Review and summary of Junji Ito’s Uzumaki
Spoiler Free Review
Junji Ito is a well known master of horror manga. Uzumaki is perhaps his most beloved book. It showcases his disturbing and original artwork in a way he has yet to out do. Although he has put out many books since this one almost none are more or as memorable.
Uzumaki is all about spirals. The hypnotic shape takes over a town in every way possible. Some are obvious like hurricanes or the shell of a snail. Some spirals are more abstract, like the way a mosquito flies or the movement of a pottery wheel. What is clear by the end of the manga is that this theme can be explored in many ways and all of them are disturbing.
The books is over 650 pages long and that can be intimidating, especially in hardback. The book is told mostly through his images though so it does read quickly. Don’t let the thick page count deter you from a good time.
Ito’s writing style can be compared to the original The Twilight Zone. He starts with a simple statement: “wouldn’t it be pretty effed up if ____” and then runs with it. I imagine Uzumaki started with a simple “wouldn’t it be effed up if a body was twisted into a spiral” and then he used this jumping off point to leap into the depths of his creativity.
One could say that Ito’s stories are simplistic or the characters are one dimensional. I can’t really argue that point. All of the chapters in Uzumaki are loosely connected through the theme and are more like a collection of short stories rather than a cohesive book. However, he more than makes up for it with the imagery and originality.
My favorite chapter of the book is a romance so he is capable of adding the other dimensions of human emotion to his works. Body horror and romance go surprisingly well together so it makes sense to me that this chapter would work so well. There is a sweetness that comes with surviving hardships together, no matter the cost.
If you are looking for deep sentiment and profound statements you might need to look elsewhere. But if you’re a horror fan looking for something effed up with awesome pictures to match you’ve come to the right place. Uzumaki is essential horror for all book and manga readers.
5/5 spirals ꩜꩜꩜꩜꩜
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Junji Ito’s Uzumaki is broken down into 18 chapters, a bonus story, and an afterword. The chapters are connected by two characters but can serve as their own short stories in most cases.
The Spiral Obsession
The manga starts with young Shuichi’s father becoming obsessed with the spiral. The shape fascinates him and he begins collecting anything featuring it. He loves pottery because it is made by spiral. He becomes so obsessed that he dies turning himself into a spiral.
His wife finds her husband crammed into a circular container, spiraled up in grotesque fashion, and develops a fear of all spirals. She becomes hospitalized, removes her fingerprints with scissors, and ultimately stabs out her own cochlea, the spiral within our ears.
Shuichi meets a girl who always gets the boys she likes. Rumor has it that she has a magical scar on her forehead that has a sort of mind control power. Shuichi, who is beginning to gain an Uzumaki 6th sense can tell that she’s possessed by the spiral. Her scar grows bigger and bigger until it sucks a boy into her body and then devours her whole as well. It turns her body inside out on itself and becomes a paradoxical void.
The Firing Effect
Shuichi has a girlfriend named Kirie who’s father is a potter. Shuichi’s father often bought these spiral artworks from him. He’s been getting the clay for his pottery from a pond that is full of dead bodies. Whenever he puts the clay in the kiln it forms spirals and the faces of the dead.
In this Uzumaki chapter two young lovers from dueling families run away together. They are determined to stay together in love so they intertwine their bodies and can never be pulled apart.
Kirie wakes up one morning to notice an unnatural curl to her hair. She’s unable to straighten it no matter what she tries and the spirals begin to grow out of control. Another girl becomes jealous of all the attention she’s getting for the spiral hair and becomes Uzumaki possessed to grow it too.
Eventually, they are drawn into a hair battle with their spirals whipping each other. Kirie decides to cut off all of her hair instead of be drained by it but the other girl likes attention too much to give it up.
Jack in the Box
A strange boy develops a crush on Kirie and begins to follow her around like a stalker. He has a strange hobby of hiding and then popping out and scaring people but Kirie is not too found of this. He attempts to prove his love for her by stopping a car (for some reason) but gets hit and dies instead.
He rises from the grave as a decaying corpse and hops around while his rotting body parts fall off. It is revealed that he’s become entangled with an automobile spring from his crash and that has turned his body into a horrific jack in the box.
In one of the most disgusting chapters of Uzumaki a classmate of Kirie’s turns into a snail. He was always a slow student but now he becomes a slow and slimy animal. His bully also turns into a snail and fully adopts the “if you can’t be them, join them” attitude as he mates with the first snail. They make a huge pile of eggs and the teacher stomps the abominations. However, this causes the teacher to turn as well.
The Black Lighthouse
An eerie lighthouse has a spiraling light that is making people act strange. Kirie goes to find her younger brother who was drawn in. She finds many dead bodies lining the staircase. She grabs her brother and they flee before the light can melt them too.
Kirie is in the hospital to get treatment for the burns she got at the lighthouse. The hospital becomes infested with mosquitoes that fly in spiral patterns. For some reason they are attacking the pregnant women. After they are bitten they sneak into other patients’ rooms at night and drink their blood. Not in the traditional vampire way though, they drill into their necks.
The Umbilical Cord
The babies of the blood drinking pregnant women are born. These babies all have umbilical cords that grow strange spiral mushrooms. The doctor starts feeding these umbilical mushrooms to the other patients of the hospital. The babies want to go back into their wombs and the doctor abides. The babies are sewn back into their mothers and they all must drink blood to feed them.
The Storm is a simple chapter. A hurricane, classic spiral shape, is coming to the town. It sounds like it is calling Kirie’s name. The hurricane destroys a lot of the town.
Kirie’s family is forced to move into a haunted house after theirs is destroyed in the hurricane. They begin to develop strange warts over their whole bodies. The neighbor is consumed by the warts and becomes a hideous monster. They decide to leave the cursed house and the warts disappear.
The hurricanes get sucked into the pond the dead person clay came from. Now even a strong breath or the flapping of a butterfly’s wings can create a tornado. Some kids begin creating these tornados on purpose to cause destruction.
A gang starts to take over the town. They ride on tornados and hunt the snail people to eat. Many people question if the snail people are ethically okay to eat but everyone is starting to get very hungry.
The only safe houses left in town become so crowded that the people inside begin to fuse together. They finally resort to eating the snail people just as Kirie’s brother begins to become one. She tries to keep it a secret to keep him safe.
It is no longer possible to leave this town. All roads spiral back to the town’s center. The angry and increasingly desperate group attempts to eat Kirie’s brother. They no longer care if these snails used to be humans.
Kirie and Shuichi have branched out on their own and cycled back to the town. They discover that time has been moving differently in the center of town than the outskirts. The housing has expanded into a complex spiral labyrinth featuring a well in the middle with a long winding staircase.
In the very center, time stands still. Shuichi and Kirie accept that there is no escape from Uzumaki so they twist themselves together to spend eternity in each others’ arms. It’s a romantic ending in a way. I choose to find it sweet.
Galaxies is labeled as a lost chapter. In it, Shuichi discovers a new spiral galaxy. People all over town begin to find their own new galaxies as well. A jealous teachers decides to take credit for all of the discoveries.
The afterword brings in Ito’s familiar silliness when talking about himself. He depicts himself as a fantic lunatic trying to unlock the secret of the spiral.
5/5 spirals ꩜꩜꩜꩜꩜