Tag: Uzumaki

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    Butterflies (Uzumaki part 14)

    The flapping of a single butterfly’s wings can create a hurricane on the other side of the world. That’s what’s happening in this town.

    Chie Maruyama describes the “Butterfly Effect” to Kirie.

    Butterflies — Synopsis

    Butterflies is the continuation of the story of Uzumaki. It follows on some time after the shocking events of The House — after an unknown period of time. We begin by following the car journey of a set of new characters — a news crew sent to Kurouzu-cho. We learn from their discussion that a number of further hurricanes have passed over the town. So we know at least a bit of time has occurred between chapters.

    On entering the outer limits of the town, the news crew’s car is flipped by a small whirlwind — a “twister” — that seemed to have come from out of nowhere.

    From out of the car wreckage only the lady is able to stand — the two men are left unconscious in the car. She quickly heads off into the town to try and find help. What she finds, however, is the once-picturesque town of Kurouzu-cho now mostly decimated by hurricanes.

    The place is no longer fit to live in.

    During her search she comes across three young boys that have been tied up to large posts — their mouths covered. Her first instinct of course is to help the boys out of their binds. However, she will soon regret doing so, as the boys have all undergone a very odd change.

    And not only that, but they also have their eyes set on further destruction — to both the town and the lady who has freed them.


    In Butterflies we see the return of something that was actually featured in the very first chapter of Uzumaki — albeit on much smaller scales — the twisters. Twisters are miniature hurricanes that would sometimes be seen whizzing through the streets of Kurouzu-cho. In fact, Shuichi warns Kirie of these in the opening pages of that first chapter.

    Of course it wouldn’t be Junji Ito if this theme of Twisters and Hurricanes wasn’t turned up to crazy. He shows us three young boys that are able to use the power of the wind for their own destructive ends. They somehow have control of the hurricanes and seem to just enjoy destroying for the sake of destroying. In fact, it appears that they are the ones that have demolished most of the town.

    What’s interesting here is how the old row houses — those run down and falling-apart wooden shacks — seem to be the only buildings that are immune to the hurricanes.

    From what I can remember of the later chapters (from my reading of Uzumaki about two years ago) I believe that these houses have a bigger role to play in the town’s curse with the spiral. And although there is no disease present, as in the previous chapter, the spiral’s influence is never the less still around.

    The Air Feels Heavy

    Kirie the protector

    I found it really cool to see Kirie come to the aid of the news lady from out of the town’s remains. She came across as a kind of vigilante, roaming the desolate wastes of earth’s future; helping those who are in need.

    Kirie has always been a fighter, and never at the mercy of others to help her — except perhaps the odd occasion where Shuichi would thrust his help upon her.

    It was great to see that fighting spirit was still there despite the chaos. She seemed to be the only one out on those dangerous streets savaging for food and supplies. Along with her younger brother in fact — that strength must run in the family.

    All of the other survivors we see look very weary and without hope.

    But not Kirie. She still picks herself up and does what she has to for her and the people around her.

    Kirie Goshima

    Kirie is a Queen. ๐Ÿ’š

    This chapter felt like a real change of pace for the overaching Uzumaki story. Mostly due to The Goshima’s converting their new home into a place of protection and refuge for others.

    The story of “Butterflies” really made it feel as though we’ve transitioned from an almost “monster of the week” feel, into a more overarching saga set amongst the wreckage of Kurouzu-cho.

    Almost a battlefield of sorts.

    A battlefield in the war against the spiral.

    A war that I am sure will claim much more destruction and many more casualties before the end.

    And I’m willing to bet that Kirie Goshima will be on the front line.

    Two of the Hurricane Boys

    In Summary

    Butterflies really felt like a turning point in the Uzumaki story for me; The beginning of the end. Until now we have seen many strange, outlandish events unfold that all relate to the towns ever-widening spiral curse. But with each new chapter the town still felt relatively normal overall. Each of the smaller story arcs felt somewhat self-contained for the most part.

    However, this chapter shows us the almost-complete destruction of Kurouzu-cho. The town simply can not come back from this.

    It feels to me like it has set us on a crazy course of mayhem and chaos, hurtling towards the collection’s huge ending.

    Definitely not a chapter I would recommend reading outside of the surrounding Uzumaki collection. None of it would be very relatable without the knowledge of what came before it. But as a part of the overarching collection, it does well to set us up for the war-torn events that are sure to follow.

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    The House (Uzumaki part 13)

    The floor where her son slept was covered with small holes. Now what was that about?

    Wakabayashi questions the strange goings on

    The House — Synopsis

    After the violent storm from the previous Uzumaki chapter, Kirie and her family have no choice but to find a new place to live. Their home, along with all others around Dragonfly Pond, have been completely destroyed by the Hurricane.

    The house that they are presented with is an apartment in one of Kurouzu-cho’s old row houses — the same kind of row house as featured in the earlier chapter Twisted Souls. Their new home is run down, dirty and barely hanging together. But it is their only option and they have no choice but to move in.

    Immediately upon moving in, it becomes apparent that something is not quite right with the place. Kirie should have probably expected this based on her previous adventures in the town. Strange howling noises at night and the rumours of a haunting and / or monster that devours nearby missing dogs, are enough to keep the family on edge.

    But will these rumours have any teeth? What are these strange markings that the family begin to show on their bodies? And will these markings become something much more sinister?

    Strange bodies

    In this chapter we return to what Junji Ito is perhaps most known for — his unique depictions of body horror. From the strange wart-like markings that Kirie’s father begins to first exhibit, to the grotesque protrusions that come later. Along with one of the most imaginative monsters in the Uzumaki series.

    I’m always impressed by just how much content and mystery Ito manages to pack into a lot of his stories. What we know is that the family is falling victim to some kind of local disease. And also that some kind of monster lurks somewhere within. But there is also a lot that we don’t know.

    Is that monster the only one of its kind, spreading its disease but devouring its victims? Or is it one of a line of them created by the town’s spiral curse? Are the families within the row houses becoming like the monster themselves? Or are they just catching the disease as a result of the close proximity to the monster?

    The answers to these questions don’t really matter — at least not to me. I always love it when a story opens more questions than it closes. It has the effect of deepening the world in which the story takes place. And there are few collections that I’ve read that are quite as deep as Uzumaki.

    The Old Lady Points

    Monster of the Week

    The House has one of my favourite “monsters of the week” in it. A monster of the week refers to a TV series that would have an overarching storyline, but would often have a different monster (or another enemy) each week for the protagonists to fight.

    (Kind of like The X-Files or Buffy the Vampire Slayer).

    The monster in this chapter is also one of Junji Ito’s most grotesque in my opinion. At least out of the stories I’ve read so far. Since we know where the monster’s spiral tentacles have originated from, and that the nearby people are exhibiting similar symptoms, it made it all the more creepy for me.

    The design of the monster as a whole was awesome too. Aside from maybe the blood-thirsty women of Mosquitoes, the monster of The House felt like Junji Ito’s most deadly creation yet. It even made me imagine some kind of later transformation of a creature from the Resident Evil game series.

    The way in which the monster’s spirals pushed their way in through the wall made me think of potatoes too. Stay with me a second. Those growths that potatoes get when left in the cupboard for too long. For the longest time those potato sproutings, although natural, really freaked me out. This monster pricked that same repulsion I think.

    On first reading I thought that the healthy neighbour was the monster all along. I thought that he was just playing the Goshima Family for fools. However, on re-reading I noticed how he asks himself what is happening with his own hand as he transforms. Leading me to believe that he is just as unaware as the others.

    What I found most interesting though, was just how his state escalated so quickly. He went from very early symptoms, to the fully-fledged spiral monster within moments. It seemed to me that it was somehow his lust for Kirie that became the catalyst for his transformation. His desires being revealed as he spies on her through his peep hole into their apartment. This being true, it would give the story a whole new subtext of a sexual nature.

    In Summary

    I wont lie, I found the monster in The House quite creepy to look at. Sometimes you see a particular image that just gets under your skin. For me, it’s creepiness was like that of another Ito story called “Greased” (which I’m yet to write about). There is just something about those little spiral warts that just turns my skin.

    This would be a great first story to jump into for a taster of Junji Ito’s style. The story is self-contained and gives just as much back story as is needed. And the body horror aspects, whilst being creepy and enough to almost turn my stomach, aren’t up in the realms of his more graphic depictions of horror.

    I definitely put this into the top half of my favourites from Uzumaki. Not quite the top five, but definitely somewhere close.

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    The Storm (Uzumaki part 12)

    Didn’t you hear the wind last night? The voice of the storm was calling your name!

    Kirie is the target of the spiral that haunts Kurouzu Cho, as it seemingly controls a violent typhoon to hit the town hard. As her close friend Shuichi and Her sit on the beach together, Shuichi gets the feeling of the approaching typhoon before the weather forecasters soon confirm it.

    Before long the typhoon tears through the town, destroying homes and the streets surrounding them. Kirie does attempt to still take some food to Shuichi that evening but it looks that she is put off by the storm’s power — coupled with the fact that it seems to call out her name on the wind.

    All through the night the storm seems to be calling out to Kirie, which confirmed a long-standing theory of mine: the spiral curse is targeting Kirie for some strange reason. As she makes her way to Shuichi’s the next day, He finds her walking halfway there — to his horror.

    He warns her that the eye of the storm, the typhoon’s central point, is directly overhead and is watching her! What follows is a violent chase through the streets of Kurouzu Cho as they attempt to escape the storm’s focused eye.

    Dragonfly Pond

    Something about Dragonfly pond wasn’t right ever since those first chapters where it would pull in and absorb the cremation smoke from recent funerals. And now it makes its reappearance as it seems to be the very thing that pulled the typhoon into the town.

    Rather than the typhoon and storm being controlled by the spiral curse, it is more likely that something inside Dragonfly Pond is capable of pulling in surrounding things to its centre.

    Throughout recent chapters of the Uzumaki Collection, the power that the spiral curse has being displaying has been increasing somewhat. The gross transformations in The Snail; The violent, bloody events at the hospital and the resulting babies born in The Umbilical Cord. The stakes are getting higher and the surrounding people that are being affecting is increasing too.

    And at the centre of it all seems to be Dragonfly Pond.

    The storm causes lots of destruction

    There’s something about Kirie

    Kirie is front and centre the target of the typhoon, and by extension the spiral curse itself. But this is nothing unusual. She has always been around many of the strange occurrences in the town. This may even have led some to think she was a cause of them. However, this chapter seems to make clear that the spiral is actually targeting her.

    Could it be that all of the things that happened before were in fact ways that the spiral was trying to get close to her? The parents of Shuichi right back at the start; her father’s furnace in The Firing Effect; her admirer in Jack in the Box; even the boy who transformed into The Snail in her classroom.

    Part of my own theory about Kirie is to do with the location of her family home. She lives with her family right next to Dragonfly Pond — the place where a few of the occurrences of the spiral have happened. There was the cremation smoke in The Spiral Obsession part 2 being sucked into it; the pottery made from the pond’s clay in The Firing Effect; and now the storm being drawn into the centre of the pond.

    It just feels like too much of a coincidence for her to live next to this pond and then go on to be targeted by the spiral.

    The wind cries Kirie

    The art of the Storm

    Junji Ito’s art is always something to marvel at. His detail and imagination go hand in hand in creating some of the most awe-inspiring and disturbing visions from the world of Horror Manga.

    With The Storm specifically, I wanted to draw special attention to the amount of detail he puts into the chaos in the story. Half of the story is Kirie and Shuichi being chased by the storm across Kurouzu cho, as it tears open beings and local districts. The town really is starting to fall victim to this curse’s power on a much wider scale now.

    In many of the panels in this chapter you really can see the time and effort put into every frame. Into creating the believable, frantic journey that these two friends must endure. You can feel the biting storm; the unforgiving wind; and the utmost sense of urgency as they try to escape the eye of the storm.

    Shuichi helps Kirie in the Storm


    The Storm gives a solid answer to something I had been thinking up till this point in the collection. That Kirie is in fact the target of the Uzumaki; that it seems to have some kind of designs on her.

    When viewed in isolation the events of this collection, although very strange, don’t seem to be targeting her as such. But when I was looking back after reading The Storm, the pieces seemed to start spiralling into place.

    I probably wouldn’t recommend reading this chapter alone, without knowing the surrounding story that is happening. Although it does stand on its own and shows Ito’s incredible skill, you should definitely read this as part of the collection as a whole. I think it deserves to be understood in it’s wider context.

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    Uzumaki anime teaser

    Teaser for the upcoming Uzumaki 4-part anime

    I’ve not really seen or heard much on the new 4-part Uzumaki anime series coming on Adult Swim next year. However, after seeing this teaser and I am now officially excited!

    It seems to look like they have actually taken panels from the manga and animated them, as opposed to re-imagining them. And the effect looks incredible in my opinion.

    Kirie looks gorgeous and the section showing her looking up at the face in the cremation smoke creates a stunning effect (no spoilers on who’s face it is :P)

    I’m really looking forward to this series but I do hope that each episode is around an hour long at least. 4 parts seems way too little to fit the entirety of the Uzumaki Collection in to. And surely they can’t be taking any chapters out of it?

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    The Umbilical Cord (Uzumaki part 11)

    So it’s been born. I wonder what it looks like. A baby gorged with human blood…

    Kirie is curious about the newly born

    Some time after the bloody events of Uzumaki’s tenth chapter, Mosquitoes, Kirie is faced once again with the insidious spiral that seems to haunt her. The pregnant women who she saw feeding on human blood are about to give birth to their little bundles of joy. But what sorts of monsters will be born from such horrific actions?

    As it turns out, the baby’s are born and are all perfectly normal — the cutest baby’s ever, some would say. But you can trust that these baby’s are going to be very far from normal. In fact, each of them is hiding a gross deformity and a very strange desire to return to the womb.

    Of course, Kirie is alone in her suspicions and is still doubted about the events of the hospital massacre. But by the time this chapter reaches its own bloody conclusion, you can bet that there will be no room to doubt Kirie on the events that unfold.

    Some spoilers below

    The Source of Life

    The umbilical cord is the source of life for humans as their grow within their mother’s womb. What the mother feeds on has an effect on the kinds of nutrients that the baby will ultimately be absorbing. So is it any wonder that the feeding on human blood did strange things to them?

    The introduction of the mushrooms in the hospital food was equally inventive as it was disgusting. Our first feeding as humans comes from the umbilical cord so it was interesting how the patients were attracted to this strange new food without knowing its origin.

    I have heard of people actually eating their own placenta after giving birth. And whilst I would never dream of doing such a thing, I wont say bad things about those that choose to. I just love how Junji Ito, once again, takes this occurrence in real life and delves deeper into his strange imagination of “What ifs”.

    A Yearning to return

    Who has dreamed about just being able to return to the womb? To just leave all the cares of the world and struggles of life and just be taken care of once again. Many of us, myself included, even occasionally sleep in the fetal position — it’s a feeling of comfort very deeply rooted in the psychology of us humans.

    I love how Ito took this and had us witness these babies literally wanting to return back to their mother’s womb. With a deranged doctor willing to carry out the surgery!

    This led me to imagine this omnipresent spiral presence, the Uzumaki, in control of all of this — the spiral patterns in the regrown placentas no doubt being used to hypnotise him into carrying out this force’s will.

    Coming back to the spiral

    Let’s imagine for a second that we humans are all metaphorical spirals that begin at the moment of our conception. We grow into our fetal positions, almost as if we are trying to wrap around ourselves.

    Then we are born. If we are lucky we are soon held closely by our mother, who will hold us the tightest that they ever will, metaphorically speaking. And then, as we get older and older, we are held less and less. And even though the love is always there, for those of us who are fortunate enough, the gaps begin to form and we go out into the world on our own. Perhaps to start our own families.

    I can imagine this way of life, the growing apart yet still being connected, as the motions of the spiral as it continues round on its journey. Still connected to its origin yet moving further outwards into the world.

    The spiral really is all around, both in Junji Ito’s Uzumaki and our everyday lives.

    In Conclusion

    Umbilical Cord rounds off its three-chapter mini-arc nicely as it follows directly on from Mosquitoes and The Black Lighthouse. (The light burns Kirie received in The Black Lighthouse being the reason she was actually in the hospital as a patient).

    This chapter is also a daring one too, I would say, as it deals with the births of babies. And not just regular babies either — babies born after their mothers have been feeding on human blood. But Ito handles it with his expert pen as you would come to expect from him.

    Whilst I wouldn’t say there was too much in the way of violent horror in this one, there is a good dose of creepy body horror. Body horror that does a really good job in unsettling its readers. At least it did with me on my first time reading.

    I would probably not recommend this as a first time read for Ito’s work. Perhaps I would recommend reading Mosquitoes first followed by this one. But then again I would say that Uzumaki is worth it from start to finish.

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    Mosquitoes (Uzumaki part 10)

    They needed raw blood for their babies!

    Kirie must survive a blood-soaked nightmare

    It is Summer time in Kurouzu-cho and Kirie Goshima is in hospital. She is still being treated for the wounds that she incurred when she and her brother escaped from the Black Lighthouse in the previous chapter. But what is not helping her heal, is the number of mosquitoes that have increased in numbers recently.

    In fact, during a quick walk around the outside of the hospital Kirie and her friend notice a huge, thick collection of mosquitoes all buzzing around in a tight circular motion. Her friend tells her about how this is called a “Mosquito Column”, and occurs when all of the males get together to try and attract a mate. But within seconds of them seeing the column, things go from curious to horrific very quickly.

    Kirie and her friend discover the body of a pregnant woman in the hospital grounds, with a face contorted into a look of pain and a body mutilated and full of holes. Soon after, more and more pregnant women get admitted to the hospital, as a result of mosquito swarm attacks. One of which is Kirie’s cousin Keiko.

    As the story moves forward, more strange and horrific things begin to occur within the walls of the hospital. But what will Kirie and her Keiko do when they find themselves at the centre of a hellish nightmare?

    Vampyric tendencies

    Vampires are a staple of horror and have been so for over a hundred years – arguably starting with the Bram Stoker novel Dracula. Many modern-day horror stories that tackle the idea of the vampire lean very heavily on the story of Dracula too. Especially with both his strengths and his weaknesses. But what I loved about Mosquitoes by Junji Ito, was how he has managed to create his own vampire-like story with absolutely no mention of vampires.

    The blood sucking women throughout the second half of the story are not controlled by some greater being that has sired them. Except, of course, if you consider the spiral at the centre of all things in Kurouzu-cho to be the controller. Instead, these women have simply taken on the attributes of the mosquitoes.

    And that is the stroke of genius that sits at the heart of this chapter: “What if people took on the same behaviours as mosquitoes?”. And in Junji Ito’s own unique way, he has explored that question with gusto. Here you have pregnant women drilling holes in people to drink their blood, in order to feed the unborn babies inside of them.

    The women are demonic looking

    Gripping and Horrific

    Mosquitoes packs so much into its thirty or so pages that I couldn’t help but feel wiped out by the end of it. This is possibly the most horrific night that Kirie has had so far in Uzumaki. Taking the deceptively simple premise of “what if people started becoming like mosquitoes” opened up a whole load of horror possibilities.

    As mentioned above, the similarities with vampires was a comparison that I couldn’t help but make. But so too there are similarities with zombie films. There is one panel in particular where Kirie steps out to investigate a strange noise that she hears in the corridors. That investigation takes her straight towards a group of demonic-looking women all after one thing โ€” blood.

    Despite them being mindful of what they are doing and how they are doing it, the horde of evil ladies drew big parallels with scenes I’d seen from zombie films. Such as the group pursuing as one demonic pack; the people who come out to investigate and get caught and devoured. But perhaps my favourite part was when Kirie manages to escape the horde and lock herself back in her own room, only to be locked inside with something already lurking in there.

    In Conclusion

    Without a doubt, Mosquitoes is one of my top three favourite Uzumaki chapters. I’m not quite sure if it’s my absolute number one yet. But I think it’ll be a close one.

    What’s great too, is that this story works great as it’s own standalone tale, separate from the surrounding story of the spiral nightmare. Junji Ito’s genius is on full show here with his gruesome depictions of blood-thirsty women being like mosquitoes. But instead of them just being pests as their tiny counterparts tend to be, these women are wild-eyed, demonic animals. And they will kill on site anyone who crosses their path.

    Despite this being able to stand on it’s own story merits, it is actually followed on directly by the next chapter, “Umbilical Cord”. I can’t remember the story itself, having only just read the next chapter’s title. But seeing as it deals with the babies that came as a result of that evil night, it definitely feels like it will be just as crazier โ€” perhaps more so.

    If you’re looking for a reason to start reading Uzumaki, or even just Junji Ito in general, please do give this one a read. You could even go to your local bookshop that has it in stock, and jump straight to page 299. I guarantee you will at least enjoy the experience. But you’ll more likely than not end up buying the collection then and there.

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    The Black Lighthouse (Uzumaki part 9)

    As I walked further… spiral patterns appeared on the walls and ceiling. They glowed eerily in the dark.

    Kirie describes her journey up the steps of The Black Lighthouse

    The Black Lighthouse โ€” synopsis

    After sitting abandoned for quite some time, the lighthouse on the coast of Kurouzu-cho suddenly springs to life. At dusk, it begins shining out a powerful swirling beam all around through the night. This beam begins to mesmerise the townspeople more and more as the time goes on.

    People can be seen in the streets running in circles as if possessed by the same spiral evil that now haunts the lighthouse. After some of these strange happenings some of the men in the town decide to head inside the lighthouse to get to the bottom of the mystery.

    After the men have gone missing inside for some time, Kirie spots her younger brother with his friends heading towards what is known as The Black Lighthouse. Although she warns him, her brother runs inside with his three friends. Of course, she has no option but to run after them, which she does with gusto.

    The further that Kirie climbs up the lighthouse steps, the stranger the place becomes. Patterns on the walls that give off a weird glow, lighting her way; the feeling of lost time and disorientation; and an horrific discovery that she finds towards the top.

    As dusk approaches and Kirie still searches for her brother and his friends, what awaits them all in the Black Lighthouse’s top floor? And just what gruesome discoveries will they all find?

    The Spiral Light

    This is perhaps the furthest reach that the spiral has had over the town up until now. From its smaller beginnings of affecting individual people and their family’s lives, to the larger moments within Kurouzu-cho school โ€” The Snail and Medusa, specifically. But never before has the spiral been so bold as to cast itself over the entire town at once.

    The light stretches out over the town leaving no-one and nothing outside of its gaze. Even the light rays themselves seem to be beamed out in a spiral fashion. I also found that it reminded me of the Great Eye from Lord of the Rings. I wonder if that was an inspiration for Junji Ito in this chapter? In fact, when Kirie arrives at the tower’s top floor, she is greeted by the melted lens of the lighthouse’s light source โ€” melted into a spiral-shaped eye!

    And just as the Great Eye had it’s vision set across all of Middle-Earth, so too does the spiral have its gaze across all that it sees. Even a small boat nearing the town’s coastline is pulled in and run aground. There is quite literally nowhere to hide from this town’s curse of Uzumaki.

    People of Kurozu cho staring at the light


    Despite the fact that the nature of this aspect of Uzumaki covers the widest amount of space, it also causes some interesting claustrophobic affects on the characters.

    Although the power of the black lighthouse stretches out across the entire town and out to sea, the wider investigation of its power is done within its very narrow stairwell that seems to make those who ascend lose their sense of time. We see first-hand with Kirie the almost-dizzying effect this spiral staircase has on her, and the spiral patterns that emerge on the walls as she climbs higher. Uzumaki is literally closing in on her.

    The real pay off in this chapter though, comes when Kirie discovers the burnt bodies of the men that went in some time before her. Beside which she finds two of her brother’s friends sat shaking in fear.

    Spirals and charred remains

    I advise you to really take the time to look over the depiction of those men’s remains too, as morbid as that sounds. Junji Ito’s detail of how he shows those men’s remains are impressive images to behold. He has painstakingly drawn in levels of details that lesser artists would have perhaps left out. Every crease and piece of charred flesh is accounted for.

    And when I was taking the time to really focus in on those panels inside the stairwell, I then started to really notice the spiral patterns on the walls. Made up of hundreds of tiny little dots throughout every hallway depicted. A real inspiration and an insight into his patience and his craft.

    In Conclusion

    The Black Lighthouse is not my favourite of the Uzumaki collection, but it does however contain some of my favourite images from it. Namely the ones mentioned above with the fire-eaten remains of the men who went to investigate the lighthouse. As well as the spiral eye in the lighthouse’s lens remains.

    I also felt this had a very interesting part towards the end, when Kirie comes face to face with the town’s curse. Although not the centre of the spiral madness (that comes later on in the collection), with the lighthouse’s lens melted into a strange swirling eye, Kirie is able to look straight into it. Perhaps somehow into the heart of the spiral itself?

    I probably wouldn’t advise this being read out of the context of the collection, simply because I didn’t really feel it was able to stand apart from the greater cursed narrative that runs through it. As a part of the greater series arc it works really well and shows how the spiral is making itself more and more noticeable. However, it doesn’t stand as well on its own feet as perhaps chapters like Jack In The Box and The Scar do.

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    The Snail (Uzumaki part 8)

    Get off my back! He’s just a slug now! He’s not human anymore!!

    Tsumura justifies himself poking Katayama with a long stick

    The Snail โ€” Synopsis

    Katayama is a bit of a joke amongst his classroom peers โ€” one of which is Uzumaki main-stay, Kirie Goshima. One morning Kirie and her friend remark on how it is raining for the first time in a while, and that they predict that Katayama will come to school that day. Sure enough he walks in, late as always, and slowly takes his seat.

    As each day passes, with the rain continuing, Katayama keeps arriving later. However, his appearance begins to change with each passing day. Firstly a spiral bulge becomes visible from underneath his wet school shirt. Until, by the end of the week, he has somehow managed to transform into a giant snail. Yep, the title of this chapter is very literal.

    Just how will the other school students deal with this very odd turn of events? Will they attack or will they try to help? And what will happen once another one of those very students begins to display signs that they may be going down a similar path?

    The Spiral Rises

    There are two starting points for the spirals in Uzumaki, as I can see. The first is in spirals that already exist in the world. Like with small whirlpools in water, snail shells and in coiled springs. Then there have been the appearances of spirals that have seemingly come from nowhere. Like with Kirie’s hair problems and the girl with the scar.

    In The Snail, we see the latter โ€” a large spiral mark on Katayama’s back seems to point to the origin of his grotesque transformation. Once this mark is discovered, after Tsumura drags a naked and humiliated Katayama into the hallway, the transformation seems to speed up. Presumably, to get the reputation of being slow, it would have to have been a part of his personality for a while before this chapter begins. It’s almost as if the spiral speeds up the transformation process once it is discovered.

    There was one thing I noticed that I found very interesting to note too. Once Katayama turned, and was given sanctuary in the shelter on school grounds, Tsumura starts poking him with a stick. Soon afterwards he himself begins to show signs of slowing down. Then later on, when another character destroys the snail eggs left behind in the woods, they too seem to be targeted.

    I wonder whether the spiral is completely self aware and is actually beginning to target these people out of malice or revenge. If so, it would indeed give some new angles from which to view other chapters in the Uzumaki collection.

    Katayama is bad at sports due to his slowness

    Enter the grotesque

    There haven’t been too many moments in Uzumaki so far, where I have had to squint from disgust. Save perhaps for when Shuichi’s mother stabbed herself in her ears and cut her own finger tips off. But with how Junji Ito manages to capture the depictions of human-sized snails, he almost got me wincing from the page.

    Everything from the bumpy slimy textures of the bodies, to the bulging, elongated eye sockets. Even down to the way he shows Snail-Katayama peeling slowly off the school’s outer wall as he is forced off by students with brooms. These Kafka-esque depictions of spiral-controlled snails display a horror manga artist at the top of his game.

    There was another thing that I found worked at both the grotesque and the dark comedy levels too. The moment when both Katayama and Tsumura, both fully-transformed, are kept together in the pen. They soon begin to mate, as snails do, which brought a whole new layer to the story. Not only are these both young men at heart, or at least they were, they were also the complete opposite of friends. The idea that you have a bully and his victim now mating as human-sized snails, brings a whole new level of horror, and dare I say comedy, that only someone like Junji Ito could conjure up.

    In Conclusion

    I feel like The Snail is more of a mid-level entry into the weirdness of Junji Ito’s worlds. You are safe from the violence and body horror found elsewhere, however, instead you are treated to spine-tingling depictions of gross transformations.

    I think it works really well as a standalone story too. The fact that Katayama is slow by reputation, means that the story doesn’t need to rely on the surrounding spiral nightmares of the town of Kurouzu-cho. This could just as easily be a one-shot nightmare of Ito’s.

    If you are feeling particularly brave you could go in with reading The Snail first. It will give you some great examples of Ito’s artwork and indeed his comedy-aware writing style. Or you could start at the beginning of the Uzumaki Collection and let this one sneak up on you slowly. Give it a read if you think you can stomach it.

  • ๐Ÿ“‚

    Jack in the box (Uzumaki part 7)

    My love for you will stop this car!

    Mitsuru believes strongly in his love for Kirie

    You can buy Uzumaki here.

    Jack in the Box โ€” Synopsis

    Kirie Goshima has an admirer, and an annoying one at that. His name is Mitsuru Yamaguchi and he has a very frustrating habit. He keeps on jumping out and surprising Kirie at moments when she least expects it. One such time is during the walk home from school with her friend Shiho. Shiho warns him off, but he continues to annoy Kirie nonetheless. For him, this is how he shows his love for her.

    After a little time, he decides to send Kirie a present in the mail. However, instead of opening it she decides to meet up with him to return the gift. He seems sincere in his affection at this point and decides to prove his love once and for all. Declaring that his love is strong enough to stop traffic, he jumps out into the path of a moving car. A final jump that sees his body wrapped around the front wheel of the unsuspecting driver.

    After Mitsuru’s funeral, Kirie is wracked with guilt over his untimely death. But it may not be the last she has heard from him – this is Kurouzu-cho after all. The spiral is ever-present and can make all sorts of things possible.

    One evening while talking through the grief with her boyfriend Shuichi, she gets a terrifying vision from the gift that Mitsuru had left her. She discovers that the present is a very apt one for it’s sender โ€” it is a Jack in the Box. The Jack in the Box seems to tell her that his death was indeed her fault. And not only that, but that Mitsuru will come back for her too.

    Deciding to find out the truth behind the Jack’s whispers, and to try and rid her head of its voices, Kirie and Shuichi take a shovel to Mitsuru’s grave to ensure he is in fact dead. But they are not prepared for what they find in the ground.

    The subtleness of the Spiral

    When seen from above, a coiled spring will display the shape of the spiral. Not only that but the spring can also represent the releasing of stored energy. This idea could well be what gave birth to the character of Mitsuru. But it isn’t until the closing pages when this becomes apparent. Once you’ve read it once, the spiral can be seen throughout this chapter. He is the metaphorical coiled spring jumping out at Kirie again and again. But until you’ve read it, the spiral is indeed subtle.

    Inanimate objects with human likeliness always have the potential for horror. Just think ceramic dolls and old toys in the attic. But what I loved in this chapter was that not only did Junji Ito manage to depict an otherwise innocent Jack in the Box as demonic and foreboding. He also managed to have it perfectly represent the key character, Mitsuro.

    The spiral has had a very visual presence in the town so far. It has appeared in cremation smoke, pottery and even throughout victims’ hair. But this is perhaps the most subtle that the spiral has been up till now. In fact, I would be so bold as to say that this chapter could almost be read outside of Uzumaki altogether.

    The way in which Ito ties the character of Mitsuru to that of a Jack in the Box was a stroke of genius. Especially when he later makes use of the spring from the car that killed him to make his complete transformation. Yes, the spiral is present in the springs throughout, but take the spiral obsession out of the equation and you still have a strong horror nightmare with an almost self-fulfilling prophecy.

    Mitsuru believes his love for Kirie can stop a speeding car

    Coiled up terror

    As I began writing up my thoughts on ‘Jack in the Box’, I began to notice how the chapter’s structure itself felt just like a coiled spring. With each unwanted jump scare from Mitsuru winding up the metaphorical coil until he is stopped dead in his tracks by that car. That impact and his winding quickly around the front wheel of that car are the first glimpses of horror we see, and the first release of the coiled spring of the chapter.

    Once the funeral is done with, Kirie’s descent into guilt and the foreboding presence of the Jack in the box toy, wind up the chapter’s final spring. It is wound up tightly and held with each step that her and Shuichi take through that graveyard. Until those final pages and the explosion of energy that shoots out towards them. The second spring is released and the two of them are directly in its path.

    I may be reading too much into these stories, and perhaps seeing things that I want to see, but that is precisely why I’m writing these thoughts up. I just love seeing what my mind can find beneath the surface of Ito’s work โ€” and as I have quickly come to realise, there is always more to find beneath his expertly-drawn panels than meets the eye.

    In Conclusion

    Jack in the box is definitely a chapter that can be enjoyed on its own and without any prior context to the preceding Uzumaki chapters. Yes, there are mentions of the spiral cremation smoke trails from The Spiral Obsession opening chapters, but they are only mentioned in passing. And they are not needed to be fully understood for this chapter to be enjoyed.

    Jack in the Box is one of my favourite chapters from the Uzumaki collection. Something about the character of Mitsuru and the enjoyable absurdity of his constant jumping out at Kirie have stuck with me. I think that, along with the following chapter The Slug, are images that have stayed with me the strongest since my first time reading Uzumaki some years ago.

    One of the great things about this chapter for me, was how it is almost ambiguous in its final half. With both Kirie and Shuichi having already come face to face with the spiral, who’s to know if what they experience in that graveyard is real? (it probably is).

    Was it just a nightmare? Who knows? (probably not). But one thing is for certain – Junji Ito sure knows how to tell one hell of a great story.

  • ๐Ÿ“‚

    Medusa (Uzumaki part 6)

    You should know I take this as a challenge… I’ll stand out too… you wait and see.

    Sekino gives Kirie a thinly-veiled warning about her new hair.

    You can buy Uzumaki here.

    Medusa โ€” synopsis

    Up until now, the Spiral has been affecting the people around Kirie Goshima. Her boyfriend Shuichi’s parents; her own father; a friend at school. But in Medusa, the Spiral is finally catching up to her and has it’s sights set directly on a particular part of her body โ€” her hair.

    After a school boy’s death and some discussions with a friend over people’s sudden desires to be noticed, Kirie’s hair begins displaying the cursed Spiral in its curls. This seems to have happened out of nowhere, after a sudden growth of her hair. Will she now finally fall victim like so many before her?

    When the curls in her hair are threatened, they begin to take on a life of their own โ€” the spiral protecting itself. The hair grows faster than is naturally possibly and even physically fights back against those that would do it harm. But when a school friend of Kirie’s see’s these ever-growing curls as a threat to her own dominance, that friend decides to challenge her in one of the craziest showdowns I’ve ever seen in a manga.

    A hairdresser’s nightmare

    The subject of hair in Junji Ito’s body horror is something that you may have seen before. In his Tomie chapter “Hair“, characters attach strands of Tomie’s hair to their heads in order for them to obtain her beauty. But in Uzumaki’s Medusa, the Spiral is drawing these people’s own hair out of their heads in order to seduce and mesmerise those around them.

    The idea of parts of one’s own body being out of ones control is a scary one. These have been explored in horror before, whether it’s the classic “arm transplant but the arm is that of a murderer’s” or “an eye transplant that lets you see ghosts”. But the idea of using hair against the person who owns it is a fresh one to me.

    I loved how the hair became so flamboyant and ridiculous as to lure in those around it. But what I found even more effective was how the hair, whilst growing at such a fast rate, took its toll on the owner. You could see it in Kirie’s eyes as the hair lusted after a bigger audience. But it wasn’t until the closing pages that you see its true effect on a host.

    Kirie’s hair fights back against the hairdresser

    The spiral effect grows

    We’ve seen pretty isolated cases of the spiral at work until now. Limited to families and those closely related. Even the episode with Shuichi’s mother in the hospital could be written up as a woman’s madness on the doctor’s report. But the actual encounters with inexplicable spirals has been limited save for those involved.

    In Medusa, however, the hair that grows from Kirie, and later her friend Sekino, is so unnatural that it just can’t be explained away. No amount of hair spray could have kept those curls up. It would have been plain to all that this is some unnatural force at work. Could it be that the Spiral curse is ready to show itself more widely now? Is it no longer content with appearing in the corners of Kurouzu-cho and instead now wants a larger audience for itself?

    Interestingly, the Spiral only seemed to target Kirie after she had been clear to her friend about not wanting to stick out. She was content with just moving along in life. The idea that her friends’ obsessions with being noticed was intrinsically linked to the spiral’s presence, seemed to be confirmed when she was made the centrepiece of the Spiral’s plans within the Kurouzu-cho school.

    In Conclusion

    The image of the woman with the large curls floating over her head is a common one from Uzumaki. When seeing images from the manga or even clips from the Uzumaki film, it is a pretty staple image. Indeed it does represent both how incredibly inventive and at times ludicrous the world within Kurouzu-cho becomes.

    Medusa is a calmer story than most from Uzumaki with absolutely zero gore. The goriest image is that of a girl whose life is visibly drained from her face; her skin and eyes sunk back. But nothing more than how you would expect a mummy to look in a museum. In fact, the story is home to more humour than gore. Granted it is a particular kind of humour, but it is there nonetheless.

    This story seems to be opening up the Spiral to a wider array of people within the town. Many more are becoming affected by it, and it’s only a matter of time until the Spiral’s full force is released. I think Kirie will still serve as the central character, but the curse looks to be spreading its wings wider and wider from here on out.