I don’t really know much manga. Yes, I’ve read Akira, and I quite enjoyed Osamu Tezuka’s Buddha, but other than that I simply haven’t read much. In addition, other than the original Dark Water I’m pretty ignorant about Japanese horror (other than having read reviews, and reviews of the American remakes – I don’t know anything, basically, I just meta-know!).
When I read about Junji Ito, though, I was intrigued. I don’t know what it was – the chills that his works evoked among the people who had read him, the single panel someone had posted? Perhaps it was just that I had time on my hands.
So I checked out Uzumaki. And I’m glad I did. But yes, some of it will haunt me.
Differently from the Western horror I’ve watched or read, Uzumaki doesn’t go for full-on naturalism that is then invaded by some uncanny creature of the beyond. From the first, there’s something weird and uncanny about his stories. Is it that the people who become obsessed with spirals in the story are going mad, or is there something more to it? There is something obsessive in the storytelling itself, as each chapter takes us further down the spiral.
There are bits that are gruesome and gory (in moderation), but those aren’t really what had most of an effect on me. It’s the surreal that somehow becomes frighteningly compelling as it invades every aspect of the manga – there are overtones of Kafka, as people turn into giant snails, but there’s also something creepily funny about some of the chapters. It’s unsettling, to say the least.
So, if you’ve got time on your hands, you may want to check out Uzumaki. Beware, though – it is addictive, it is unsettling, and it may just burrow into your mind and leave little, spirally holes, as if someone had taken a corkscrew to your frontal lobes.