Are you looking for fear? In my pursuit of terror I became drawn to a town known as Kurōzu-cho. Kurōzu-cho was once a quaint town until one day it became infected by the spiral. This town has been growing a reputation as a hodge podge for the peculiar, abnormal, and the supernatural so best I check it out. I have to say, they got the wrong room if they’re looking for fear, ain’t afraid of no squiggly lines that’s for sure….
*After completing Uzumaki….*
What is Uzumaki?
Uzumaki is a dark fantasy manga series that is mostly concerned with body horror or surreal imagery from the twisted mind of horror icon Junji Ito. Junji Ito takes full advantage of the stark contrast of black and white designs to create vividly detailed images of grotesque horrors. The tale follows Kirie Goshima and Shuichi Saito as they attempt to escape the ill effects of this curse of spirals that have been progressively making Kurōzu-cho a hostile and dangerous environment.
Uzumaki functions as a sort of connected anthology, exploring different characters and themes while being tied together by the perspective of Kirie and Shuichi. Personally, I found the story more interesting in its earlier tales that played on the mystique of the spiral and created wild absurdity that purposefully exposed character flaws. The second half however, is an interesting exploration of natural horror and does thematically satisfy the overarching themes of Uzumaki.
Flaws, Futility & Fatalism
Obsession, vanity, gluttony, and lust just to name a few are qualities reflected in victims of the spiral. “The Spiral Curse” is this omnipotent cosmic presences but operates in a way that really it just accentuates the worst in people and illustrates these flaws into gruesome and disturbing sights. To challenge the spiral is to challenge human nature and that of course is a futile effort. Tragedy is explored all throughout Uzumaki and mostly in a way that demonstrates on every level a dower look of humanity. No matter if in personal tragedy, to town spread mania Uzumaki showcases people who are petty, self-serving, cruel, and to various degrees mad.
Uzumaki is interesting because of how it illustrates nihilistic fatalism as horror. As much as the contouring bodies, drill wielding zombies, and other horrific creatures of Kurōzu-cho are, it is less about how frightful they are but how much they create a sense of vulnerability. Here today, gone tomorrow… truth is we’re all going to die at some point, we’re all going to suffer some form of grief, or be confronted by ill fate at some points in our lives. We’re destined to ask ourselves “Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,or to take arms against a sea of troubles and by opposing end them. To die—to sleep, No more”.
Uzumaki makes it clear the humans reek of awfulness and that is the true horror that plagues the town. This is a little bit of a vague spoiler so hop onto the next section if you don’t want to know what happens in the end: That’s why the ending despite the ending being a departure from what I thought made the series great and that was an anthology of stories based on spiral themed horror I do enjoy it because of how much it fits the message and themes. Essentially each character suffers because of their personally inflicted flaws, and while our main characters can’t escape a similar demise they at least are separated from that bunch by completing a character arc.
It’s a bittersweet ending but our characters don’t succumb to but embrace the spiral and that’s a distinction made clear by their beginning and end points. With Shuichi he had to overcome his feelings of lacking agency and feeling he was doomed by the spiral and what does him in involves him using his agency to protect Kirie. Kirie is at first in denial of the spiral and later the fact of the spiral being unavoidable; once Kirie recognizes that if she embraces the misfortune of the spiral she can at least have a moment of solace and at peace with the ordeal. At the end of the day life is a spiral and sometimes you can’t control the trajectory or velocity of it but you can control how you manage and that’s why the Uzumaki spiral is horrific but in a beautiful kind of way.
There is many ways to immerse yourself in the spiral a lot of which….. fails to capture the initial allure. 2 games exist: Uzumaki: Denshi Kaiki Hen, Uzumaki: Noroi Simulation that give you an interesting way to explore the story in your own way. Uzumaki was turned into a live-action, CGI-intensive film that seemed certainly ambitious but might have looked too uncanny but in the wrong ways.
My initial interest in this series came from the news that Adult Swim is going to be airing a 4 episode mini-series of Uzumaki and has at least from the teaser seemed promising so far.
I approve the decision to keep it in black and white as I feel that was something that made the imagery as compelling as it is and is where other adaptations such as the Junji Ito Collection might have misfired. The music from this trailer also is unsettling and given the music is from the off-kilter mind that did the music for Hereditary again I think they might be onto something. I also appreciated the limited animation style, making it appear more as manga panels and recreations of the initial art than re-stylizing it for something more fluid. I’m a little concerned about the length, it could certainly work at what they’re going for but I’m wondering what they edit in and out of it.
Finally I’d like to just say that I’m not much of a reader so I appreciate going through this series with the assistant from Horror Show Mickey who had done an audio narration of the entire Uzumaki series. His music choices opening with Abyss-Meditation and the slow drawn delivery makes it the appropriate atmosphere for a journey such as this. Unfortunately though I just discovered this channel I’ve seen it suffer a bit of woes recently.
Having some recent personal life issues were compounded by the entire channel being taken down. The channel operated in a fair-use gray area that I’m not surprised this happened but I sympathize with the seemingly passionate and down to earth creator behind the channel. Please do go look up Horror Show Mickey on YouTube as it is somewhat salvaged and does still have some horror content and will continue to post. It’s a great source of spooky content when I’m not foxtrotting around here.
Unfortunately this is the only Junji Ito content I will personally be reviewing. However if you’re hungry for more (or better) reviews I would go and follow ‘Lumi Reviews Things’ who is currently reviewing a bunch of Junji Ito tales and is doing an amazingly incredible job that far exceeds in doing the work justice that I just can’t.
Till Tomorrow, I’m ALWAYS WATCHING, ALWAYS WAITING for your return. Bye-bye now, and take care.