The 5 Best Chapters in Junji Ito’s Uzumaki

Junji Ito is one of my favorite horror creators and Junji Ito’s Uzumaki is among my favorite horror manga of all time. It’s not only disturbing, it’s also entirely unique. Most other horror manga feature killers, monsters, or supernatural entities, not so Uzumaki. It presents us with a premise that’s almost nonsensical, silly even, but Junji Ito brings it forth in all its twisted and horrific glory.

Junji Ito’s Uzumaki is the story of Kirie Goshima and Shuuichi Saitou and tells the story of what happened in the small coastal town of Kurouzu-cho which is infested by spirals. There are no monsters or killers here, no psychopaths or ghosts, no, there’s only concept which manifests as an omnipresent curse.

Junji Ito's Uzumaki - Intro
© Junji Ito – Uzumaki

Over the course of this three volume epic, our main characters stumble upon one freakishly scary incident after another.

What makes Junji Ito’s Uzumaki so great, however, isn’t its story or its characters, it’s Junji Ito’s art and creativity. His imagination is incredible and disturbing and he always finds new ways to conjure up the horror of the spiral.

Junji Ito’s Uzumaki comprises three volumes divided into twenty chapters. While I consider Uzumaki as a whole a masterpiece, it has its highs and lows.

That’s why I decided to write this article in which I want to discuss my favorite chapters of Junji Ito’s Uzumaki.

As always, I’d like to give a spoiler warning. If you haven’t read the manga yet, I suggest you do so because I’m going to discuss each chapter and its plot.

5. Escape

Junji Ito's Uzumaki - The Escape 1
© Junji Ito – Uzumaki

I regard the third volume of Junji Ito’s Uzumaki as its weakest. At the outset of the third volume, multiple storms have transformed the town of Kurouzu-cho into an apocalyptic mess of rubble.

While volume three brings the manga to its Lovecraftian conclusion, it also features elements which I didn’t enjoy. What I enjoyed, however, was the depressing and eerie atmosphere as Kirie and Shuuichi travel the ruined town. There’s a feeling of despair and futility that hangs heavily over Uzumaki’s last chapters.

Junji Ito's Uzumaki - The Escape 2
© Junji Ito – Uzumaki

This is most prevalent in chapter seventeen, Escape. It is here that Kirie and Shuuichi make one last attempt to flee the twisted hell that Kurouzu-cho has become. As we follow them into the mountains, we see that by now everything has fallen to the curse of the spiral. Nature itself has become warped, twisted and has taken on the form of the spiral. Soon enough, however, we see that even those who want to flee the town succumb to madness and are slowly twisted into the form of the spiral.

And it’s here we realize how ironic the chapter’s title truly is. Because we learn that an escape from Kurouzu-cho and the curse of the spiral is impossible.

4. The Spiral Obsession Part 1

Junji Ito's Uzumaki - The Spiral Obsession Part 1 Picture 1
© Junji Ito – Uzumaki

If there’s one thing to be said about Junji Ito’s Uzumaki is that it wastes no time and presents us with the horrific curse of the spiral right from the get-go.

After a brief introduction to our main characters, we soon learn that Shuuichi’s father has recently become obsessed with spirals. At first, this obsession manifests in him collecting all spiral-shaped objects he can find. After his wife gets rid of said collection, his obsession takes on a more disturbing turn, one that should ultimately lead to his demise. For he learns he can use his own body to create spirals.

Junji Ito's Uzumaki - The Spiral Obsession Part 1 Picture 2
© Junji Ito – Uzumaki

It’s a fantastic introduction chapter that truly brings forth the horror of Junji Ito’s Uzumaki in all its glory. The chapter is ripe in body horror as we witness how Shuuichi’s father twists and contorts parts of his body into the form of the spiral. The chapter also features one of the most popular and unsettling panels in all of Junji Ito’s Uzumaki.

Truly a fantastic and disturbing introduction to Kurouzu-cho and the curse of the spiral.

3. The Black Lighthouse

Junji Ito's Uzumaki - The Black Lighthouse 1
© Junji Ito – Uzumaki

I believe that Junji Ito’s Uzumaki is at its best in its second volume. It’s here that Ito’s creativity is at its peak, and the curse of the spiral takes on even stranger and more disturbing forms than in its first volume.

The Black Lighthouse is one of these chapters. Lighthouses always give off an eerie atmosphere and seem to be a perfect setting for horror. Junji Ito’s Uzumaki is no different.

The chapter begins with Kurouzu-cho’s abandoned lighthouse working again. Everyone is puzzled about it, but soon enough the light influences people and renders them impossible to walk in a straight line.

This, however, is only the chapter’s beginning. Before long, Kirie’s brother Mitsuo and his friends enter the lighthouse, prompting Kirie to follow them. As she climbs the seemingly endless stairs, she soon notices spiral patterns all over the walls. Those patterns are rendered in beautiful detail and give the entire staircase an almost disorienting feeling.

Junji Ito's Uzumaki - The Black Lighthouse 2
© Junji Ito – Uzumaki

Before long, Kirie stumbles upon horribly burned bodies and discovers that the lighthouse’s lens has melted out of shape, taking on the form of a spiral. As Kirie stares at it, she realizes it must be the light that melted the lens, but also burned the bodies she saw before.

And of course, Junji Ito isn’t satisfied by merely teasing at the idea of burning hot light. No, as Kirie, her brother and his friends flee down the stairs, we bear witness to one of the boys being consumed almost instantly.

The Black Lighthouse is a fantastic chapter. It show’s Junji Ito’s artistry by showing us the many spiral patterns, the melted lens, but also the horribly burned bodies. Truly a fantastic chapter.

2. The Snail

Junji Ito's Uzumaki - The Snail 1
© Junji Ito – Uzumaki

While The Snail is lower on gore than many other chapters, it serves to be one of, if not the most unsettling and unnerving chapter in Junji Ito’s Uzumaki.

The Snail is the first chapter in which we bear witness to people transforming into snails. Junji Ito, of course, isn’t satisfied by showing us a disturbing and gross transformation, no he goes even further. After Katayama, a bullied boy, transforms into a snail, his bully, Tsumura, soon turns into a snail itself. Not knowing what to do with the snails, the school keeps them in an enclosure. And here we come to the most disturbing and unsettling part of the chapter. Snails are hermaphrodites and we soon witness Katayama and Tsumura mating.

Junji Ito's Uzumaki - The Snail 2
© Junji Ito – Uzumaki

People turning into snails is disturbing enough and Junji Ito brings forth this transformation in all its glorious detail. The bully and his former victim mating, however, are beyond unsettling.

A fantastic chapter that might be lower on gore, but which brings forth concepts that are unsettling and unnerving in an entirely different way.

1. The Umbilical Cord

Junji Ito's Uzumaki - The Umbilical Cord - 1
© Junji Ito – Uzumaki

Junji Ito’s Uzumaki features many strange and disturbing ideas. Still, The Umbilical Cord might be the manga’s most disturbing chapter. It’s the second chapter set at Kurouzu-cho’s hospital.

After the events of The Black Lighthouse, Kirie was hospitalized. In the chapter Mosquito’s, she bore witness to pregnant women, including her cousin Keiko, sucking the blood from other patients. While Mosquito is a great chapter it only serves as the prelude to The Umbilical Cord.

The chapter beings with the birth of the babies of said blood-sucking woman. Kirie soon notices that something seems to be wrong about the babies. After the birth, strange mushrooms also become a regular ingredient in the hospital’s meals. While Kirie never eats them, other patients become obsessed with them.

Wondering what’s going on, Kirie wanders the hospital and hears a conversation between the babies who wish to be returned to the womb they came from.

When Kirie hears her cousin’s screams, she enters the operation room. There stumbles upon a plethora of the same mushrooms served as part of the hospital’s meals.

Junji Ito's Uzumaki - The Umbilical Cord - 2
© Junji Ito – Uzumaki

And here we learn what those mushrooms really are. They are nothing other than placenta, regrown from the babies’ umbilical cords. As if this wasn’t disturbing enough, we also learn what became of Keiko.

The Umbilical Cord is a chapter that’s ripe with disturbing and unsettling ideas. There are first the placenta-mushrooms who drive people mad, the creepy babies and the imagery of a woman whose baby is returned into her.

There’s just so much here, in this single chapter, that makes it an absolute masterpiece of the disturbing and of body horror.

The Umbilical Cord is the best chapter in Junji Ito’s Uzumaki’s. Not only for its imagery but also for the multiple, disturbing ideas it includes. It’s a fantastic chapter and the best in a fantastic horror manga. It also served as inspiration for my story A Very Special Type of Diet.

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