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4.6 out of 5 stars
Uzumaki: Spiral into Horror, Vol. 1
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on March 1, 2002
Format: Paperback
This manga further proves just how varied the subject matter of Japanese comics can be. It's horror, there's violent imagery, but the concept behind the goings on is utterly unique. And the sense of doom hovering over the small town where the story takes place is palpable.
I like the abstractness of the threat presented by the spiral. There doesn't appear to be a malevolent consciousness behind the eeire goings on presented. Some characters are victims of the spiral, others use it to their advantage.
Art wise, Uzumaki is great. Distinctly Japanese yet with a character all its own. There is a flair in the design and line work that gives simple scenes a richness. Page composition is also good, letting the actions and reactions determine the size and shape of panels.
There is some pretty startling imagery here (the fate of the one man obsessed with spirals is what drew me in), and I guess it might be too much for some people. I'm in no way a fan of 'gore' just for the sake of gore. Here it is purposeful, and there really is a nightmare quality to a lot of the events that can be pretty fascinating.
The author/artist does a nice job of exploring different applications of the evil spiral concept. It works well in this collection, and the stories complement each other nicely. I don't know if the series can continue to progress in an interesting manner, but this collection is very worthwhile.
There are a lot of manga translations out there now, and many of them end up blending together in terms of look and feel. Titles that have stood out for me before include Mai the Psychic Girl, Area 88, Nausicca, 2001 Nights, Battle Angel Alita, and Parasyte. Uzumaki takes its place among these titles in my mind for its uniqueness of vision, both in look and in concept.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on November 15, 2001
Format: Paperback
In the coastal Japanese town of Koruzo-Cho, strange events are afoot. As told by schoolgirl Kirie Goshima, the town is being affected somehow by the mysterious power of the spiral, and nobody, not even those closest to her, are safe.
While this story contains enough chilling events that it would even be effective in prose, the true magic comes from Junji Ito's illustrations. He takes some of the most outlandish concepts (a man's body twisted into a spiral, two girls fighting each other using their freakishly elongated hair) and makes them incredibly disturbing, rather than looking ridiculous. This is a far cry from most American monster or bump-in-the-night horror comics, and much more effective than simple drawings of visceral gore.
This is only the first installment of this series, so explanations and resolution are almost absent. However, I found myself so drawn in to this weird story that I am looking forward to future volumes, no matter how creeped out I know I'll get reading them.
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
Format: Paperback
First off, it most be said that the core idea of the story (that of the spiral) is an incredibly good one. More than one person has gone near the borders of insanity by the crazy spiral patterns that govern the Universe, and one can see the insane effects this fascination can cause in certain individuals by looking at the most affected characters of this story.

Also it must be said that the art direction is pretty good; all the organic grotesqueries one would come to expect from vintage David Cronneberg and H. P. Lovecraft can be found here. Clearly we're talking about a talented individual here.

Yet, I cannot help but feel somewhat disappointed by this first volume in the Uzumaki saga. The ideas are strong, and the individual stories are all eerie and strange, worthy of the title of "weird fiction", (worthy of the most obscure horror writers of the post-Lovecraft era, such as Thomas Ligotti and Mark Samuels, amongst other, not hacks like King of Koontz) but I feel that the execution was wrongly taken, at least from the emotional standpoint.

Not spoiling much of the story, the two main characters are witnesses (and sometimes experience first hand) of fantastic supernatural events that violate all conventions of sane anatomy and of such grotesque and insane nature as to bend the fragile psyche and bodily functions of normal individuals, and yet they go on with their ordinary lives as if NOTHING had happened at all. Only one of them presents mild symptoms of madness and paranoia, even sheer horror and repulsion to the events, yet even he doesn't seem to be all that affected by the events... the horror is there, however the characters act as if it were an every day phenomenon.

This volume is divided in six chapters, all plots genuinely weird and disturbing... the main story arch that unites these episodes is the strongest point of the saga, and it is ultimately what forces me to obtain the next two volumes, since I do want to know badly what is the reason (if there is any) behind this organic madness and where and with what will it end. However I am not that hyped if the remaining two volumes will have the main characters, and the general populace of the town, acting as if nothing has gone terribly wrong in their lives.... Horror is the certainty that there is something wrong going on, and this certainty, that could present itself in many diverse ways (a violation of the laws of nature, a fatal car accident, a serial killer stalking us), will always affect our lives and our world view; it'll change us inside and the world outside will be perverted by it as if an overgrown cancer. Horror is the certainty that there is no safe place to hide on this world, this life and even in death.

And if the people that are supposed to experience this horror do not feel it creep and waste their lives anew, then horror becomes routine, and routine becomes mere absurdist escapism.

Make it 3.5 out of five.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
I certainly won't. I will never look at anything with a spiral the same way ever again.
Ito has created a great story, even for someone like myself who is not a fan of Japanese animation, and also a beginner in the wide world of graphic novels and chapter books. (or grown up comic books if you prefer that term)
The stories are told from the prospective of a young girl named Kirie Goshima who lives in the town of Kurozu, along with her boyfriend Shuichi Saito. The first two chapters deal with the tragic deaths of Shuichi's parents, his father dying from turning himself into a spiral, and his mother from trying to rid her body of spirals. (Think fingerprints and the cochlea in the inner ear for starters)
Shuichi is convinced that their town is infected with spirals, which is seemingly proven by the odd patterns in the river and the fact that every time a body is cremated, the smoke belches out from the smokestack in a spiral pattern that covers the town before falling into mysterious Dragonfly Pond. After the deaths of his parents, he quits school and becomes a recluse, popping out only in time to save Kirie from one spiral or another.
In the remaining chapters, we meet Azami Kurotani, a beautiful girl who has never been turned away by a boy since she received a crescent shaped scar upon her forehead. But when Shuichi turns her away, Azami becomes fixated on him, and falls victim to the spiral.
Then Kirie's father, a potter, begins to notice changes in the way his clay behaves when fired in the kiln. His everyday plates and bowls begin to twist and warp into unusable shapes, and he becomes transfixed by his work until Shuichi realizes what is happening and steps in to help Kirie.
Next is a love story of two youths whose poverty stricken parents have declared war on each other, and refuse to allow the young lovers to see each other. Just as the spiral seems to twist in upon itself forever, so does unrequited love writhe about the hearts of Yoriko and Kazunori.
In the last chapter, the spiral steps it up a notch and enters the realm of the truly bizarre, when Kirie discovers that her own hair has been infected, and begins a life of its own. Surprisingly, this causes her friend Sekino to become jealous of the attention Kirie is getting from being led around by her hair. Some people will do anything for attention, and Sekino finds a way to compete with Kirie while Shuichi tries to find a way to save her.
I found this volume to be extrodinaryly entertaining, and am already buried deep within Volume Two. With the subtle horror and fast paced storyline, these books are a great read for young adults and old adults alike.
A simply fascinating study of how a mundane pattern can awaken from non-existence and possess an entire town, this is definately an entertaining "Food For Thought" piece that will cause you to wake up and take notice of all the patterns within your own life. Quite enjoyable, all in all. :o)
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Format: Paperback
Horror comics are virtually impossible to do well. Most are either silly monster stories or are simply tales with twist endings ala "Tales from the Crypt" or the original "House of Mystery." Few are ever actually SCARY the way a well-made horror film or a well-crafted horror novel or short story is.
This title is an exception to that general rule. Creator Junji Ito has taken what seems on the face of it to be goofy--a town cursed by evil spirals--and turned it into a vehicle for comic books that deliver genuine chills. An example of the masterful execution of this book is when the narrator and her boyfriend are sitting in a doctor's office with the boyfriend's mother, who has become obsessed with removing all spirals from her body--fingerprints are spirals, so they must be removed; her hair curls, so it must be removed--and they spot an anatomy chart that shows a person's inner ear... and the spiral it contains. The reader actually shares the shock and horror of the characters as they try to make sure the insane woman doesn't see the chart and then proceed to attempt to tear out her inner ear. It's an exceptionally well-done bit of graphic storytelling.
I highly recommend this book if you're a fan of horror. Heck, I even recommend it if you're the kind of person who claims to hate Japanese comics ("manga.") Ito's style shows only a few of the "stereotypical" manga elements and actually put me in mind of a number of Italian and English comic book artists who specialize in romance or sci-fi comics during the Seventies and Eighties.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on January 1, 2002
Format: Paperback
This is one amazing horror manga! The art is great, and the whole world it creates is totally freaky. This is deffinatley not for those who can't handle a nice little scare mixed in with some shoujo type plots (the Romeo and Juliet spin off is a great example).
The one problem I have with this release is that the translation comes off as stiff at times, and can cause some parts to seem cheesy. Luckly this doesn't happen all that often, but I am starting to wonder about Viz.
Uzumaki is not for the weak hearted though. There are some truelly terrifing images, and plot twists in this manga. If you are a fan of Clive Barker or John Carpenter (resembles In The Mouth of Maddness) then you will absolutely love this book.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on March 28, 2004
Format: Paperback
Uzumaki is one of the few things that I've read lately that really scared me. It's a creepy, well drawn, Japanese comic about a town possesed by the idea of the spiral. It may be a weird idea, but it works, and Junji Ito moves it along by using grotesque images and twisted situations. The main character is mostly there to bring the reader from one bizarre horror to the next, but the comcic is extremely compelling despite that. It's a relativelty gory comic, so if you don't want to see people twisting themselves into spirals then this comic might not be for you.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on August 5, 2010
Format: Paperback
I picked up this book out of curiosity, not really knowing or expecting what kind of a book it would be, but I am glad I did, because it is one of the best manga books I have read.

Synopsis:

The story is about a young girl named Kirie Goshima who lives in a small town called Kurozu-Cho, with her parents and her younger brother, and she has a boyfriend named Shuichi. Kirie attends Kurozu High School and soon she and Shuichi start witnessing strange occurrences happening in the city, which are linked to a spiral shape.

The book is divided into six chapters where each chapter describes a person whom Kirie knows that becomes affected by the spiral. In the first chapter, we see Shuichi's father become obsessed with the spiral shape, so much that he turns into one, with ghastly results. The second chapter deals with how Shuichi's mother deals with her husband's death, and how her fear of spirals takes over her life. In the third chapter, we see how Azami Kurotani, a pretty girl with a scar on her forehead gets in contact with the spiral, only because Shuichi doesn't like being near her. The fourth chapter talks about how Kirie's father, a potter, gets mud from dragonfly pond, where the souls of all the victims of the spirals are trapped, and how they manifest into his crafts and make him obsessed with it. In the fifth chapter, we see Kirie trying to help two kids in love, but whose parents are mortal enemies because the house they live in is cursed by the spiral. Kirie tries to help the two kids escape from their parents, but will they be able to escape the spiral? In the final chapter, the spiral takes a hold of Kirie itself, by using her hair to draw attention to the crowds and hypnotize them, but how will this end, when Kirie's friend Sekino decides to challenge Kirie to get all the attention?

Review:

This is probably the first manga book I read that I couldn't put down at all, and was turning the pages to find out what happened next. The illustrations are beautifully drawn that displays the eeriness of the spiral and the horror of what happens to the victims who are inhabited by it. The characters themselves are drawn in a more realistic manner, without the traditional big googly eyed characters that you see in a lot of anime characters, which I thought added a very raw and realistic feeling to the book that I enjoyed a lot.

I also thought the author did a terrific job by staying consistent to the suspense of the book without having a frame with some random doodles (which I have seen in other manga books). The author does add humor to the book in general by providing a funny afterword mentioning what made him create this book.

My favorite storyline was probably the second one, where Shuichi's mother starts seeing spirals everywhere, but I did enjoy all the other stories as well. The reason why I enjoyed this particular chapter was because even though it didn't have terrifying images displayed in it, the story still portrayed how Shuichi's mother kept seeing the spirals everywhere.

I cannot wait to figure out what happens in the next installment of the series, and I recommend this book to anyone who likes a good suspense/horror graphic novel, even if you are not into manga.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Format: Paperback
Junji Ito, Uzumaki, vol. I (Viz, 2001)

Uzumaki became something of a sensation in Japan, inspiring, among other things, a live-action movie (which I'm hoping to review in the next week or so, if I can find the time to actually watch the thing). It was a natural, when I stumbled across it, for me to pick it up.

Now, I should start by saying that where horror manga are concerned, I cut my teeth on Hideshi Hino. Once you've been to the extreme, everything else seems a bit... anticlimactic, don't you think?

That said, Uzumaki (Spiral) goes in a completely different direction when it comes to creating its atmosphere (though don't get me wrong, Ito goes for the gross-out more than often enough to satisfy fans of Hino, Maruo, etc.). Ito's characters are obsessed with spirals. The town in which these loosely-connected stories are set is cursed with spirals. One of his characters expounds, about halfway through the book, on the attraction of the spiral; while the action has let up here a tad, this is exactly the kind of scene Ito needs in order to take his readers from amiable, willing disbelief into "man, this is creepy" territory.

Ito has been compared to Lovecraft more than once (and while I've never actually seen an illustration of Innsmouth, I have to admit, Kurozu-Cho does seem as if it could fit an Eastern version of the bill), but Ito is to Lovecraft what Ligotti is to Lovecraft; there may be influence there, but he's taken it and (no pun intended) twisted it around so much that this is indisputably the work of an artist with his own voice, not a craven her-worshiper. Lovecraft may have imagined some of the rather ugly, painful fates that meet Ito's characters, but if he did, they ever saw print at the master's hand.

Lovely. I'll definitely be continuing on with this series. ****
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on April 1, 2003
Format: Paperback
I saw Uzumaki Vol. 1 and 2 in a comic shop here in Perth, Australia, and grabbed them right away. I had read Junji Ito's Tomie Vol. 1 and 2 just weeks before, and I knew I could expect to feel the same spine-tingling thrill from reading this new collection of disturbingly weird and eerie images from Ito's twisted imagination.
Uzumaki is a collection of tales about a small coastal town haunted not by a ghost or a demon but by a shape - one of the most common and natural of shapes, the spiral. The mere idea of a shape exerting its deadly influence on the innocent folks of a small town is positively Lovecraftian in scope, and Ito does not disappoint.
Vol. 1 opens with the tale of a man who collects anything spiral-shaped and then spends hours staring at them, becoming increasingly unhinged as the tale unfolds. Next, in the most disturbing story in Vol. 1, a woman with an acute phobia of anything spiral-shaped shaves her head and snips off her finger-tips in an effort to get rid of all traces of spirals on her body. The panic on her son's face when he realises that an anatomy chart in her doctor's office displays the spiral-shaped inner ear sucked me right into Ito's tale of fear, dread, paranoia and mounting hysteria. The other stories in Vol. 1 are interesting enough to read, i.e. competent but do not quite reach the heights of the first two stories.
Vol. 2 ups the ante by presenting even more disturbing tales. The first story, appropriately entitled "Jack in the Box", has some of the most gruesome images I've ever seen in any medium, involving the disintegrating corpse of a dead boy intent on seeking vengeance from a girl who rejected him while he was still alive. And even if you are tired of vampire stories, "Mosquitoes" and "The Umbilical Cord" will still manage to give you a couple of sleepless nights, make you look at pregnant women and babies differently, and possibly give you a life-long phobia of maternity wards. Ito manages to give the old vampire angle a very frightening twist by linking pregnant women to mosquitoes - biologists would know what I'm talking about.
For any horror fans, I cannot recommend Uzumaki Vol. 2 enough. I hope Vol. 3 comes out soon, I cannot wait to find out what happens to Kirie, the pretty young heroine of the series, and her boyfriend, when the mother of all spirals - a hurricane - strikes their small town.
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