I’ve long been sceptical of horror manga. Nothing that I’ve read (thus far) has even scratched the surface of my psychological well-being. Not even Gantz, the most goriest manga I’ve read, has ever given me the creeps. So maybe it was finally time that I found one such manga that had me cowering in my blanket when it got dark. Abhorrent with some very dark undertones, I just couldn’t stop reading. I may have wanted to, but something was pulling me in. The spiral, perhaps?
Note: Some minor spoilers may be present from the images I have used.
Uzumaki: Spiral Into Horror is a horror manga brought to us by Junji Ito. The guy seems to have a knack for creating creepy stories (judging from what he’s published) and this is no exception. The basic premise is that in Kurozu-cho, a small coastal town in Japan, strange events start happening. What was once an ordinary town is now anything but. No one understands this more than Shuichi Saito, who is arguably one of the first to experience the strange phenomenon known as ‘the spiral’. He is joined by childhood friend Kirie Goshima and together they form the main cast.
Let me say that this is not for the faint of heart. His drawings can be quite grotesque at times, and it has a sense of realism that was commonplace at the time of its publication. Junji Ito has created a very inventive piece of work that will terrify and may very well disturb you. I mean, if this doesn’t disturb you, then I think you may be a sadist or something.
On the theme of spirals, they are everywhere in this manga. The whole plot literally revolves around a spiral (I’m referencing the ending). Shuichi and Kirie have to survive in an increasingly desperate and maddening town that is going crazy. In one chapter pregnant women go on a murderous rampage, and in another chapter one of Kirie’s classmates gets turned into a human snail. The unsettling graphics only serve to increase your sense of disgust but, strangely, interest as well.
Despite each chapter being largely unrelated to each other (like an episodic anime), I found that Uzumaki manages to keep the pace going rather well where others have fallen. Each new chapter was fresh and interesting, bringing new ideas to the table. The sheer amount of things that Mr. Ito has been able to do with spirals surprises even me. It’s still relatively short (19 chapters plus one which makes 20) but I did not find them at all to be repetitive. The end few chapters do, however, tie the story together.
Lack of time does bring certain regressions in character development. Apart from the two main characters Shuichi and Kirie, there’s not a lot of room for others. In most chapters we’re introduced to a new character only to have them disappear (die) soon after. Not that I mind, since I feel that is what Junji Ito was going for when he made the manga. Don’t expect to feel much for the characters apart from sharing their despair. But hey — in a horror manga, what else do you need?
As I’ve mentioned already, the artwork in this manga conveys more realism than most. This is a good thing, since it serves only to make you feel even more disturbed. I can’t say much since I don’t know much about manga art terms, but I’ll say that I really enjoyed looking at the drawings that Junji Ito has created. I can’t really explain why though. Maybe it was the tone and detail.
Well to sum this up, Uzumaki is straight up terrifying. Still, I understand why this is so highly rated. I recommend this for those looking for a more mature story than the average shounen adventure and to all manga fans that can stomach this type of novel. It’s surprisingly coherent too, so you will have almost nothing to complain about. Apart from the nightmares, that is.