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Uzumaki by Junji Ito: A Short Manga Review And Recommendation

Uzumaki mangadigest

Alternative title: Spiral; Vortex

Author: Junji Ito

Demographic: Seinen

Genre: Horror, Mystery, Tragedy, Supernatural

First published: 1998

Length: 20 Chapters; 3 Volumes; 1 Omnibus

Manga Database: MyAnimeList, MangaUpdates

What is Uzumaki about

In the outskirts of Japan, squeezed between mountain range and the sea, is a small town called Kurouzu-chou. This is the place that is about to be heavily infected by spirals. It started with one man’s obsession with spirals and quickly spread to everybody in town. 

Small, isolated incidents involving spirals happen all over Kurouzo-chou. Hair that suddenly turns spiral, girl with spiral dig into her skull, lovers who twist together like a pair of snakes, talking babies, snail people, and lots of other crazy things happen until the town finally falls to ruin. 

The story of Uzumaki

Premise. Uzumaki has one of the most bizarre premises that I’ve ever come across. A horror story built around spirals? what? Who would’ve thought about that? Well, Junji Ito did. The horror master is no stranger to weird premises, but the way he handles this one is simply out of this world. 

Character development. The main character of Uzumaki is Kirie and I’m glad to say that there is a character development for her, albeit a bit subtle. It’ll be great if her character is explored a bit more in order to create a more rounded character. But well, it is still better than nothing I suppose.

World building. There’s not much world-building during the first half of the story. But thankfully the second half presents a much wider variety of settings and concepts. Especially near the end of the story where the character finally started to explore new places and meet new people.

Pacing. For the most part, the chapters within Uzumaki tell individual stories that follow a similar pacing structure. It started slow, picked up some pace in the middle, reached top speed, then hit a brick wall and abruptly ended. And the book as a whole is also following the exact same structure.

Story progression. Uzumaki feels like a collection of short stories that are based around the same theme that is collected under the frame of Kirie’s narrative. Kinda like Scheherazade in One Thousand And One Nights. So it’s not just a bunch of loosely-connected short stories. It does have a clear beginning, middle and end.

The art of Uzumaki

Uzumaki 03 mangadigest

Anatomy and perspective. As expected from veteran mangaka such as Junji Ito, there is no noticeable issue when it comes to the anatomy and perspective drawings within Uzumaki. Even the deformities, no matter how crazy they are, are done in a believable, sort of, manner. 

Expression. The expression in every Junji Ito’s manga always follows the exact same range. It goes from the default normal/indifference face to the look of utter terror. Uzumaki shows the whole spectrum of that range. But the most stand out one is of course his collection of spine-chilling faces.

Movement. Junji Ito has always been brilliant when it comes to depicting movement. But outside of the usual movements like walking, running and jumping, he is also a master when it comes to unusual movements. Such as squirming, the spider walking, slithering, etc. 

Panel flow. For the most part, Junji Ito used conventional panels in Uzumaki. Occasionally, there will be a full page spread or transitional panels. And all of them flow nicely from one panel to the next. He also used quite a lot of dynamic angles to his drawings that enhance the flow of the panels even further.

Originality. If you ever see Junji Ito’s artwork before, you’ll instantly recognize it the next time you see one. Most of his characters have similar facial features and a gloomy atmosphere to them. And he also used a lot of shading and black tone in his panels, which is responsible for his trademark somber mood.

Where to get Uzumaki

Throughout the years, there have been several versions of Uzumaki published in English. The first one being the original three volumes format. But they don’t publish them any longer. So if you want them, there should be some on eBay. 

The ubiquitous formats nowadays are the digital version and the hardcover 3-in-1 formats from Viz. Which one you should get depends highly on what kind of reader you are. 

If you simply want to read it, then going for the digital version is the best option. It is cheaper, easier to read, you can read it on any device that has the kindle app, and it won’t take any physical space. 

But if you want to add it to your collection, then you should buy the hardcover deluxe version. The size is bigger than usual manga and the quality of the paper is also better. 

You can click here to get the digital version from Kindle. Click here for the hardcover from Amazon. And click here for the hardcover from Rightstufanime. 

Manga similar to Uzumaki

Tomie by Junji Ito

Tomie mangadigest

Another masterpiece from Junji Ito, Tomie is the story of the mysterious girl named Tomie. She has an unrivaled beauty and could charm any men who laid eyes on her. 

Many men would do her bidding to prove their love to her. They love her so much that they’re willing to destroy their own life. They love her so much that they would cut her up to pieces. And yet she keeps on coming back.

Similar to Uzumaki, Tomie is also made up of individual chapters that are built around the same concept. But if Uzumaki is all about an object, the spirals. Tomie is all about an individual, the alluring beauty called Tomie.

Hell’s Paradise by Yuji Kaku

HellParadise mangadigest

Out of the three manga in this list, Hell’s Paradise is the most recent one. It is a story about a band of death row bandits that are tasked to obtain the elixir of immortality in a mysterious island in exchange for their life.

Unbeknownst to them, the island is filled with monsters and strange creatures. From a giant deformed monster to a humanoid creature that could change their sex at will. All are out to slaughter them.

Hell’s paradise bears a lot of similar themes with Uzumaki. Bizarre incidents, deformed humans, mysteries, and many more. But this one is a shounen manga, which means there will be action and adventure inside. 

The Drifting Classroom by Kazuo Umezu

DriftingClassroom mangadigest

If the previous one is a recent manga, The Drifting Classroom is a classic horror manga series. And although it was first published in 1972, the terror is still alive and well within its pages. 

As the story goes, a group of elementary schoolers are transformed into a wasteland filled with terrible monsters and bizarre occurrences. With no exit in sight, they find themselves trying to survive in this strange world.

One of the best story elements in Uzumaki is about the dark side of humanity. Well, The Drifting Classroom will take it up to eleven. Because in this dangerous world, even children have to be ruthless.  


Out of every scary moment in Uzumaki, the one that stuck to me the most is the very first story. The tale of a man who’s become obsessed with Spirals to the point of taking his own life. You could even call it a story of an addiction. 

One of my many vices is, as you might expect, reading manga. Whenever I come across a really good manga, I won’t do anything else until I finish reading it. 

I don’t care how much money I have to spend or the time it takes to read the whole thing. At that moment, I was obsessed. You might even call me a manga addict at this point. There are times when it gets really bad and I find myself trying to stay away from manga entirely. 

And that’s why that one story really struck close to home for me. Strip it out of its horror and supernatural elements, then it could very well be the path that every kind of addict would take. An erratic man who makes irrational decisions.

That is pretty much one of the reasons why I made this blog. At least this way I could channel my obsession into something that might be useful to other people. And I can have another source of income while at it, which is also a good thing. 

For more on Uzumaki, check out my 10 creepiest moments in Junji Ito’ Uzumaki. And for more horrr manga, check out the Top 10 scary manga from 10 different horror subgenres.

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