It has been a long while since I checked my Facebook feeds. Strangely enough, the first post I saw was from 9gag.com. It says, “Talented girl’s Junji Ito cosplay will haunt your dreams (By Mamakiteru).”
Indeed, these characters will definitely haunt people’s dreams. They’re deep, dark, and twisted. When I scrolled down, I saw a comment that says, “Read Junji Ito’s Uzumaki. I double dare you.” So I took the challenge and now understand the fascination of Mamakiteru to live in Junji Ito’s world.
The Manga Artist
Junji Ito was born on July 31, 1963 in Gifu Prefecture, Japan. At a very young age, he was already inspired by his sister’s drawings especially Kazuo Umezu’s horror manga. Apart from them, Junji Ito was also drawn to the works of Hideshi Hino, Koga Shinsaku, Yasutaka Tsutsui, and H.P. Lovecraft.
He began his journey in 1987 where he juggled his passion for manga with his work as a dental technician. He then submitted his short story to Asahi Sonorama’s manga magazine – Gekkan Halloween (Monthly Halloween) wherein manga artist Kazuo Umezu was one of the judges. Junji Ito’s short story won an honourable mention in the Kazuo Umezu Prize.
Now, Junji Ito has made a name for himself creating various stories such as Tomie, Gyo, and Uzumaki to name a few. His works were featured in many horror magazines – Gekkan Halloween, Nemurenu Yoru no Kimyo na Hanashi (Strange Tales of Sleepless Nights), and Shogakukan’s Weekly Big Spirits. Besides print, his creations were also adapted for TV and film.
Uzumaki or Spiral was featured in the weekly manga magazine, Big Comic Spirits. It has three volumes and was published from August 1998 to September 1999.
Ceramics are made from earth and fire. In other words, it’s work of nature. We try our best with human hands but sometimes nature can create things beyond our imagination. After all, most shapes are really patterns but we can only see a piece of them at a time.
– Yasuo Goshima, Kirie Goshima’s father
The story follows high school student Kirie Goshima, her boyfriend Shuichi Saito, and the citizens of Kurôzu-cho, a small town where nothing is unbelievable. It is a place where spiral is always rising.
Supernatural events are always happening to each citizen affected by the enigmatic spiral shape. They become obsessed, paranoid, and unhuman just like Shuichi Saito’s father. Mr Saito would stop to stare at the snail’s spiral form for hours, collects various items with spiral patterns, and he even asked Kirie Goshima’s father to create a piece of ceramic with spirals on it. He became overly obsessed to the point that he would hurt his wife when she threw away his spiral collection.
But when he realized he didn’t need those and that he can create the shape himself, he twisted his body into a spiral shape inside a small circular soaking tub.
When they cremated him, the smoke from his ashes spiralled towards the sky which eventually sunk into the Dragonfly Pond. After this event, more unsettling things happened to each citizen and to the people who visited Kurôzu-cho as they were slowly contaminated by the spiral.
There are two things I noticed. One, Junji Ito made sure the reader will be drawn ‘til the very end. Unlike other stories from different authors, the details presented here were extreme and well-thought of.
Aside from the obvious ones such as the snail and whirlpool, Junji Ito also tapped into the human body. There was a part after Mr. Saito’s death, his wife became terrified of spirals where she cut her fingertips where the spiral lay. She even shaved her head out of fear from the twisted locks as well as the cochlea in her ears.
Then came the metaphors such as twisted souls which is literally intertwined here. See, there were these two young characters inspired by the tragedy Romeo & Juliet. But instead of the poison, they stretched, twisted, and joined their bodies making it difficult for their parents to untangle and separate them.
Two which is pretty obvious but not the kind that everyone will like is his illustrations. They are creepy yet fascinating. The details were precise and it should be. With a medium like this, people want and need to really see.
It’s not like a book where we use imagination. Don’t get me wrong. Reading books and imagination is great but we can never argue with people’s perspective. What they’ve imagined can never be replaced. So seeing extremely precise illustrations like these in a manga is helpful and wonderful. The reader accepts and appreciates not only the story but also the illustration.
With these two hand-in-hand, I have to say that it was indeed difficult to stray away from Uzumaki. It was not only deep, dark, and twisted but also refreshing compared to the horror stories today. Well, we really can’t compare them since this was published between 1998 to 1999. But despite the gap, Uzumaki did not fail to give us the chills.
So if you are looking for old tales that will satisfy your cravings for horror, I recommend reading Junji Ito’s works. Just head over to goodreads.com to see the complete list.