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?|
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.|
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.|
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.|
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!|
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.
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.|
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.|
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.|
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?|
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).|
Shuichi: "I said it was hopeless. It's all around us..in 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.|
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.|
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.|
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 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.|
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.|
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.|