Thursday, May 30, 2013

Rosy's scrawled manga recommendation: Uzumaki by Junji Ito

Junji Ito

Kurozu-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 According to Shuichi Saito, the withdrawn boyfriend of teenager Kirie Goshima, their town is haunted not by a person or being but by a pattern: uzumaki, the spiral, the hypnotic secret shape of the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 small ways: seashells, ferns, whirlpools in water, whirlwinds in air. And in large ways: the spiral marks on peoples bodies, the insane obsessions of Shuichi s father, the voice from the cochlea in your inner ear. As the madness spreads, the inhabitants of KurĂ´zu-cho are pulled ever deeper, as if into a whirlpool from which there is no return...

Alternative names
The Spiral


Manga reader sites (free)
Manga Reader, Manga Here

Rosy's scrawlings on Uzumaki
I was made aware of this manga when a friend posted this along with the title:

How could I say no? This was just about as disturbing a hit you could get without any introduction to what it was all about. So, curiosity piqued, off I went to find and read the manga Uzumaki with high expectations of insanity. And I found just what I was looking for: one of the strangest mangas about, even for a horror manga.
Uzumaki reads like literature does to your average fiction. There's a quality to the story telling and the suspense that just buries you in a world made utterly weird. No promises as to an explanation for the spiral obsession are made and any conclusions you come up with are, by and large, your own interpretation of events. There's a mystery to the horror that remains, leaving you feeling creeped out and disturbed as much as you'd expect to be after reading Poe at his darkest. All this is the result of an inexplicable and isolating plot, an ever tightening suspense, the darkly appealing artwork and the repellent body dysmorphia and mental degradation.
The horror starts slowly, with the town of Kurozu-cho witnessing just one person becoming obsessed with the most random thing: the spiral pattern. It seems to be a case of mental instability only. He collects anything that has a spiral pattern within it, filling up an entire room with objects. When his wife throws them away, in an attempt to bring him back to reality, the man only breaks down further. Soon his obsession makes him shape his body into spirals. His eyes roll in different directions and he learns how to twist his tongue into a spiral. And this is just the beginning. The spiral obsession turns out to be not only contagious but deadly in ways thoroughly unpredictable. All that is human and ordinary about Kurozu-cho slowly, then faster and faster, becomes something other.
The art of Uzumaki is darkly brilliant, with more attention given per panel than is ordinarily seen in mangas. Shapes are smoothly created yet there's a starkness about the final images due to most shades and gradations being absent. Dark or light, sketchy or slick, spirals are woven in wherever you look, making them not only the haunting theme of the story but the a repeated image that sticks in your mind. The expressions of the townspeople add to the disturbing atmosphere, as they almost invariably emphasis the stresses the characters are under. Fear, despair, haunted melancholy, madness, jealousy, obsession, worry, terror, the range of expressions wide yet convey only the horror of the character's situation.

I'd recommend this manga to: fans of horror fiction, the inexplicable and highly disturbing art.

Notes on manga reader sites
The quality of manga readers can vary. The uploads are often done cheaply or as a serious hobby by a collective. Be aware that sometimes licence hasn't been given but the sites noted above, Manga Fox in particular, are extremely careful about adding and pulling mangas according to license agreements. So you shouldn't have to worry too much about the material being pirated. There are also translated works and non-translated. Amongst the translated works you will find that the quality of translation may vary according to the skills of the translators. Usually the works are perfectly readable anyway, with only a few added or dropped words or a word in the incorrect tense or with/out plurals. But sometimes the text becomes gobbledygook. In which case, either seek another version or give up and buy an official copy once a printed translation comes out. The other issue of note is you may need to expand the screen to read the text easily as sometimes the scans are minimised a little.
I find that if a page doesn't download properly or some other issue occurs (too slow or someone ordered the pages incorrectly etc.) with one reader then skipping across to another reader and picking up where I was is quite easy and rarely annoying.
Otherwise, enjoy and watch out you don't get too addicted you forget about the necessary things in life.

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