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Uzumaki (3-in-1, Deluxe Edition): Includes vols. 1, 2 & 3 Hardcover – October 15, 2013
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About the Author
Junji Ito debuted as a horror manga artist in 1987 with the first story in his successful Tomie series. Uzumaki, drawn from 1998 to 1999, was adapted into a live-action movie, which has been released in America by Viz Films and Tidepoint Pictures. It's influences include the classic manga artists Kazuo Umezu and Hideshi Hino, as well as authors Yasutaka Tsutsui and H.P. Lovecraft.
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If you are going to get any physical copy of Uzumaki, let it be this one. The inside and outside of the hardcover is gorgeous.
As for the story itself, this is one of Junji Ito's best manga. Every story is horrifying and thrilling with an undertone of dark humor, just like Junji Ito is fond of. It's completely episodic, save for the finale, and each page gives you a new and terrifying reason to hate spirals. Junji Ito is so good at this, especially since in Japan, spirals are supposed to be symbols of happiness.
Much like Tomie, the stories told have that seed of obsession throughout on a bigger and bigger scale as the book goes on. Each story is related in some way to something that has happened. An artist gets clay from Dragonfly Lake and becomes obsessed with his pottery that comes out of the kiln with bizarre spirals with a much sinister origin. Shuichi's mother fears spirals with as much furvor as her husband loved them, even removing them from her own body in hair, her fingerprints, and eventually inside her ear. Kirei herself becomes effected as her hair spirals, growing larger and larger, and attacking her when she tries to cut it. Classmates and others flock to her hair's mesmerizing power until another classmate vows to be more popular than her. Azami, a Tomie-esque girl, entrances anyone she sets her eyes on. When Shuichi rejects her, she becomes obsessed with him. A lighthouse with no power lights up again and hynotizes people to go to it. People start turning into giant snails. Spiral cursed mosquitoes bite pregnant women with monstrous, disgusting results plus even more stories. These stories have transformations, murder, mayhem, and, beneath it all, a town that largely ignores every instance and goes back to some semblance of normal.
During the last few stories, the curse of spirals amps up to completely isolate and change Kurouzo-Cho. The spiral curse is simply too big to ignore at this point since life has completely changed for its inhabitants and anyone unlucky enough to fight their way there. Six hurricanes (of course as giant spiral storms) surround the city along with deadly whirlpools in the ocean, keeping rescue away and keeping people from leaving. Inside the city, any sound above a whisper creates a twister that will tear through the city. Some people use this power liberally as a weapon while others prefer to live as peacefully as they can. As a result, the enture city is in shambles with the only true shelter being old row houses that were deemed as slums in more normal times. The row houses are rebuilt, but the curse doesn't spare them even where the whirlwinds can't enter. If people move too slow, they turn into giant snails, a source of food for the starving and less morally burdened. I didn't know how a story at this scale could end, much like Gyo kind of had a non-ending, but it eventually settles down until the next cycle (or spiral) who knows how many years later.
Through all of this, Kirei goes about her life as normally as she can while Shuichi becomes a sullen, justifiably antisocial harbinger of the harm these spirals can do. However, they still remain in Kurouzo-Cho for no reason. In Tomie, the title character is the connective tissue for the stories, but this one doesn't quite work for me. If any normal person had seen a fraction of what they have, why would anyone stay in that one city? It's stated early that none of the surrounding cities are affected so they would have been safe if they moved even one town over. The only other thing I have a problem with is Ito's habit of characterizing the majority of the young women in his stories as completely vain and obsessed with popularity. It's a rehashing of the Tomie story which was proven to be much more than just a misogynistic stereotype. In these small moments, it seems more like that is the case and it's disappointing.
Uzumaki is another successful horror anthology that serves up surrealistic horror, gut punching and grotesque surprises, and horrifically detailed art. Each story is more extreme than the last even when I think it can't go any further. While I see some storylines or concepts that Ito likes to return to, many of the stories are completely unique and go places I never expected horror to go. I especially enjoyed the Sunnydale vibe about the town that refuses to see what's really going on and eager to go back to normal as soon as possible. If you like Japanese horror films or Lovecraftian, surreal horror, I would highly recommend just about anything Junjo Ito produces.