Juniji Ito is a mastermind of a mangaka. The manga Uzumaki is a showcase of his incredible story telling and artistic skill. It is one of his most famous works, and for good reason too.
THE SPIRAL OBSESSION
Ito’s selection of the spiral is an excellent choice. Its geometric and perfect shape makes it hard to believe it is natural.
When you pay attention, you will find that the spiral is all around you. Ito prods the readers mind forcing us to pay attention to the details around us. It brings to light all the things that we don’t realise even though they are clear.
One of my favourite moments in the story is when Mr. Saito is discovered in the tub. The artists perfect understanding of the human body makes it so he can render it so grotesquely.
Ito foreshadows the end of the story by making it so ashes of the dead swirl into Dragonfly Pond. Another thing that is easy to miss if you don’t pay attention to the details.
The obsession with spirals is a theme that is continuous throughout the story.
SPIRALS AND MESMERISM
Spirals have a pattern that draws the viewer in, it is mesmerising and hypnotic.
The chapters “Scar” and “Medusa” both feature female leads. Themes of beauty, popularity and attention seeking are prominent.
This is Ito’s way of saying that women have a hypnotic aspect about them. Beauty and uniqueness triggers jealousy, obsession and possessiveness. The effect is like that of a pendulum swinging left to right with the gaze of people fixated on it. Each with their own reaction to what is happening.
But, Ito also warns that there must be a limit to how far you should take things. Else you can become self destructive while also harming those around you. Drawing them into your own spiral of destruction.
In the chapter “The Snail”, Ito conveys the risk of being at a greater disadvantage than those around you. One can draw a comparison to a treadmill, if you slow down while the speed is high you are likely to fall and be swept away.
He moves you with a sad story, while also showing us that people get the karma they deserve.
One can argue that he also takes on some societal issues. The hermaphrodite snails being an allusion to homosexual relations.
This theme is also in the chapter “The Black Lighthouse”. The boys who were last out of the lighthouse were burnt. There was no specific reason for them to have been burnt by the spiral curse, they were just unlucky enough to have been in the way.
Here, Ito is saying that life is unfair and some people don’t make it to the happy ending they deserve. It is also symbolic of how no matter how hard we try, we cannot always save and protect people from their fate.
ART OF THE SPIRAL
As an artist himself, Ito must have put himself in the shoes of Mr. Goshima. According to him an artist is one who doesn’t believe in the critics and judges his own work.
Mr. Goshima appears to be an extension of Ito, a man who is devoted to his work and is obsessed with the grotesque. Someone who finds beauty in the disturbing and is not afraid to explore it.
Ito inadvertently conveys his own beliefs on art. I have great amount of respect and adoration for him because of this. I believe he is one of the biggest influences on the horror genre today.
THE SPIRAL OF LOVE
Romcom fans rejoice! Even when your town is battling an infestation of spirals, love is still prevalent. That is- in the signature twisted Juniji Ito style.
Ito paints a picture of the different types of unhealthy relationships. The one that is based on surface appearances, is shown in “Scar”. There is unrequited love in the story “Jack in the box”, and an obsessive, destructive type in “The Storm”. Of course not everyone has good intentions when it comes to love, and Ito portrays this perfectly.
Despite these sad instances, Ito also gives examples of pure, unconditional love. In the Shakespearean story of “Twisted Souls”, two teenagers elope. Leaving behind their families and homes so that they can be together at peace.
In “Completion”, Kirie’s parents die together in the end, entangled and in love. She finds herself in the arms of her boyfriend during her last moments as well.
Just as love is destructive, it is also beautiful and comforting. It can help you get through the roughest of times and can make even death seem less daunting. That is the message I get when I read these chapters.
MORE THAN LOVE
Love has a wider meaning than its stereotype, and it applies to a range of relationships.
Ito also brings out the love for family, Kirie's bond with her brother and her parents was very strong. She was unwilling to leave them behind to flee the town. She looked after and protected them throughout the story.
In the chapters "Mosquitos" and Umbilical Cord", Ito renders the love of motherhood. How mothers are willing to kill for their babies in order for them to grow to be strong and beautiful. The mothers are even willing to destroy their bodies for their babies to be comfortable.
This bond is the strongest that I have seen in “Uzumaki”. It is one that is more than love, it is loyalty and duty, as well as an undying affection for each other.
END OF UZUMAKI
The ending of the story is a build up of all the madness in the town. It is an almost apocalyptic, as people lose their senses and nothing seems to make sense anymore. They lose themselves in selfishness and madness at a time when they need to be the most selfless.
If you are familiar with Ito’s work, you will find that the even the strangest start to a story is mild compared to its end. The format of “Uzumaki” makes it so the deeper you get into the story the crazier it gets.
Usually at the end of stories everything becomes clear. In this story, however, as it ends you are left with more questions than you started with. Like the aftermath of a hurricane, even though it’s calm now, everything is in tatters.
It is a fitting end, akin to the way a spiral stops at the centre of itself.