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Worlds Without End Blog

Horror Manga 101: Uzumaki – the Spiral Posted at 9:48 PM by Glenn Hough


Uzumaki 1Can the simple shape of a spiral be cause for alarm? Can it be a sign of a curse? A manifestation of a haunting? Or is it a gateway signature to something else entirely? These are the lingering questions that draw us, hypnotically, like the swirling lines of the spiral itself, every deeper into the mystery that is Uzumaki.

Here is what VIZ says about Uzumaki:

Kurôzu-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 According to Shuichi Saito, the withdrawn boyfriend of teenager Kirie Goshima, their town is haunted not by a person or being but by a pattern: uzumaki, the spiral, the hypnotic secret shape of the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 everything from seashells and whirlpools in water to the spiral marks on people’s bodies, the insane obsessions of Shuichi’s father and the voice from the cochlea in our inner ear. As the madness spreads, the inhabitants of Kurôzu-cho are pulled ever deeper into a whirlpool from which there is no return!

Uzumaki: The Spiral.

I’d heard that this was a manga to pay attention to. How right that advice is.

Uzumaki 10Uzumaki is episodic. It starts simply enough with a man who collects things with a spiral pattern on them. This obsession goes out of control when his wife throws his spiral collection away, so he must do something she can’t interfere with: turn his own body into spiral. At the funeral, during the cremation process, his ashes swirl around and around in the sky, in the shape of a spiral, before being drawn into Dragonfly pond, which is located in the center of town.

Next comes the women who develops an extreme phobia of spirals. If there’s one in her hair, off comes the hair. Spirals on her fingertips, off comes the skin of the fingers. When she finds out that the cochlea of the inner ear is spiral shaped, it’s time for the scissors. As the poor women dies, she considered herself dominated by the spiral. She’d also destroyed her sense of balance and had given herself a permanent case of vertigo. Her ashes too spiraled in the sky before being drawn into Dragonfly pond.

Uzumaki 6And so it goes, drawing us ever deeper into the strangeness and the bizarre as the shape of the spiral comes to dominate the town and people. The spiral shape on a girl’s forehead that slowly consumes her, sucking her into a vortex, leaving not a trace behind. The clay from Dragonfly pond, when shaped and fired by a potter, produces piece dominated by spiral etchings and patterns, which warps the shapes. A young couple, who live in one of the few remained row houses in the town, love each other, but are being torn apart by the hatred their families hold for each other. One day they see two snakes intertwined. If only they could intertwine like that. No one would keep them apart. The crisis comes quickly enough, and one day, on the beach, Yoriko and Kazunori entwine themselves as their families look on. They’ll never be parted again. Next comes a girl’s hair which comes alive, coiling into spiral shapes, which mesmerize all who look upon her. The hair actively defends itself from being cut, but a steadfast boyfriend perseveres, finding his chance when a second high school girl appears, with the same condition. The second one wants the attention the spirals bring. It’s to bad for her since the hair sucks the very life out of her, leaving a corpse behind. The hair manages to display itself for several hours before finally withering away.

Uzumaki 11Uzumaki has nothing to do with the splatter-gore porn of Hollywood horror. This work harkens back to vintage King, Lovecraft, and Poe. This is horror of the mind. The grotesque played out through the ever circling, endless spiral.  I think it’s one of those works that if you loved horror, but have now become board with it, this work will remind you why you loved horror in the first place.

So it continues: the high schooler who is slowly transformed into a snail. Why a snail? The spiral pattern of it’s shell has something to do with it. Then comes the out-of-service lighthouse which has suddenly sprung to life. It’s powered by no conventional means, which kill those who venture into it’s spiral staircase at the wrong time. Things escalate when a hurricane, such a nice spiral pattern this one has too, stalls over the town, and seems to maliciously strike at individuals. The remnants of the hurricane are also sucked into Dragonfly pond, as if this little pond is the center of everything. The pond is the center of town and after the hurricane, it’s the center of the devastation. The center that will unleash forces the can even bend space/time back in upon itself, holding those within, keeping those without at bay.

Uzumaki 2As we get deeper and deeper into the mystery and the horror, it becomes more and more obvious that this town is dealing with forces beyond human control; forces which suck the hapless citizens ever downward into the grips of the spiral. By the end, Junji Ito does give us answers that are oblique at best, cryptic and useless at their worse. There is no escape and it has all happened before. And it will happen again, given enough time and the failing of human memory. Perhaps that is the ultimate horror. There will be a sequel.

Uzumaki is brought to us by our good friends over at VIZ. They have released a hardbound complete edition for this horror masterpiece. If the need for a free copy has arisen, check out,, or


Scott Laz   |   05 Jun 2014 @ 16:36

Lovecraft is a good comparison, since this is definitely something that will appeal to aficionados of the weird. I happened to read this a few months ago and couldn’t put it down. Uzumaki and Drifting Classroom are the only horror manga I’ve read, and both were amazing. I guess I should be looking for more…

Glenn   |   06 Jun 2014 @ 03:17

Yeah, horror manga is new to me as well. Drifting Classroom is on my reading list along with The Ring. Museum of Terror and GYO, both by Ito, as well. He seems like one of their horror masters. Most of this stuff is already out of print and starting to command a bit of cash.

charlesdee   |   07 Jun 2014 @ 06:34

There is a remarkable film version of Uzumaki directed by the Ukranian/Japanese filmmaker Higuchinsky. It can involve only a few of the plot elements from the trilogy, but it uses the material to create a visually dazzling and thoroughly creepy experience.

Scott Laz   |   09 Jun 2014 @ 19:03

Thanks. I found the Uzumaki film on Netflix, and will look into finding more work by Ito…

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