Uzumaki by Japanese mangaka Junji Ito is a horror seinen (for men) manga that’s single handedly the scariest thing I’ve ever read and the only thing I’ve read that’s stayed with me to the point of paranoia. Spirals are everywhere.
See, Uzumaki translates to Spiral, though I prefer the Japanese title in itself as it conjures up vague images of a secret dark mass or some forgotten demon god returning to plague the Earth. It’s the first step in a read that spirals you and the protagonist, high-school girl Kirie Goshima, into a small village, tucked away in a valley cut off by sea, that’s haunted by spirals. Kirie’s boyfriend becomes her ally as they bear witness to the weirdness and madness inflicted upon their neighbours. The story follows the two lovers all the way to the epicentre of it all, the village lake.
Ito takes influence from Western horror masters Edgar Allan Poe and H.P. Lovecraft that really shows in the scares, mystery, horror, gross outs and paranoia that all adds to the growing claustrophobia you along with Kirie begin to find yourself in. In my honest opinion, this is the only story I’ve read that has a horror so specific and with such rigour that it could be considered either in league with Cthulhu or as it’s spiritual successor.
The book itself is distributed by VIZ Media in the West and can be found at any self-respecting comic book store. I can easily say this book changed my life. I look at the little things with a much more cynical eye now. To this day, I always take a second glance whenever I notice a spiral, or my eyes linger for that nanosecond longer than they should. God, I love it! I love horror and this by far is the best.
In regards to the writing and illustration, Ito follows a 3-Act structure miniplot that plays out over three tankobons, manga volumes, around 650 pages, that’s just filled with his beautiful artwork of soft, modest designs that really accentuates the fucked up shit, giving it grip to take a hold of you and knock you sideways into a cerebral vice.