PopLurker Reviews: Uzumaki by Junji Ito

Uzumaki by Junji Ito is available for sale in this 3-1 Deluxe hardcover bound edition at Amazon today.

Synopsis:

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 According to Shuichi Saito, the withdrawn boyfriend of teenager Kirie Goshima, their town is haunted not by a person or being but a pattern: UZUMAKI, the spiral—the hypnotic secret shape of the world. The bizarre masterpiece horror manga is now available all in a single volume. Fall into a whirlpool of terror!

Uzumaki by Junji Ito is scary as hell. First published in the late 90s and early 2000s, it was made into a live action J-Horror film in 2020 before VIZ Media bound all of the spiraling chapters of horror (see what I did there?) into this specific edition that I own in 2016. So, while this is not a new manga by any means or even that new of a graphic novel publication, there is a new anime coming out on Toonami in 2021. Therefore, I wanted to take a moment to discuss the gruesome psychological insanity that is Uzumaki, translated as Spiral.

Junji Ito really has a way of zeroing in on the disturbing. A common theme in the stories I’ve read by him (which up to this point are Uzumaki and the Frankenstein book of short stories) is the idea of people losing their humanity and their dignity, both physically and emotionally. Limbs stretch, eyes go black, faces scream and moan. Appendages become gnarled and twisted together. Human become obsessed with spirals, becoming part of mountains, a noise they can or cannot hear (ala The Telltale Heart) turn into creatures, and so much more. And even when the action is less macabre and more cut and dry slasher violent, it’s still a wild and upsetting (yet unforgettable and curious) world Junji Ito draws his readers into. It’s fascinating to me that not only does Ito have these stories in his head, but the drawing ability to match it.

See the source image

Uzumaki is about ten chapter too long for me– that’s my experience. The book, to repeat, is made up of many chapters, all (at first) independent of each other save for the characters, Kirie and her boyfriend Suichi, the town of Kurouzu-cho (which I’m pretty sure translates to Black Spiral Town? Pretty direct on the nose there) and the nightmarish mishaps of the people stuck in a town haunted by spirals.

By the end of the book, like I said, the last ten chapters, Ito is trying to pull this story all together and give the readers a taste of what this all means. Therefore, the surrealist stand alone chapters begin to fade and are replaced by a sort of crescendo that doesn’t quite feel as strong. Now, did it begin to drag because of the writing and imagery not being as strong? Or was it me just too hungry and curious to know what this all meant? I don’t have the answer there, but I knew I wanted to get to the end.

Uzumaki ends on a bummer note– all of this has happened before and all of this will happen again. While Suichi, in the very first chapter of the book, asks Kirie to run away with him because the town is starting to feel spooky and haunted with terrible things happening to his now spiral-obsessed father, Suichi and Kirie meander their crumbling world as the last two standing. Eventually, they fall into the bowels of the pits, into the spiral’s thick dark underworld, where they realize together they have no more strength to fight. Their limbs swirl and spiral together, and they die. The spiral destroys the town, but we know it will rebuild and the nightmare will happen all over again to the town’s future residents.

I give Uzumaki 4/5 Lurks.

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