It's that time of year again where everything starts getting spooky. Yes, that's right people, it's October once more and to celebrate my next few articles shall cover mangas with horror elements in them.
I got a ton of different recommendations for all kinds of horror mangas when I mentioned this to the some of the other writers on TAY. When I was going through all the titles, I found one manga that was drawn and written by Junji Ito and I knew then that I must cover that manga. Junji Ito is pretty well known for the horror mangas he creates. For instance, he spawned the meme, "It's slowly coming this way," from his one shot manga The Enigma of Amigara Fault. Ito's other works of horror are all really fun because they have a unique feel to them and they have really good art too. So Today, I present to you one of Ito's longer works, Uzumaki.
Uzumaki is about a haunting, not by a ghost, but by a spiral pattern. The town Kurozu-Cho is the unfortunate victim of this haunting and slowly by surely the towns people start to go mad from all the super natural events that are occurring. The haunting takes many different forms, but they all share the same fact that they change the afflicted resident in horrific way. All of these of events are witnessed by Kirie Goshima and her boyfriend, Shuichi Saito, who provide some insight into the happenings in town. Over time, the hauntings get so insane that both these characters start to lose their grip on reality as well.
It almost goes without saying, but the art in this manga is eye bleedingly good. The detail put into the environments is astounding as it captures the feeling of a haunted town by the sea extremely well. Every place in the town feels dark, even when the scene in is broad daylight. The shading and the detail put into the environment are simply astounding and it really captures the madness that is slowly spreading throughout the town.
The character art is also great as it's also able to capture the subtle changes and secrets within each character. Again, Ito adds an insane amount of shading and detail into each character's face to easily show how each character is feeling without stating it. It's clear to see how Saito slowly descends into madness through the series by the way his face is drawn. This art style is just so good because it complements the tone of the series.
You have to be pretty creative to make a pattern seem scary and Ito really delivers on this end. Just the insane amount of creepiness in each arc is supported by the many different ways people are changed by the spiral. I don't want to spoil too many of the arcs in the manga, but my favorite arc involved snail people because of how the people changing into snails acted. These people acted completely normal except for the fact that they moved incredibly slowly and the fact that they had a spiral pattern growing on their back. It's just absolutely terrifying to think about because I can be incredibly sluggish at times and I can't see my back unless I look in a mirror, but just thinking about how there might be a spiral on my back is absolutely terrifying. Each arc in the manga has a unique take on how spirals can change people, which makes every arc in this manga extremely memorable.
The main characters, Kirie and Saito, aren't so much characters as they roles. What I mean is that they are mostly used to show the reader each arc of the manga.
This is especially apparent with the main heroine, Kirie because throughout the series she just gormlessly keeps getting into danger. It's kind of ridiculous because Kirie is involved with almost every spiral related haunting in the series and not once does she think to avoid these hauntings. Sure there are some times where she simply can't get away from the hauntings, but you'd think Kirie would skip town with Saito to get away from all these events. What's worse is that she actually talks about this with Saito, but never brings this topic up again after the first time they tried to skip town failed. After all these factors, it just feels like Kirie's whole purpose in the manga is to just show the reader each horror in the manga, which can be a bit immersion breaking.
Saito fares a little better because he's not in every single arc of the manga, but he doesn't have much too him besides reflecting the mental state of the town. Whenever Saito is in the manga he basically tells Kirie to run away from whatever horror she's going to get involved with, which is fine and all, but it gets pretty stale after the 3rd or 4th time. On the other hand, I love how Saito is drawn because it's clear from his face and demeanor that he's miserable and is going insane, which greatly coincides with the theme of the manga.
The side characters are almost non-entities as they often set up the framework of what kind of horror is going to be shown in the manga. Basically, each side character is there to show how the spiral makes a person go insane or how it changes their body. So, it's pretty easy to tell who's going to go crazy or change in each arc, but they are solid enough to give an idea of how they acted and who they were before they were affected by the spiral. In short, each character had their own job, which they performed, but not much else to them.
The story is pretty standard fare for Lovecraftian esque story, but the way this story was told clashed with the scale of the events. If you've read a story by Lovecraft, then you'll easily be able to predict the end of the manga because this manga is heavily Lovecraft inspired. This by itself is fine as the art, creativity, and tone of the manga make up for the standard plotline, but the way the manga uses Kirie and Saito all the time makes the events in the manga feel small. Specifically, having Kirie and Saito being involved in each event in the manga makes it feel like all of these events are happening in a small space since two people are involved with each event. This smallness of the narrative clashes with the ultimate reveal at the end because the entity behind the spiral is played up to be a massive unknown entity, but the events in the manga clash with this.
I had a blast reading Uzumaki. Just the sheer amount of creative horror and amazing art was incredibly fun to experience. Sure the story and characters aren't much to write home about, but when you have snail people and tornado riding gangs it's hard not to have a good time. Was I scared by this manga? Not really because the story was a tad predicable, but man was I horrified by it. The body horror in this manga is insane with its creativity and its art. Overall, Uzumaki was a fun start to October.
All these images were taken from mangahere.co and mangaupdates.com. I do not own any of these images.
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