Kurozu-cho may once have been just a normal, rural, Japanese town but when Junji Ito’s horror story begins the evil influence that poisons the lives of townspeople is part of daily life, subtly casting its gloomy shadow over the town. Kirie Goshima is a shy high school student, not concerned with much more than getting to the bus station in time to meet up with her boyfriend Shuichi every morning, looking after her little brother, and helping out with her father’s traditional pottery business. All this changes when she stumbles across Shuichi’s father crouched in an alley, transfixed by the sight of a swirling snail shell. Shuichi explains that his dad has been acting strangely for weeks, locked in his room mesmerized by the spirals in swirling water, painted umbrellas, rolls of tape, metal springs, and any number of other commonplace objects. Hideously, Shuichi’s father’s body begins to reflect his spiral obsession, twisting and contorting until his bones break under the strain. As Shuichi’s mother is driven slowly insane by spiral visions of her dead husband, Shuichi himself becomes increasingly withdrawn and paranoid, seeing Kurozu-cho’s destruction in the eerie signs of the spiral that haunt Kirie, her family, and her classmates at school. The town’s deathly spiral spirit claims one victim after another, preying on those nearest to Kirie, and leaving her to face the horrifying moment when the spiral begins to appear and grow from her own body.
Junji Ito has been writing horror since 1987 and has perfected an eerie style reminiscent of Garlands of Moonlight’s silver and black frames. These stories end on the same uncertain note – for Kirie and the other inhabitants of this small town, daily chaos and loss have become a part of life. The residents of Kurozu-cho may be numb to the gruesome perils of their situation, but for readers the Uzumaki series goes beyond spine-tingling suspense to revolting mayhem, and finally arrives at a haunting, unquiet numbness. Visually fascinating, but not for the faint of heart.
Uzumaki: Spiral into Horror, vol. 1
by Junji Ito
Viz, 2007 (new edition)