The spiral seems harmless until the horror mangaka (manga artist) Junji Ito tells you that you’re ignorant. Ignorant to the fact that it has consumed you without you knowing it. Then, you suddenly become aware of every spiral around you. And now, you have a nascent fear (embedded in the deepest darkest part of your mind) that you might soon start breaking the bones in your body to twist yourself into a convoluted corpse. If you do, don’t worry about it – Ito has that effect. Any fans of good horror would find themselves blanketed in the discomfort of Ito’s masterpieces, or at least, on their way there.
Ito has been celebrated for works like Tomie and Gyo as well as for his collected series of short horror stories. He has chilled people’s spines ever since his first comic submission to the Gekkan Halloween (a magazine) which had later won him the Kazuo Umezu award.
However, the mangaka’s three-volume creation Uzumaki (also known as Spiral) is without a doubt one of his most celebrated works. Jumping straight (or twistedly) into Uzumaki, the manga focuses on a teenage girl, Kirie Gorishima, and her encounters in her own town, Kurozu-cho, that has been cursed by ‘the Spiral’. The story brings with us an assemblage of characters that, alongside our protagonist, will try to escape the winded woes of Kurozu-cho. Doom is almost present at every turn, and if you have yet to read the story, be prepared for a tasteful array of body horror and tragedy.
Indeed, the tales of Uzumaki is a thrilling and eye-spinning read. While some might find the ending a little too ‘large’ for the scope of the story, let it be known that Ito knew his plot twists before he even finished them. It has been highly praised by the fans and media alike. So it would make perfect sense that the coiling curiosities of this particular manga have set high standards towards its anime adaptation.
Being the well-loved manga that Uzumaki is, it is without a doubt that fans wanted to plaster Ito’s magnum opus onto screens. It has recently been announced at Crunchyroll’s Expo that Uzumaki will be adapted into a four-episode television series. Animated by Production I.G, the anime will air in 2020 on Adult Swim’s Toonami in the United States, before even premiering in Japan.
And well, as far as nightmares go, the adaptations of Ito’s previous works weren’t the cries we needed. The film and animated features were poorly received with the stories either being bland and inaccurate to the original, or being mere fan-service through copy-and-pasting of the manga art frames. The frustration from fans was loud, clear, and ever valid. Ito himself shared the same disappointment and was certain that after 2018’s disastrous adaptation, he would never let his works hit the screens again. So, what changed his mind with Uzumaki?
Two words: Hiroshi Nagahama. A famous director in his own right, Nagahama has beautifully crafted the animated adaptations of Mushishi and The Flowers of Evil. Both these anime series proved that tragedy and horror can come to life in moving pictures as well as on the pages of their respective mangas. It would only make sense that there is hope for Uzumaki if it was done under Nagahama’s watchful eyes. Adding to that, the music score is being fully written by Colin Stetson, who is known for his scores in Ari Aster’s Hereditary. And last, for the cherry on top, the adaptation will be fully animated in black and white – an ode to the dissatisfaction of fans and critics alike that the previous adaptations had been untrue to the manga due to their use of colour.
Simple details for sure. But it has always been in Ito’s mind to show through his works that even a creature as simple as a mosquito can make a gory difference. Surely, we can hope that the anime will do justice to his masterpiece.