Saturday, 12 September 2015

Uzumaki (Part Two)

"Didn't you hear the wind last night?  The voice of the storm was calling your name!" - Shuichi

We now return to the second half of the Uzumaki collection, from the gloriously perverse mind of Junji Ito.  Uzumaki (which means "Spiral") tells a tale of a sleepy seaside town in Japan called Kurouzu-cho which has become haunted by spirals.  Most of the first half of the collection concentrated on the effects of the spirals upon the narrator, a teenage girl called Kirie Goshima, and her boyfriend Shuichi Sato.  Shuichi managed to lose both his mother and father to the deleterious effects of the spiral and is now a depressed shut-in seemingly unconcerned about his fate now.  The effects of the spiral have started to spread though, first classmates began turning into snails and when we took a break for the end of part one, all the pregnant women in the local hospital (where Kirie was being treated for burns and bruises escaping the burning light of the spiral haunted lighthouse) had been drilling into other patients and drinking their blood.  We rejoin the storyline as the women are due to give birth and from this point on the effect of spirals on the town will escalate into a full blown, H.P Lovecraft style nightmare.  So let's twist again like we did last blog post, and conclude this look at Uzumaki. (Note:  This manga is unflipped so reads from right to left)

Chapter eleven begins with the birth of the babies whose mother's fed on human blood.  No one believed Kirie about what happened, putting it down to a bad dream.  Her cousin Keiko is the first to give birth.

Kirie: "So it's been born.  I wonder what it looks like.  A baby gorged with human blood."

The baby is normal and cute looking, and the other babies are born soon after.  Kirie is deemed well enough to be discharged and goes to tell Keiko.  She gets to meet her baby Makio, but notices his stomach is swollen as are the other babies tummies.  Her concern is brushed off, but then all the babys start screaming in unison and the sound freaks Kirie out and she runs and falls down some stairs and has to stay another week in hospital.
So cute, so.. bloated?
Dinner is served with some strange mushrooms.  Kirie says they taste like meat.  They become a regular feature of hospital meals but Kirie won't eat them.  Kirie wanders the hospital one day and passes the maternity ward.  The babies are talking to each other and say they miss being in the womb.  One baby says Doctor Kawamato can "put us back".  Then all of their tummies swell up and out burst spiral patterned mushrooms.

Kirie runs thinking she is just hearing and seeing things, but then she hears Keiko screaming.  She opens the door where she heard the noise from to be confronted with a room full of the weird mushrooms.  Doctor Kawamoto emerges from another room looking grim.  He says the mushrooms grew from where they dropped the placentas on the floor.  And the babies are growing mushroom placentas because they want to return to the womb.
She isn't dead either.
Demanding to know what he did with Keiko, Kirie bursts into the side room she is on and is greeted by the awful sight of Keiko with a swollen stomach where her baby has been stitched back inside her.  She craves blood and grabs Kawamoto and quickly drains him dry before coming after Keiko.  But she gets distracted by two people who wandered into the musroom room and atacks them.

Kirie: "I escaped from the hospital.  I've no idea what happened after that. I wasn't about to go back and find out."

Kirie and Shuichi sit together on the beach.  Kirie thanks Shuichi for saving her life.  Suddenly they hear a noise, like a moaning sound.  Shuichi yells that it's hurricane season and runs into town telling people to board up their windows, only to be dismissed as a "freak".

Later Kirie watched a TV news report which says their is an approaching hurricane and it's unusual as it has a small "eye".  The hurricane whooshes through town,  Kirie goes out in it to deliver Shuichi's lunch and she looks up and sees the eye of the hurricane, surrounded by spiral winds.  Later in bed she hears the wind calling her name.  Next day the TV news says the hurricane is hanging over the town in a most unusual way.
Stalked by a hurricane.
Kirie takes Shuichi his lunch again but bumps into him outside.  He yells at her saying her heard the wind call her name,  The hurricane starts smashing trees into buildings and Kirie gets trapped under some rubble.  A passing woman offers to help but gets sucked up by the hurricane.

Shuichi: "It mistook her for you!  Because you looked alike!"

The storm spits the woman out and she hits the ground quite dead.  Shuichi frees Kirie and they hide in an underpass while the winds call Kirie.  They climb down into a drain to escape but impossibly the storm follows.  It whisks both of them up and out of the sewer into the air.  Later they are both retrieved from Dragonfly pond with no clue how they ended up there.  The hurricane disappated after reaching the pond and the town is calm again for now.

The hurricane wrecked several houses and one of them was Kirie's.  They are assigned a new place to live but it is one of the run down row houses.  This one has a reputation for being haunted.  Kirie's mum protests but they are told this is all the free housing space they have.  Later Kirie asks her dad when he thinks the houses were built, he thinks maybe the nineteenth century.
Kirie's family's new home.
Kirie is soon introduced to one of their neighbours, a young man called Wakabayashi.  He tells them to ignore their neighbours on the other side as they are squatters.  At dinner Kirie's brother complains that next door is haunted, then her father finds spiral like warts on his feet.

Wakabayashi has drilled a hole in his wall so he can spy on Kirie.  That night Kirie hears a strange howling from next door.  Next day Wakabayashi tells Kirie their neighbours are an old woman and her sick son.  The son has a serious medical problem that makes him moan in pain.  Then a hooded figure, the mother comes shuffling out.  She falls and Kirie goes to help her up, noting horn-like growths on her hands.

Later that day Kirie hears someone crying out and realises it's the old woman.  She runs to see what is wrong and is told her son is dead.  His body is removed and the old woman taken to hospital to treat her skin disease. Wakabayashi asks Kirie what the son looks like, because he went and looked in his room and the floor was full of holes.  Kirie doesn't want to talk about it.
Egads, tentacle horror!
Back in the family home, as another hurricane moves in over the town she and her family discover spiral warts all over their hand and feet and worry they caught it off the old woman.  Trapped in the house by the hurricane, suddenly a mass of horn-like tentacles burst through the wall.  It turns out to be Wakabayashi who has become a mass of writhing growths all over his body.  He starts to go after Kirie but falls down dead.  Later the hurricane disappates over Dragonfly Pond and Kirie's family's warts all disappear.

The next chapter begins with a team of reporters driving to the town.  After the onslaught of hurricanes all contact has been lost with the place.  Suddenly a twister forms behind them and causes the car to crash as they reach the town.  Only the female reporter survives, she crawls from the wreckage and tries to get some mobile phone reception, but there is none.
Introducing Maruyama.
She wanders through the wreckage of the town, noting the eerie silence of the place.  She sees a helicopted overhead, but another twister brings it down.  She arrives at Dragonfly Pond which is now a whirlpool, and discovers three children tied to stakes there.  She frees them, but they ignore her. They approach a house that is still standing and blow out their breath causing a whirlwind that destroys the house which makes them laugh.

They turn on the reporter who screams and a whirlwind whisks the boys away.  Then Kirie and her brother Mitsuo find her, they are out foraging for food.  Kirie tells the reporter, whose name is Maruyama that any loud noise causes hurricanes, and Maruyama realises she must have created the whirlwind that blew the boys away.  Kirie takes her back to the row house, the only houses unaffected by the whirlwinds.

The house is packed with people.  Maruyama begs for someone to come help her where the car crashed.  Kirie's family decide to help.  But some of the other people say it's not worth it, that all reporters, rescue teams and volunteers have been trapped in the town as well.  Shuichi sits huddled in a corner saying the town is going to turn into a huge spiral.
Riding the twister.
Outside Kirie's family a Maruyama are confronted by two of the boys who made the whrilwinds.  They go to attack them so Kirie's family and Maruyama dive back inside the row house.  The inhabitants then all blow out of the window and a twister picks the boys up.  However when they go back outside they are greeted by the sight of the boys "riding" the twister.  With great understatment, Kirie says:

Kirie: "Kurouzo-cho was going mad."

The kids steer their twisters to destroy the last of the not-row house buildings still standing.  Others have joined them in their wanton destruction.  Mitsuo says it looks like fun, but Kirie warns him many have died trying to ride a twister.  The twister riders stay alive by stealing food from the relief agencies still coming to the town.  Kirie, Mitsuo and Maruyama are foraging for food for themselves in the ruins.

Back in the row house, one of the inhabitants finds an old scroll.  It appears to show the town consumed by a huge spiral.  Tempers are frayed due to over crowding and Shuichi and Kirie's family get kicked out.  Maruyama says they have to get out of town somehow, although when she walked down the car tunnel, it never ended.  Kirie's dad says he doesn't want to leave, he just wants to make pots again, he's a broken man now.
Stress rises in the row houses.
Suddenly they smell the delicious smell of cooking.  They go and investigate and find a gang of men roasting the snail people alive.   The creepy man in charge offers them some then makes inappropriate overtures towards Kirie and Maruyama.  When Kirie's dad steps in, the creepy guy summons a twister and blows him away.  Then a whole mess of twisters appear and whoosh everyone up in them.   Shuichi managed to grab hold of Kirie who has hold of Maruyama and keeps them from being sucked into Dragonfly Pond with the others.

Time passes.  More rescuers pour into the town, who then become trapped causing the place to become more dangerous thanks to the twisters.  Kirie, Shuichi and Maruyama meet up with some survivors led by a man called Tanizaki and some other random survivors.  Maruyama recounts again how she tried to escape via the car tunnel only for it to turn into a spiral and that she had to crawl back out.
No escape via the car tunnel.
Others tried to escape via the sea only to be swallowed by whirlpools.  Kirie and Maruyama are living in a collapsed house with Shuichi and Mitsuo and Kirie's injured mum.  Tanizaki's group wonder why the rundown row houses have survived the twisters when everything else has been destroyed. One of the group seems afflicted and they discover he is turning into a snail.  In a panic everyone checks their back and one of Tanizaki's group a man called Ogawa also has the tell tale spiral mark.

Tanizaki's group go and try and get into a row house and Kirie and the others tag along.  Tanizaki's group try to break in but the people inside try to blow them away with whirlwinds.  Undaunted the outsiders break down the wall with a battering ram only to reveal a horrific sight.  The houses were so jammed up that everyone's bodies twisted and tied round each other.  One of them says they are now in knots and cannot be seperated and work as one organism now.
The inevitable result of overcrowding?
The multi-bodied creature bursts out of each end of the row house but immediately pick up wod and start building and extension to the house.  The ones left outside bicker about what to do next then see a group of ships come sailing towards the town.  But sadly and inevitably escape is not on the cards as a whirlpool claims the fleet.  Starving and depressed, that night Tanizaki's group and Kirie's end up eating the flesh of a cooked snail person they find.

Next day Kirie, Shuichi and Maruyama leave Tanizaki's group and take the last bits of snail meat back to her mum and brother.  When they arrive the house has fully collapsed, her mum is gone, taken by a twister and when they dig her brother out they discover he is turning into a snail person.

Kirie: "At that moment.  I knew I had to escape."

They decide to try and make for the hills and pick north to go in. As they reach a point above the town where they can look down on it, they notice all the row houses face Dragonfly Pond.  They also spot Mr. Tanizaki building a extension on a row house and see many others doing the same. 

They keep walking but the trail winds endlessly.  Suddenly they bump into a Mr. Takemoto and his group who also say they came from the town but from the other direction.  The two groups decide to walk together for now.  Takemoto's group has a man on a lead, he's turning into a snail and they want him as an emergency food store.  Yuck.
Junji Ito, you sick fuck (I mean that as a compliment).
Finally the man turns into a full snail, and Takemoto says he really wants to try eating one raw.  He gets down on the ground and crawls inside the shell eating the flesh as he goes.  Urp, I think I may spew.  Thankfully Kirie's group leave them to it, and wander off now totally lost.

Shuichi: "I said it was hopeless.  It's all around us.. through us."

They find a tree stump and Shuichi hallucinates his father as the rings in it.  Much later Kirie's group is confronted by Takemoto's.  They are drooling and zombie-like.  Kirie manages to lie convincingly about why her brother has a swollen back, fearing for his life.

Aww, Snail Mitsuo is sorta sweet.
Unfortunately Mitsuo soon turns into a full snail and her group flee Takemoto's, but suddenly find themselves on the edge of a cliff.  Kirie tells Mitsuo to escape by crawling down the cliff and he reluctantly leaves her.  Takemoto catches up and starts ranting about how it felt to feed on the soft flesh of the snails face and feel at one with the spiral.  Then he and his group's bodies all distort into corkscrew like spiral shapes.

Left with no choice, Kirie's group head back to the town, when they arrive back at the hill overlooking it, they are greeted by the impossible sight of the whole town turned into one spiral of joined together row houses, with Dragonfly Pond in the centre.

Kurouzo-cho, now one big spiral.
As they descend back into the town they see that the houses have been added onto, joining the originals together into a spiral of one structure.  They are confused as to how this happened in the short time they were up in the hills.  Kirie wonders how the occupants managed to create a perfect spiral, Shuichi says maybe the original row houses were left over from a previous spiral.

They look for an entrance and find the start of the spiral path leading into the row house structure spiral.  They begin following the path inwards.  One benefit of what has happened is they no longer have to fear whirlwinds whose job in flattening the rest of the town has been done. 

They suddenly see some faces peering out of the house they are passing by. A twisted corpse is thrown out of the house and one of the faces says could they please take him away before he starts to smell.  As they carry on they bump into a wild bearded man slowly dragging some corpses behind him.  Kirie recognises him as Mr. Tanizaki, he in turn says he remembers them from many years ago.  His job now is cleaning up the corpses.
Tanizaki, many years later.
Kirie asks him is he knows where her parents might be, and that her father was a potter.  Tanizaki says he heard that a couple were making pots by Dragonfly Pond, but the path there will be long and dangerous, even he hasn't gone there.  Detirmined Kirie and the other two journey onwards, climbing through rubble filled gaps in the row house to shortcut their route.  At night they take a break and ponder how all this could have happened.

Shuichi: "Well whatever's urging people to build these houses.. must be extremely powerful"

He then goes on to say that this could have happened over and over since ancient times.  That maybe once a century the spiral comes and haunts the town and no records of it remain because everyone involved disappears.
Maruyama is captured.
They carry on walking next day until Maruyama says she can't walk any further.  Then they see smoke twisting up in the air from where the pond is.  So they cut through a row house but Maruyama is too slow and is grabbed by the inhabitants and dragged further inside, they quickly board up the hole so she can't be rescued leaving Kirie and Shuichi as the only ones left.

They follow the smoke and as they get closer to the middle, the row houses are empty.  They arrive where the pond should be, only to be confronted by a huge hole in the ground instead and a spiral staircase leading down into darkness.  Hopeful that her parents might be down there Kirie and Shuichi hold hands and head down the stairs.
The mystery at the centre of town.
They walk down for what seems like an age, and they come across the nearly dead body of one of the row house spiral people.  Kirie thinks he must have been left behind when the others came down here.  The spiral person begs them to take him with them, but Shuichi says they don't have the strength.  The spiral person bites Kirie's ankle and Shuichi pulls him off her, gets tangled in him and they both fall off the stairs into the abyss.

Kirie keeps going down until she sees a light.  The stairs bring her down into a huge cavern full of ruined spiral structures.  The stairs don't go all the way down so she drops down onto and climbs down a giant snail shell but loses her footing.  Fortunately a wind catches her and deposits her safely on the ground.
The cavern of spiral structures and a mystery light.
Gruesomely the floor is made up of a carpet of the knotted up row house inhabitants.  As she walks across them she finds they are turning into stone and she comes across her mum and dad both petrified into rock.  One of the spiral formations is emitting a bright light that the spiral people are all staring at.  Kirie finds Shuichi alive but unable to walk.  He tells her that the light is responsible:

Shuichi: "Every few hundred, or thousand, or tens of thousands of years... it can reach the people above and though it's builders are gone, maybe it's still building itself."

Kirie asks what they should do now.  Shuichi says he can't walk so she should go on without him.  She refuses to leave him though.  They hold hands and their arms knot together into a rope-like formation.  The spiral outside completes and the cavern is filled with a strange roaring noise.  Kirie finishes telling is her tale by saying in the centre of the spiral, time froze.

Kirie: "So the curse was over the same moment it began.  The endless frozen moment I spent in Shuichi's arms.. and it will be the same moment again... when the next Kurouzo-cho is built amidst the ruins of the old one.  When the eternal spiral awakes once more."
This possibly isn't a happy ending.
And that brings the story to an end.  There is a twentieth chapter, but it wasn't officially part of the story and it's labelled as a "Missing Chapter" in the book.  It was set early on in the storyline and involves the appearence and disappearence of many spiral galaxies.  I can see why it was removed, it doesn't quite fit with tone of the storyline.  Anyway, Uzumaki remains a horror masterpiece.  One reason why I delayed my write up of this second half was because I was feeling unwell, and just the thought of the snail eating scenes made me nauseous.  Now I am someone who has been into body horror since her early teens, so for something to make even me feel sick to my stomach has to be an achievement of sorts.  I also like the way the events "spiral" out into a mysterious eldritch horror story of people acting under compulsions they don't understand and unimaginable structures powered by something beyond comprehension lurking underground.  All-in-all Uzumaki is a seminal horror manga and certainly should be read by anyone with an interest in horror comics.  Who knew something as innocuous as a spiral could cause such havoc...?


  1. ew, lol. this should be marked not safe for stomachs! great art though :)

  2. It is gruesome and certainly bashed my squick button hard.