The Junji Ito Special Edition Trio: Gyo, Uzumaki, and Tomie
Warning: There *might* be spoilers ahead.
Of the three Junji Ito special edition titles, Uzumaki is my absolute favorite. No, Uzumaki is not about our fave ninja from the Hidden Leaf, but more about what that name means. The word “uzumaki” translates to “spiral.” Yes, this manga is all about spirals, and the various forms a spiral can take.
The story takes place in Kurouzu-cho and mostly follows the characters Kirie and Shuichi – a young high school couple. Shuichi attends a school outside of their town, so Kirie meets him at the train station every day and they walk home together. However, one day, Kirie is on her way to meet Shuichi at the train station when she sees Shuichi’s father staring at the wall in an alleyway. She tries to say hello, but finds he is unresponsive. Not wanting to risk missing Shuichi, Kirie leaves the man and heads to the train station, but not before noticing the thing the man is staring at is a snail shell.
Once she meets up with Shuichi, they start home and Kirie tells him about the run-in she had with his dad. Shuichi isn’t surprised by the odd behavior. He then explains that his dad has been obsessed, haunted, even, by the spiral pattern. Shuichi goes on to say he believes the town is haunted by the spiral. The roads seem to spiral to the middle of town, the town is surrounded by fiddlehead ferns, and seemingly insignificant dust devils randomly sprout up throughout the town. From here begins the pattern, and things quickly spiral out of control (HA! See what I did there?).
The art in this is by far the best out of the Gyo, Uzumaki, and Tomie special edition trio. I think the story is also much stronger than the others, only because it follows a story pattern (a spiral), but the stories aren’t repetitive. Each iteration of the spiral is much more than a pattern and grows in intensity as we explore various elements of the town and meet new citizens. We can mark a distinct growth as the curse of the spiral continues to reveal itself. The spiral is a disease that slowly, but surely, drags the people of Kurouzu-cho into its center.
Even the reader is, ultimately, captured by this spiral. Junji Ito, in his notes at the end, goes into the inspiration for the story and explains how the human eye will naturally follow the pattern of a spiral all the way to its center. Even if we don’t know what we will find at its center, if it even has one. This study of the spiral is really captured in the journey the reader takes with the main characters. As you follow the pattern deeper and deeper in, you know the spiral is going to appear again. You don’t know how it will end, or if it even will. Regardless, Uzumaki is a whirlpool worth getting caught in. Just wait and see what is at its center.
Thanks so much for reading! Have you read this book? What did you think of it? Let me know, and comment below!