"Uzumaki (3-in-1, Deluxe Edition)" Trade Paperback Review
Written by Gabino Iglesias
Published by VIZ Media
Originally published as Uzumaki, Vol.1, Vol. 2, and Vol. 3
Written by Junji Ito
Illustrated by Junji Ito
Graphic novel released on October 15th, 2013
When it comes to horror manga, every debate has to have Junji Ito's Uzumaki as either the starting or finishing point. Drawn from 1998 to 1999, Uzumaki is a perfect example of a master at the peak of his career and proof that a visual narrative can be spooky, smart, Lovecraftian, and gory without being derivative or having to rely on clichés.
Kurôzu-cho is a small, uninteresting town on the coast of Japan. However, there's something strange happening that will soon turn into an inescapable nightmare. Kirie Goshima, a regular teenager, goes to school and tries to enjoy a normal life with her family and her boyfriend, Shuichi Saito. Sadly, Shuichi starts behaving strangely and becomes even more withdrawn than usual when his father dies a bizarre death after becoming obsessed with spirals. Kirie doesn't think anything's wrong with the town at first, but the events that follow Shuichi's father's death quickly convince her that Kurôzu-cho is cursed by uzumaki, the spiral, a shape that's everywhere and brings madness, death, and destruction to the town.
Ito is an incredible artist and Uzumaki offers a plethora of images that demonstrate it. The art is outstanding, especially when it comes to gore, horror- and pain-stricken faces, and deformed/transformed/destroyed human bodies. An artist can be measured by two elements: whether their art is powerful enough to make you feel something and their ability to make their characters' faces clearly communicate emotion. Ito does both to a degree that calling him a master is not hyperbole. Some of the scenes depicted here will stay with you for a long time after you're done reading the story.
Besides the art, Uzumaki is a must-read classic because the chapters, which are all fragments of a very cohesive narrative, offer a wonderfully original mix of everything from body horror and adventure to survival/post-apocalyptic elements and a few Lovecraftian touches. Also, the story works as a study of the strongest human emotions. Ito takes away all fillers and delivers 20 chapters full of panic, anxiety, and paranoia. Shuichi knows what's happening, but no one will listen to him, and that turns him into a recluse who seems to spiral (no pun intended) slowly into madness out of fear and frustration. When you take all that and add the suffering of family members and the fact that the curse seems to augment every negative human trait, Uzumaki turns into the kind of horror story that works on many levels.
This 3-in-1 deluxe omnibus edition, which reads left to right just like a traditional manga, offers every Uzumaki comic ever published and a few bonuses like a lost chapter, some color pages, and an afterword. Its 648 pages are packed into a very nice hardcover with art on the front, back, and spine. If you're an Uzumaki fan, this maddening tome is a must for you. If you've never read this classic, now you can do so all at once and with what I'm willing to call the definitive edition. Go and get this now. After all, the only thing at stake is your sanity.