Uzumaki is Junji Ito's classic horror manga about a town that becomes increasingly obsessed with spirals and the effect this has on the people and the town itself.
The story follows main character Kirie, a high school girl in the small village of Kurôzu-cho. Her boyfriend Shuichi's father has recently been acting strangely, obsessively collecting anything inscribed with or in the shape of a spiral. What appears at first to be an odd curiosity soon becomes inhuman obsession, leading to events only a mastermind like Ito could conjure.
The story of Uzumaki is told in individual chapters, each depicting a different spiral-themed occurrence. My favorite was about a girl who seems to "draw in" members of the opposite sex - much like a spiral. There is also something involving giant snails that made my skin crawl. As the chapters go on, the towns obsession grows, transforming it into a macabre nightmare of horror. I won't spoil anything, but the end is something beyond anything i could ever predict, showing the true genius of Ito's storytelling.
While the story is amazingly done, one cannot review a masterpiece such as Uzumaki without mentioning the art. Junji Ito's wields a style of manga unlike anything I've seen in the genre, but that suits the story and setting of Uzumaki perfectly. It is equal parts unbelievably gorgeous and spine-crawingly grotesque, at times simultaneously. This is the first time drawings have legitimately filled me with as much fear. (As a note, i believe the female characters in Uzumaki are the most beautiful I've seen in any manga in my life).
Junji Ito's masterful storytelling and fantastically macabre artwork work in perfect harmony to make Uzumaki one of the greatest treasures in a sea of horror manga. What started out as an almost comedic idea quickly transforms into a ride straight into hell. The pseudo-realism makes it feel almost possible, making it all the more frightening. I strongly recommend this to anyone who likes horror manga (though i would find it strange if you haven't already read it), manga in general, or just appreciates quality work.
Do you know how, after watching some horror movie in pitch black, you feel slightly reluctant to turn on the light, just in case there really is something there? How you start looking over your shoulder for something that’s not there? That’s exactly what I never got from anime or manga. Sure enough, there’s a fair share of highly disturbing material out there, but nothing that actually did this to me. That was, until I encountered Uzumaki.
Let me start with saying that Uzumaki, in contrary to the impression I just gave, isn’t particularly scary on itself. If anything, it is completely ridiculous and grotesque with its horror. The manga consists of many mini-stories, always involving the main characters, inhabitants of the town and spirals. The story follows Kirie and Shuichi, two high-school students who live in the small town called Kurôzucho. Soon enough, strange things start to happen in this town, events that all seem to be related to spirals. The people obsess over them, fear them and even become them; slowly but surely, the “spiral” starts taking over the town.
The art used in Uzumaki works incredibly well with the horror plot. For starters, ohdeargodofmanga, the characters actually look like humans; I haven’t managed to spot a single anatomic fault in the entire manga (save for some impossible and disgusting deformations). There is much use of shades, and the art is very detailed when you (least) want it to be. As mentioned before, there are many ridiculously grotesque scenes in this manga. Since these scenes are almost always detailed, there’s a “feast” for the eyes at least every few pages.
The characters certainly aren’t the strong point in this manga. Aside from the two main characters, almost none of the side characters get enough time to develop enough to care for them. This is because every one or two chapters, a new story with a new cast starts. Even the two main characters don’t have massively solid development, just enough to care a little about them, which is all this manga needs to be honest.
Overall, Uzumaki is deliciously gross. It grabs you, throws in some suspense, gets you close to vomiting and then mercilessly starts the next mini-story about the horrors of spirals without giving you much room to breathe. Despite its silliness, I did experience some of those after-horror feelings after reading the last two volumes in one go late at night. With the overall score of 8 I fear I might’ve even underrated it a bit. It’s DEFINITELY not a story for everyone, as it contains lots of disturbing scenes, lots of almost humorous grossness and not -much- plot-progression (not until later on, anyway), but this is an absolute must-read for fans of the horror genre.
Now, I haven't read all that much manga in comparison to the anime I've watched, but I love horror in all its forms. On sothis' recommendation, I picked up Uzumaki and could not stop until I reached the grim, grim end. One of the delicious differences between Japanese and American tales of this type is the pervasion of atmosphere so integral to the Asian concepts of fear, and Junji Itou brings it in spades.
Through its escalating set of vignettes, Uzumaki paints a picture of a town and population descending into madness. Nearly all of Itou's little stories could be considered fables, as each one focuses on a few central people affected by the spiral phenomenon slowly engulfing the town. While none of the characters seem original at first glace, the mangaka's disturbing and inevitable logic transforms each one into a horrifying harbinger of events to come.
Unlike Gyo, where the visuals and unoriginal plot escalate the camp of the series, Uzumaki's mystery and increasingly strange events draw the reader deeper into the world of Kurozu-cho like the grip of the almighty spiral that dominates the work. However, some of the entries mess with the pacing a little, and the final chapters leading up to the "twisted" conclusion don't inspire the same morbid fascination as "Mosquito", "Medusa", and "The Scar".
Uzumaki's harrowing visuals carry the manga, no two ways about it. More so than in Gyo (GASHUNK!), Itou juxtaposes beauty, both human and natural with the horrific transformations that dominate the work's pages. Kirie's fair features contrast the grotesque surroundings and events so starkly her face alone moves the readers to fear for her. Similarly, Shuichi's descent into dark-eyed terror and paranoia stands at odds with the almost ecstatic expressions and attitudes of the manga's victims.
Of course, it's the grotesque that defines this work. Itou's monsters and bizarre mutations deliver some shocking thrills, even when the reader can guess what a particular image might hold (see the end of "The Spiral Obsession Part 1"). The mangaka's endless inventiveness in twisting each character and scene to its utmost keeps his audience coming back to see what terrifying visage he'll bring to each chapter. In addition, he possesses an astute eye for cinematographic technique. In "Medusa", "Mosquito", and "The Spiral Obsession Part 1" he shrinks the focus to show us the finer details of human transformation; In contrast, he widens the scene in "The Firing Effect", "The Umbilical Cord", and "Labyrinth" to lay bare the true scope of the horror taking over the town.
If there is a weakness here, it comes from the characters. Itou's love-letter to Kurozu-cho could care less about characterization because the events here overshadow their victims. Shuichi starts to sound like a broken record by the middle of the first volume, and Kirie--while adorable and sympathetic--shows all of the depth of your average horror-tale-heroine. Despite being drawn attractively, the secondary characters can all be boiled down to one or two traits, identifiable long enough to define their relationship to the town's spiral obsession.
This manga grabs hold and does not let go. From the first feelings of unease to the final, fantastic layout, Uzumaki drips with horror and ineffable, twisted atmosphere. If you're a fan of the genre, this one will sit atop any must-read list, and anyone with enough fortitude to stomach the visuals owes his or herself a trip to Kurozu-cho. In this work, Junji Itou turns the benign and slightly mysterious into the grotesque and terrifying.
A small seaside town turns upside down when its occupants become mysteriously obsessed with spirals. How can something so small and insignificant become the catalyst for an entire population's descent into insanity? Only Junji Ito, Japan's master of horror manga knows, and he's not telling until you get to the last volume of Uzumaki.
Uzumaki is a series of short horror stories that have one thing in common: the spiral. Each story can stand alone, but also works cumulatively to build suspense as the spiral's grip on the villager's sanity tightens and more people, young and old, succumb to its hypnotic allure.
The spiral incidents, each more bizarre than the last, are narrated by Kirie, a teenage girl who lives and goes to school in Kurozu village. At first, she's skeptical when her childhood friend Shuichi begs her to leave town with him because he senses the evil surrounding them. Later, as the madness claims her classmates, her family members and even herself, she begins to realize to her horror that it may be too late to escape the supernatural spiral snare that is choking the sanity and life out of her hometown.
The story concerns the people of a small Japanese town who become obsessed by the occurrences of natural and artificial spirals around them. The result of this obsession is a slow transformation into something other than human, leading to a gruesome, realistically-depicted death.
Kirie Goshima Kirie is a teenage girl who lives in Kurozu-cho, a small seaside town in Japan. She's also the narrator of Uzumaki, and the stories of the villagers' descent into madness are seen through her eyes. At first, mild-mannered Kirie is skeptical about the spirals' power over her fellow villagers, but soon enough, her friends, her family, and soon even she herself gets pulled into its vortex of terror.
Shuichi Saito Shuichi is Kirie's childhood friend and confidante. Generally intellectual and rational, Shuichi is one of the first villagers to recognize that something strange is going on in Kurozu-cho, perhaps because his parents are one of the first victims of the deadly spiral obsession.
Mr. and Mrs. Saito Shuichi's parents, Mr. and Mrs. Saito used to enjoy a peaceful, middle-class life in Kurozu-chu. But lately, Mr. Saito has been spending all his time collecting and obsessing over anything with a spiral design or shape to the point where he's stopped going to work and stopped, well, behaving like a normal person. Mrs. Saito tries to shake her husband out of his fixation, but her attempts to restore normalcy to her home ends in tragedy.
Mr. Goshima Mr. Goshima is a potter, and is Kirie's father. We first meet him when Mr. Saito commissions Mr. Goshima to create a spiral ceramic plate, but eventually, even this humble craftsman and his artwork becomes infected by the spiral obsession.
Azami Kurotani Pretty and popular with the boys, Azami is Kirie's classmate. Azami's beauty attracts all the boys, but given that she has all the suitors she could ever want, she's a bit jaded by the attention. When meets Shuichi and finds that he's immune to her charms, she too is infected by an obsession that exacts a heavy toll upon all around her.
As much as it spooked and grossed me out, I couldn’t put it down. Some of the images will stay with you LONG after you’ve read it; I’ll never be able to see a spiral again without flinching. If you’re into horror manga, I highly recommend it.