うずまき (Spiral) is a manga written and illustrated by (伊藤 潤二) Junji Ito and published by 小学館 (Shogakukan) and Viz Media respectively. The genres into which this manga can be put are: dementia (?), drama, horror, romance, supernatural, psychological, and seinen.
I read this manga in English and this was thanks to my friend, Moro, who gave me a hardback copy of the book. I’m always going to be extremely grateful to her for that, because I loved this manga!
The events follow Kirie and Shuichi who try to deal with supernatural occurrences involving spirals. Together, they and the other people in the town, witness the rather negative effects that spirals have and eventually try to escape.
Story and characters
As soon as I started reading I got very attached to the protagonists: 切り絵五島 (Kirie Goshima) and 修一佐藤 (Shuichi Sato). I found Kirie very cute and sweet and Shuichi seemed mature and intelligent – what with glasses and that hair. The town in which they lived though, 黒渦町 (Black Vortex Town) freaked me out since the beginning – which is good; this means the author achieved what he wanted. As I mentioned before I’m a sucker for horror, good horror, and Japanese horror still beats them all, in my opinion. I read Spiral at night and I loved how it freaked me out!
I’m not sure whether there will be any ‘I didn’t like’ constructions here because I loved it all.
The bond that Kirie and Shuichi shared was amazing in my opinion. I sensed understanding, trust, good communication (at times…), emotional support and I think it’s safe for me to also say love. I found their reactions quite interesting. And here I mean their reactions to everything, such as: Kirie’s reaction when Shuichi first described to her how he felt about the town and what was going on with his father; Shuichi’s reaction when he saw what was happening with his father’s ashes, and so on and so forth.
I also found Kirie’s relationship with her family very… reassuring I could say, I think. And I liked a lot how protective she was of her little brother. I found Kirie very mature. I mean, yeah, sometimes she freaked out, sometimes she ran away, but she still tried to understand what was going on, she still tried to help whenever she could, she still believed in the good nature of human beings. And this is shown best especially in chapters 10 (Mosquitoes) and 11 (The Umbillical Cord), when she was in the hospital and the whole incident with pregnant women (including her cousin) happened. To me, she seemed to be a very caring and gentle person and I liked her a lot for that.
Shuichi was also very protective of Kirie and this can be seen throughout the whole story. I loved that. To me it’s very important to feel safe and secure when in a relationship, especially when in a couple relationship. And what they had – Kirie and Shuichi – seemed to be exactly that. I thought their relationship was tacit, yet understanding and mature.
The art was insane – I loved it! I always loved spirals but never before had they freaked me out. Now they did, but in some kind of funny way. I really, really enjoyed this manga. I appreciated a lot how it made me feel. I think Junji managed very well to depict what was going through his mind.
Time out for a second, back to where I said ‘I always loved spirals’: I’ve a funny little story here. I was in high school (in Romania) and the school psychologist came to one of our classes to… honestly, I don’t know what he planned to do. Anyway, he asked us to draw, on a piece of paper, a line – any kind of line, so I drew a spiral, starting from the centre and getting wider and wider. When we all said we’d finished, he drew various types of lines on the blackboard and started explaining ‘their meaning (?!)’. When he finished he asked if there had been anybody who had drawn something different, and since there was no spiral there I raised my hand (I was actually the only one…). When he saw what I drew he freaked out (kinda like Trelawney when she saw what Harry had in his cup of tea). And he asked me where I started – at the widest point or at the centre. I said at the centre and he calmed down and said ‘good, then you’re looking towards future, but in a very complicated way; had you started from the widest part, you’d have lived in your past, but you’re ok’. I didn’t know whether I was supposed to laugh or to cry….
So, back to this Spiral. The secondary characters also seemed complex. Some of them, well, most of them, might not have been there for too long, but for as long as they existed, they fulfilled their roles very well. As simple as they might have appeared to be in the beginning, even though their backgrounds and pasts were not detailed, I think they really were complex, I think they really had an interesting past which made them who they were; I am talking about, for example, the gang of kids who were causing whirlwinds – on purpose – just by breathing; and the couple in chapter 5 (Twisted Souls); and the people who turned into snails as well as all the others, really.
Speaking of characters, I remember my reaction when I saw Kurotani Azami, since she had exactly the same hairstyle that I do!!! Imagine my reaction when I saw how she ended up… oh boy…
I loved the concept of time in chapter 18 (The Labyrinth). It made me consider so many things regarding time – so much so, that I stopped reading for a few minutes and got lost in thought. This is the kind of book that I love – the one which makes me stop reading just to think some more. The one which makes me think it’s so awesome that I don’t want to overlook any details. The one which doesn’t let me put it down until I’ve read the last word on the last page. Spiral is one of those books.
Anyway, back to the story: up to a certain point, I did actually think that Kirie and Shuichi might end up alive, especially when I read chapter 17 (Escape) so I was kind of disappointed at the end of the book. I said kind of because most probably, even if I didn’t want to admit it to myself, I knew all along how they’d eventually end up. There was no other way, I suppose. But somehow, the ending, instead of making me sad, it actually made me smile. I wasn’t entirely happy, but I was definitely smiling. Maybe because they stayed together. Maybe because the book had been so brilliant, maybe because of how it made me feel since it was so brilliant. Maybe…maybe…maybe… there are so many maybes. Bottom line: I loved it. That book was indeed awesome. I shall give it a little bit of time (maybe until after the exams) and then re-read it. I can’t wait! Oh yeah, the Afterword chapter was hilarious – it cracked me up so bad!!
Oh yeah, now that I think about it, Moro told me something about snails, I can’t remember what it was – it was a joke anyway, completely unrelated to the story; at that point, what she said completely freaked me out and I told her not to mention to me any sort of snails or facts about them until she has read the manga.
The pictures in this post are taken by me; the art, obviously, belongs to Junji Ito.