Kurozuchou, 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 According to Shuichi Saito, the withdrawn boyfriend of teenager Kirie Goshima, their town is haunted not by a person or being but by a pattern: uzumaki, the spiral, the hypnotic secret shape of the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. It manifests itself in small ways: seashells, ferns, whirlpools in water, whirlwinds in air. And in large ways: the spiral marks on people's bodies, the insane obsessions of Shuichi's father, the voice from the cochlea in your inner ear. As the madness spreads, the inhabitants of Kurouzu-cho are pulled ever deeper, as if into a whirlpool from which there is no return...
Uzumaki was chosen by the American Library Association (ALA) as one of the Top Ten Great Graphic Novels for Teens in 2009.
The series was published in English as Uzumaki: Spiral into Horror by VIZ Media under the VIZ SIgnature imprint from October 16, 2007 to February 19, 2008, and again in a hardcover omnibus on Ocotober 15, 2013. It was also published in Polish as Uzumaki: Spirala by Japonica Polonica Fantastica in May 2011 as part of Mega Manga series, in Czech as Spirála by Zoner Press, and in Spanish.
There are many horror mangas out there that try to make themselves scary. But often we just get a comic that’s more gory or disgusting than scary. Now there is Kazuo Umezu who really can write a horror story that’ll scare you. He is known as the godfather of horror manga, but there is another called Junji Ito called the master of horror manga who has wrote something just as terrifying as any scary movie, book, or comic out there. This story is called Uzumaki.
The story is simply starts us of quick with two main characters to get use to and
the setting for our horror manga. Right away, we get the feeling that something isn’t actually right in this little coastal town. Soon, after the first chapter we get our first freak out and scary moment that is very twisted. The story is written well and focuses on something that really isn’t scary to begin with, a simple spiral.
But as this story shows, there is much more to this symbol then meets the eye.
As the story moves along, each chapter presents us a separate story that is completely different than the last, but still connects to the main plot. We get strange stories about a lighthouse, crazy hair, giant snails, and twisting bodies that all go together into this spiral story, no pun intended. But some of these stories within the story aren’t actually really horrific or anything which is why this grade isn’t a 10.
This story really is scary and what helps it is its sick and creepy style art. These characters are really well drawn and have a small alteration that makes them different than another person, though a lot of the girls seem similar to me and at one point I could tell two of them apart from each other.
Now let’s look at the world itself. It really is drawn well and if you look closer enough, you’ll find spirals that aren’t even apart of the story at hand. There’s also the carnage and scenes of disturbing violence in the story, now this stuff is freaky. This story contains a lot of this story and unlike most stories, it actually makes this story scarier!
Like I mention before, we are instantly given our two main characters right off the bat that both provide two different personalities. The girl is a bit uneasy and refuses to believe a lot of the things happening around her for a while and there is her boyfriend who is really nervous about the town and believes there isn’t something right about it.
Then we get the rest of the cast… there isn’t much of a cast besides these two. The only people that make repeat appearances are Kirie’s mom, brother, and dad plus one of her friends occasionally. Everyone else that has a big part in one of the chapters is pretty much a one time appearance. It’s kind of annoying that you get to know a new character only to never see them again.
Well… this series is extremely rewarding if you get it a chance and you’ll for sure think there is no other horror story around that can reach this level of freakiness. But this story might not appeal to everyone. Some might be put off by the crazy images or might find this story not that scary but just disturbing. Either way, this story provides a chilling, but enjoyable ride from beginning to end if you find that you like this series.
This story might not appeal to everyone like said before, but a lot of people should at least read the first chapter before making their judgment. You never know, you could be missing out on a great horror manga and you could never have even known!
This series contains a lot of disturbing images, violence and gore, nudity, language, and intense scenes of horror. If find any of this not really your style, especially the disturbing images, avoid this series at all costs!
Manga and anime do not scare me easily. Disturb me in some cases with grotesque imagery and copious amounts of gore, yes, but nothing that would constitute in giving me nightmares. I've found the medium as something that I would always gain enjoyment from no matter the genre. I would spend my time with a work, ponder on it for a while, and leave it at that. Rinse and repeat. That is, until I came across Junji Ito's Uzumaki.
The manga is brief, as it is only 19 chapters long with one extra story, but it drags the reader through so much. The manga's first two
chapters set the stage for all the events that are to follow: a man's obsession with all things spiral-shaped, smoke that forms a spiral when it reaches the sky, the protagonist's boyfriend becoming paranoid over the mysterious activities that have been occurring in the small, sea-side town where the story is set, and so on. Once the main points of the story are established, Ito assumes that the reader is aware of the basics and takes a completely episodic approach with his storytelling until the last few chapters. Each chapter is dedicated to one object that is associated with spirals, notably snails and curly hair. He sometimes cuts corners with this concept, though, and dedicates chapters to mosquitoes and lighthouses (Apparently, his excuse for this is that they move around in spiral shapes). What the reader doesn't realize, though, is that this is all build-up for the conclusion of the story, making this one of the most depressing manga I have ever read. I won't say much to avoid spoiling you, but the spiral concept of the story becomes all the more encompassing. Part of the horror that comes from this story is obsession and giving in to that obsession. It comes from watching the gradual downfall of a once peaceful town that has its daily life completely transformed (no pun intended...oops) by the psychological breakdowns of its townspeople. It comes from some of the characters' realization of what is going on, screaming in fear that they don't want to die, and knowing that they not only do not have any control over the situation, but that they know that they will never be the same again. I could go on, but my point is that the horror in this is completely psychological, but this is not Perfect Blue we're talking about. The terror in this is slow and painful, making the story all the more engrossing and terrifying.
Another major part of the story's appeal is Ito's unique drawing style. You could probably read the manga just for the artwork and still gain some enjoyment from that...that is, if you don't suddenly close your book in shock. It's one thing to read in text what is going on and another to see it. The artwork magnifies the reader's imagination hundredfold and presents possibly the only way to visually express everything that Kirie, the protagonist, is experiencing. Some of the scarier images include Shuichi's father rolling up his tongue into a spiral, half-human/snail hybrids, an army of pregnant women with blood-stained drills, and the lost souls that are the townspeople of Kurozu-cho who have resigned to the fate of "becoming one with the spiral", so to speak. That's not even half of the grotesqueness that the art has to offer. Some of the less scary art, such as the spiral-shaped grass and amusingly-spiraled hair, are cool to look at, but at the later points in the chapters, those only serve as distractions from the horror contained within the story. My favorite aspect of the art, however, is the fact that some of the worst images are usually hidden as two-page spreads beneath some of more harmless panels on the previous page. It's almost as if Ito is daring the reader to look on to the next page. One prominent example can be found in the "moon scar" chapter, and you'll know what I mean once you read it. That sort of suspense made the manga all the more thrilling to read. The art is not only creative and nice to look at, but adds its own layer of horror to the story.
I feel bad for the characters in the story. I really do. By the end of the manga, they almost become completely different people. Even Kirie, who seems to consistently remain pure and untainted by the spiral's allure, has trouble facing some of the greater moral choices that she has to make during the story. She is always exposed to some kind of human flaw that is caused by the spiral's influence, such as vanity and lack of motivation. Because of how consistent Kirie remains through all of this, she seems almost like a Mary Sue character. Normally, this can be harmful to character development, and it is in some cases, but in the world of Uzumaki, her innocence is a virtue. She is spared from experiencing the same kind of insanity and corruption as her peers, and yet she has to witness everything first hand. At the same time, it seems like that that is her form of corruption, watching her family, significant other, and the people of her home gleefully give in to the madness surrounding them. Although that is not a form of character growth in the most traditional sense, the characters are growing based on the events happening to them rather than conjuring some kind of growth based on dialogue and interaction. Uzumaki has a very isolated form of character development that occurs in the foreground due to the highly-detailed story elements that take center stage.
Before I finish, I would like to state that this is a review for a manga that I read last, for the first time, in June 2011. The story, imagery, and overall package that this manga contains has stuck with me since. I still get chills from this manga whenever I get flashbacks to it. I might have even experienced a few nightmares from this story a short while after reading it, but my memory of that is a little hazy. Leave it to Junji Ito to take some of the most insignificant things that we take for granted and enlarge them into things to avoid with dread and disgust. If you are looking for some great Lovecraftian horror to sink your teeth into for Halloween, or anytime for that matter, look no further than this manga. Just be weary of any escargot on the menu next time you eat at a fancy restaurant.
Originally posted by me on The Moon is a Dead World (http://ryneb.blogspot.com)
I'm always interested in different forms of media that manage to tie in the horror genre, and being a manga and anime fan myself, I sometimes find myself perusing the various manga shelves at my local bookstores to see what good ol' Japan has in store for us. A few years ago, I stumbled on Uzumaki, a manga which immediately grabbed my eye because of its psychedelic spiral book cover and the words "Spiral Into Horror" printed over the title. Obviously, anything that incorporates horror is going to increase my interest, so I picked
it up, sat down on the couch, and started reading it until my parents came to get me. That was the last I saw of Uzumaki until now, pretty much. I remembered the manga and started reading it again, only to find myself as enthralled with it as the last time.
The manga is done by Junji Ito, known for other horror works besides this one. It follows Kirie Goshima, our narrator, who lives in Kurôzu-cho with her family. Her boyfriend, Shuichi, is the first to experience any happenings with the spiral - his father becomes obsessed with anything of spiral formation, and finally breaks all of the bones in his body to become a spiral. If that's not trauma enough for the poor kid, his mother becomes so crazy with grief and obsession about spirals that she begins to purge any on her body, including the whorls on her fingertips, and eventually, she kills herself. There's some strange stuff going on in Kurôzu-cho, and Shuichi knows it, so he becomes a recluse, hiding out in his house. Kirie, on the other hand, is not fazed by the madness of the spiral, and continues living at her house. Through a series of experiences, including spiral obsessions that turn people into spirals themselves, people turning into snails with spiral shells on their backs, violent hurricanes that want only Kirie, and pregnant mosquito ladies who need blood for their unborn children, Kirie begins to realize that Kurôzu-cho is a cursed town. But it's a little too late, for the town won't let them leave, at least not until they join the spiral themselves.
Just from that summary, Uzumaki seems like a lot of fun, right? Very true. Never have I read a comic or manga that sucked me into the story and artwork as Uzumaki. It's ironic that the story is so compelling, almost mimicking the fact that spirals have an inescapable, hypnotic effect to them. The main characters are pretty rich and developed, especially Kirie, because we associate most with her. Most of the secondary characters are flat, but if they are important to a segment of the story, they get some sort of backstory and development to give the reader a little more interest in them. Obviously, this is a horror manga first and foremost, and at only three volumes, there's barely any time to establish a host of characters. However, the reader easily gets a feel for Kirie and her brother, as they begin to take more important roles in the narrative.
In the beginning, each chapter feels almost like a one-shot, presenting a story and concluding it (or giving as much of a conclusion as possible) at the end of the chapter. Most scenes have little to no bearing on the last one, and at first I felt that all of the chapters felt really disjointed to the point where it felt like the author was just throwing out cool ideas that incorporated spirals. Towards the end of the manga, though, scenarios start to tie together a little more cohesively. That's not to say that all of the mystery is cleared up, because much of why certain events happen are left ambiguous. This is one of the downfalls of Uzumaki; there's a really amazing lead-up of events, with creative monsters or horrifying situations, and then the chapter drops off, never clearing up why the spiral chose to manipulate the people in this way. It's very fun and care-free, but there's a sense that the audience is missing an explanation.
Even towards the end, when some of the earlier story arcs come into play again, there's a generic exposition of "the spiral made them do it," but it doesn't cut it for me. I want to know exactly why some people turn into snails while others willingly make themselves into spirals. The conclusion to the story feels like a cop-out too. Shuichi and Kirie have worked non-stop throughout the manga to avoid the spiral, and for the finale, we are forced to accept the fact that there is no other way to survive except to complete the town's spiral. It gives a large sense of abandonment and futility for the reader, but it also lets them down, because all the events that occurred could have been left out, Kirie could have died in the first chapter, and the outcome would still be the same.
Other than these nitpicks with the story, though, Uzumaki is creative enough to stand out from other J-horror titles about curses. Sure, the city is cursed with a spiral instead of a ghost, but there are endless possibilities for strange happenings, and Ito certainly uses his imagination, both in concept and artwork. The drawings are, for the most part, typical manga style, except when characters are abnormal or are going crazy because of the spiral. The latter characters begin to develop dark splotches around their eyes, have strange postures, and become plain creepy. The chapter on the pregnant women sucking blood is hypnotically creepy, in fact.
Everything is so twisted in the story that you can't help but feel the atmosphere of depression. Ito tends to present complex choices that the characters must make, normally with frightening results either way. Food becomes scarce in Kurôzu-cho and our protagonists are forced to cook and eat the snail-people, trying to convince themselves that the snails have ceased to be human. However, this is still a sickening and twisted turn of events, especially when Kirie's brother becomes a snail, and I felt disgusted and actually fearful when reading.
The moments stated above are just some of the respectable plot lines that Ito brings to the table, and rather than read my lackluster attempt at a review, it would be much more fun to read the 500 or so pages of the manga instead. Expect a few uncomfortable moments, however, as Ito finds it fun to get under the reader's skin.
Horror nowadays is imprinted in the public's mind with a picture of blood and darkness. Uzumaki ignores this bandwagon and creates its own ugly, intriguing and unique path. You probably will be surprised at what this manga throws at you, but I mean this in a positive way.
The little seaside town of Kurozu-cho is seemingly cursed by all things spiral-shaped. This means you can see everything from a man who obsessively collects spiral shaped things like snail shells and rolled up tape, to people who grow these spiral marks on their backs and TURN INTO snails,
to newborn babies who...oh, God, what the babies do is one of the most disgusting, horrific things and...I can't even say. (Oh, it'd be a spoiler, too.) There's plenty more spiral-made devastation and horror, I've touched on maybe ten percent of it.
While all these things are going on, the entire town is filled with an atmosphere of oppression and fear, and, after watching something evil happen, you might find yourself getting the chills from a panel of a guy who's LOOKING at you funny. Now, at this point in a scary movie, you'd ask, "Well where the fuck are the rescue teams, the news reporters?" Well the manga has an answer for that. It has an answer for why these spirals are haunting the town and corrupting and murdering the people.
Uzumaki is good, well-made horror. Even if you're a horror veteran and can hardly ever be scared, I'm confident some of the stuff you see happen will be imprinted in your head for a long time.