Horror can come in many shapes and forms. But what criteria are there exactly when it comes to something being horror? Is it when there is a lot of blood and gore? When there are images or monsters that seem to have been created by someone who must surely be completely insane? Things that might give you nightmares? I don’t think there is ever going to be a clear answer to my first question. What might be considered horror for one person, could be a comedy for someone else. As far as I’m concerned when it comes to horror, I have always found that the Japanese seem to be able to create an atmosphere that simply can’t be matched anywhere. Take the original Ringu movie for example. The infamous scene where Sadako crawls out of the well is one that to this day still gives me nightmares when I think back on it. The American remake, while certainly not bad, simply failed to recreate that same fear inducing tension. Just before my long hiatus, I ran across an excellent review written by fellow blogger Tsubaki for a horror manga called Uzumaki. After reading that post I immediately went online and bought it for myself, as the entire thing sounded so incredibly intriguing that I had to go and check it out. Thank you again Tsubaki, for introducing me to this one, because seriously it was every bit as good as you said it was.
So what is Uzumaki about then? This is one of those cases where telling too much of the story would be doing you a disservice. But I will try to give you a basic outline in order to leave you with a little bit of an impression. We experience the story through the eyes of highschool girl Kirie Goshima. She lives in the fictional town of Kurouzu-Cho, where she attends school and goes about her daily life. But things begin to spiral (pun intended, you will soon see why) out of control when she meets up with her boyfriend Shuichi at the train station. Just moments before that, she saw Shuichi’s father in a dark alley where he was acting incredibly strange. With a weird look on his face he seemed to be staring at an empty snail shell. When Kirie talks to Shuichi about it, he isn’t that surprised and says his father has not been himself lately. But when Shuichi asks Kirie to leave the town with him, she is shocked. The girl doesn’t really understand why he wants her to leave town and immediately states she can’t go. A decision that she is going to regret soon, very soon. The town of Kurouzu-Cho is under the influence of a terrible curse, where the form of the spiral seems to be at the centre of it all. When the town begins to slowly descend into madness, Kirie together with Shuichi must find a way to stay alive. Something that is much easier said then done…..
I have just come back from a trip that seemed like I was either going completely insane, or took a vacation straight into the deepest and darkest pits of hell. A couple of times while I was reading this manga I was wondering how on Earth it’s writer/artist Junji Ito came up with this stuff. Because seriously a lot of this manga is incredibly disturbing, and at it’s worst the stuff you will find in your darkest and most terrible nightmares. If I were to compare this to something I would say think of the scariest episodes of The Twilight Zone, and then imagine them being a 100 times more scary than you remember them. Uzumaki cranks up the tension continually with each chapter. It sinks it’s teeth into your jugular and doesn’t allow you to put it away for even a moment. The Deluxe Edition of this manga contains the entire series that is divided up into 19 chapters of pure horror and includes a bonus “lost” chapter. Some chapters tell stand alone stories, but all of them keep adding to the increasing mystery of it’s overall story arc. Right from the start of the first chapter things kick off into high gear, where are after a few pages this extreme sense of unease begins to creep up on you. It is not long before you reach the very first of many gruesome pictures that are sure to keep you awake at night.
Now you probably think that with the word gruesome you will see buckets of blood and gore being spilled. And with that assumption you would be wrong. You won’t find that here (well, not much anyway), this being more of a psychological horror. Honestly that is exactly how I like my horror. For me that’s always been a much more effective way of creating scares. I loved how with each chapter the town became more and more unstable, and the sense of fear this created was incredibly effective. The two lead characters are certainly both in their own ways people you want to see triumph amidst the unfolding madness. I like how Kirie is just an ordinary girl, who is very kind, and not some overpowered super woman. She has real fears, that she shows, but despite that fact she still tries to keep her cool during all the horrifying events that are happening to her. Shuichi is the first person that seems to sense that something is wrong. Which is why he wants Kirie to leave with him. As the story unfolds, he begins to become unstable himself but never to the point where he loses sight of the fact that he deeply cares for Kirie. He tries to protect her as best he can, something which he proves many times throughout the transpiring events.
As good as this story is, it’s the art that truly brings it to life. I have contained a few pictures for you in this post, but I have tried not to give away some of the more disturbing imagery because that would simply rob you of your reading pleasure (Not to mention the scares you get when first you see them). The art is, as you can see, really incredible. I don’t have much experience when it comes to reading manga, but I do know good art when I see it. I should mention that not every chapter is of the same quality. And by that I don’t mean the art, but the story. Some chapters had ideas that were maybe a little bit too much out there, but that is pretty much nitpicking what I am doing now. Uzumaki is simply put an incredible reading experience for horror fans. A creepy and bone chilling atmosphere, accompanied by terrific art, makes this tome an absolute must buy. I highly recommend checking this one out if you have not done so already, unless of course horror is not your thing. This manga is a descent into total madness, and will keep you awake for many hours on end. It will also make you think twice whenever you see a spriral in daily life. So, you have been warned.
I give Uzumaki a 9 out of 10 score.