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Friday, October 25, 2019

Selah's Manga Mania Reviews: Uzumaki (3-in-1 Deluxe Edition) by Junji Ito

Uzumaki (3-in-1 Deluxe Edition): Includes vols. 1, 2 & 3
by Junji Ito
October 16, 2018
Volumes: 3
648 pages
English publisher: NA Viz Media
Seinen horror manga
Genres: Visual novel, Simulation Video Game, Dark fantasy, Horror fiction, Occult Fiction
Appearing as a serial in the weekly manga magazine Big Comic Spirits from 1998 to 1999. 
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 According to Shuichi Saito, the withdrawn boyfriend of teenager Kirie Goshima, their town is haunted not by a person or being but a pattern: UZUMAKI, the spiral—the hypnotic secret shape of the world.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!

It's time to think about stories that freak us out, and Japanese horror has a certain something that just pushes things over the edge and down a cliff. Today, we're looking at one of the greatest authors in the genre and one of his most infamous titles. Today, we're looking at Uzumaki by Junji Ito.

We follow teenager Kirie and her boyfriend Shuichi as they slowly realize something is very wrong with their town and the people in it. It all begins with Shuichi's father's fascination with spirals that becomes an obsession, and then something otherworldly.

The good: This is a freaky series and I really like that the omnibus version collects it all in one place. While this is more surreal than other Ito titles which are more classic horror, the scare factor is definitely there. As the spiral obsession and paranoia jumps from person to person and then starts to physically affect the structure of the town and people's bodies in inhuman ways, the reading experience becomes really disturbing. 
My stomach dropped at scenes like Shuichi's mom puncturing her ear because she realized there was a spiral in the bones in it. The debate as people turned into snail creatures as to whether they could be used for food or if they were still human is intense. How villagers take shelter in the bunkhouses lets you know you've passed the point of no return.

Ito portrays the line between rational and madness very well, both in his pacing and art. You can physically see the moment where characters fall over the edge or give up, adding to the feeling over impending doom that builds through the story. As the town changes, you realize that this is way bigger than a few peoples' obsessions. I'd call it cosmic horror with patterns instead of monsters, honestly. And the ending took the breath out of me because it's quieter than I expected, but it really capped things well.

Ito's art is exceptional, and the vast amount of ways he incorporates spirals into body horror, architecture, and natural landscapes are impressive. It feels like he's really in his element.

The bad: if you want definite logic as to why things are happening, this will likely frustrate you. There is a reason, but it's vague. I would say the story is more about the effect the spirals have on people and the futility of their fight and just how wrong the decision to stay in town is. This is more surreal vs outright horror compared to something like Tomie, but it still has that Ito feel.
Some of the characters are a little one-dimensional, but in this case, it all pushes the plot forward and showcases the insane vignettes and variations on the spiral theme. He's taking you on a tour via these scenes, and it's your job to see how you feel about them. It won't be everyone's cuppa.

The ick: While a lot of the dramatic violence is off-screen, this is Ito, which means body horror. Contorted anatomy, mutations beyond the realm of physics, melty bodies, and characters in agony - it's kinda his thing. If looking at this isn't something you want to see, this title isn't for you.

Overall, while I would have liked a little more characterization and at times the pace can feel a little meandery, I felt the story super-fascinating and the art insane. I read it all in one night if that tells you anything. If you're looking for a story to get under your skin and never want to see spirals innocently again, this is for you.

5 spiralized sheep

About the Reviewer
Selah Janel is a writer who is trying to start doing that again instead of reading manga all the time.


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