Book Review | Uzumaki by Junji Ito
This will contain spoilers for the Uzumaki collection by Junji Ito and possibly other works of Junji Ito, as they may be used for comparison.
The story takes place in Kurouzu-cho and mostly follows Kirie and Shuichi – a young high school couple. Shuichi attends a school outside of their town, so Kirie meets him at the train station every day, and they walk home together. However, one day, Kirie is on her way to meet Shuichi at the train station when she sees Shuichi’s father staring at the wall in an alleyway. She tries to say hello but finds he is unresponsive. Not wanting to risk missing Shuichi, Kirie leaves the man and heads to the train station, but not before noticing the man is staring at a snail shell.
Once she meets up with Shuichi, they start home, and Kirie tells him about the run-in she had with his dad. Shuichi isn’t surprised by the odd behavior. He then explains that his dad has been obsessed, haunted, even by the spiral pattern. Shuichi says he believes the spiral haunts the town. The roads seem to spiral to the middle of town, the town is surrounded by fiddlehead ferns, and seemingly insignificant dust devils randomly sprout up throughout the town. Then, the pattern begins, and things quickly spiral out of control (HA! See what I did there?).
Of the three Junji Ito special edition titles, Uzumaki is my absolute favorite. No, Uzumaki is not about our favorite ninja from the Hidden Leaf but more about what that name means. The word “Uzumaki” translates to “spiral.” So yes, this manga is all about spirals and the various forms a spiral can take.
This art is by far the best out of the Gyo, Uzumaki, and Tomie special edition trio. The story is also much stronger than the others, only because it follows a story pattern (a spiral), but the stories aren’t repetitive. Each iteration of the spiral is much more than a pattern and grows in intensity as we explore various elements of the town and meet new citizens. We can mark a distinct growth as the curse of the spiral continues to reveal itself. The spiral is a disease that slowly but surely, drags the people of Kurouzu-cho into its center.
Even the reader is, ultimately, captured by this spiral. In his notes at the end, Junji Ito goes into the inspiration for the story and explains how the human eye will naturally follow the pattern of a spiral to its center. Even if we don’t know what we will find at its center, if it even has one, this study of the spiral is really captured in the journey the reader takes with the main characters. As you follow the pattern deeper and deeper in, you know the spiral will appear again. You don’t know how it will end or if it even will. Regardless, Uzumaki is a whirlpool worth getting caught in. Just wait and see what is at its center.
I struggle to come up with anything that I would consider “bad” in this collection. It is probably my all-time favorite Junji Ito collection. I guess if I had to come up with something to criticize, much like any collection, there are some stories that are weaker than others. The spiral theming is a bit stronger in some stories than in others, but again, that is such a small note that I would say it is insignificant in comparison to all the great things in this collection.
If it isn’t already clear, I highly, highly, highly recommend this collection. If you like body horror and manga, then this is the pinnacle. If you haven’t read it yet, then you are really missing out on something great.
Have you read this book? What did you think of it? Let me know, and comment below!