Well, that was fucking creepy.
So, I recently read Junji Ito’s manga Uzumaki. I hadn’t really read anything by the man previously other than Cat Diary: Yon and Mu, which, as you can imagine, has a starkly different tone. And now I’m kicking myself for not having read this one earlier.
Uzumaki tells the story of Kurouzu-cho, a small town being plagued by spiral patterns. In fact, “spiral” is what the word “uzumaki” means in English, so it’s not just a clever name. The whole thing kicks off when the protagonist, Kirie, sees her boyfriend Shuichi’s father staring intently at a snail shell.
Later, in a conversation with Shuichi, she learns that his father’s obsession with spirals has been causing issues, mostly in that he’s stopped working to pursue it. This obsession eventually leads to the man’s death, and when he’s cremated, the smoke forms a spiral pattern that’s eventually sucked into the nearby Dragonfly Pond. Things go downhill from here pretty quickly.
Speaking of obsession, that seems to be the main theme of the story. Soon, Kirie’s father, a potter, starts showing a lot of the same signs as Shuichi’s father, making pieces rife with spirals. There’s also a chapter in which one of Kirie’s friends develops an obsession with Shuichi that ends up literally consuming her.
One of the main things Ito is known for is excrutiatingly detailed body horror, and Uzumaki has this in spades. Between people slowly turning into snails, to whole groups fusing together, to a pregnant woman having her baby…reinserted, this manga isn’t really for the easily squeamish.
It’s not all unrelenting terror, however, as Ito does have a sense of humor. The manga has some moments of utter absurdity, such as the chapter where Kirie’s hair comes to life and gets into a fight with another girl’s hair. However, it does continue to ramp up the tension throughout until it reaches its Lovecraftian conclusion.
One of the ways that it does this is through the way most of its chapters end. The story is made up of several chapters that do lead into each other, but can also stand alone. The way that most of them end is actually quite abrupt, which lends to a sense of incompleteness that’s actually quite jarring.
So, yes, if you’re a horror fan, particularly of a Lovecraftian bent, honestly you’ve probably already read this. If not, however, I do highly recommend it. It’s a relatively short series, which has been collected into a single volume. At the time of this writing, it’s currently available at Comixology for $10.99 (typically $15.99), so now would probably be a good time to pick it up. As I mentioned before, it’s a pretty breezy read that you could probably finish in an afternoon.
I probably wouldn’t read it after dark, though.
(So, fun fact: my job is furloughed indefinitely because of the pandemic! Whee! What that means is I have no idea when I’ll be getting my next paycheck. Fortunately, I have Patreon and Ko-Fi, so if you’d like to support the blog, that’s where you’d do it. Thanks!)