Writer and artist: Junji Ito
Publisher: Viz Comics
What's it about?
From the Viz website:
Kurozou-cho, a small fogbound town on the coast of Japan, is cursed. According to Shuichi Saito, the withdrawn boyfriend of teenager Kirie Goshima, their town is haunted not by a person or being but by a pattern: uzumaki, the spiral: the hypnotic secret shape of the world. It manifests itself in everything from seashells and whirlpools in water, to the spiral marks on people's bodies; the insane obsession of Shuichi's father, and the voice from the cochlea in our inner ear. As the madness spreads, the inhabitants of Kurozu-cho are pulled ever deeper into a whirlpool from which there is no return!
What's good about it?
Junji Ito is a master horror writer. He takes fairly harmless things and turns them into sources of terror. Uzumaki is told from the point of view of Kirie. Unlike Ito's Tomie story, where Tomie herself is the horrifying thing, this story starts off personal - the horror lies in people's reactions to the spiral pattern. By the time we are shown the malevolence of the spiral we are thoroughly freaked out. Ito continues to show us the horror from Kirie's viewpoint. The way her life is infested with the spiral is terrifying. In my opinion, this makes it creepier as the best horror lies in the imagination and the effect it has on us.
I quite like that the story is told by Kirie. It seems like a departure from Western horror, in which I have an idea that stories are mostly told from the point of view of men, and the women are just window dressing. Part of this difference is due to the traditional cultural narratives on which Western and Japanese creators draw.
What's bad about it?
I found some of the character art too simplistic for my tastes, I'd have liked more detail to the women's faces. Fortunately, the rest of the art is quite detailed - see below.
What's the art like?
Sometimes it's easier to just show you:
Further reading: Volumes Two and Three are also available, or there's a deluxe hardback collecting all 3 volumes.
There are some scenes of self harm which some readers might find upsetting.