima and the supernatural events that revolve around the plague of the small fictional town. Uzumaki starts on a peaceful, normal day and Kirie goes to the nearest train station to meet with her boyfriend, Shuichi Saito, after school. However, little occurrences foreshadow the cursed events that will engulf Kurōzu-cho. In the first chapter, for example, Kirie finds Shuichi’s father in the middle of an alleyway staring at a snail shell, the grass is drawn into the shape of a spiral, and a dust devil sweeps by Kirie. All of which show greater relevance later. Shuichi is the first to notice how strange Kurōzu-cho is but by the time Kirie or even the reader fully believes him, we’re all sucked into the madness that is the spiral.

During my first read of Uzumaki, I didn’t think much of the strangeness. It is a horror manga after all; I wanted to just absorb and accept it. But the further I read, from chapter 1: The Spiral Obsession, Part 1 to chapter 19: Completion, the events became stranger and more extreme. The first death that occurs in the story is Shuichi’s father, who became so obsessed with the meaning and shape of the spiral that he literally died by contracting his body into a circular tub and becoming a spiral. If that isn’t creepy enough, two of Kirie’s schoolmates eventually turn into human-sized snails and hurricanes engulf Kurōzu-cho changing the air pressure so strongly the slightest breath can cause a tornado. These little details and foreshadowing from chapter one eventually turned into major disasters and occurrences. By the end, the citizens of Kurōzu-cho become one combined monstrosity and are sucked into the depths of the little town’s well in the middle of Dragonfly Pond. I didn’t realize how significant each detail is to Uzumaki, until the last pages when Kirie says, “So the curse was over the moment it began, the endless frozen moment I spent in Shuichi’s arms. And it will be the same moment when it ends again…” It was chillingly brilliant.

Overall, Uzumaki is an amazing read, that left me unable to stop until I read it from cover to cover. And having the deluxe edition made the read even more intriguing. Since, I didn’t have to stop and pick up another volume or find the next chapter elsewhere. I enjoy the little details, the illustrations, and the overall plot. When the story ends and the spiral-based curse stops, it is very much a bitter-sweet moment that it mirrored how I feel about it. The spiral-based curse is never-ending, it would continue to consume future Kurōzu-cho, whereas I didn’t want the story to end so I could continue reading more. Just from this one story and the mangaka’s reputation, Junji Ito proves to me that he certainly is a master of horror and thrills.

My rating:

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