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I was actually really excited to read this graphic novel. I've been seeking it out since it first dropped in America around 2002. I know - 12 years seems like a long time to wait to read a comic book, but understand that the nature of manga in the early aughts was that it was an expensive hobby for a teenager. Finally, the stars aligned and I was able to find it as an omnibus for a great price - also, I'm an adult with a job and I can actually afford that kind of hobby.

So, we've already talked about how difficult it is for horror stories to scare me. I'm not much of a sucker for the genre - in fact most attempts to scare me, I can't take seriously. It's a rare novel that will actually get under my skin, so to speak. Uzumaki did that. Because a lot of themes in horror are actually absurd, sometimes the line between stupid and scary can be easy to cross. But count on the Japanese to remove the line entirely. I mean, it's a combination of stupid and scary. There's no picking sides, there's no side to pick. And full disclosure, I don't mean "so stupid it's scary," like, you know, real life can sometimes be. I mean, the Japanese are so completely "odd-ball" by our Western standards that a lot of what is actually really scary about this manga could also be just complete weirdness.

This was weird at times, but I got the feeling that Junji Ito started off with this one crazy idea - for a man to become obsessed with the swirl pattern to the point of grotesqueness (he kills himself by forcing his body to become a swirl) - and had to apply swirls and spirals into the ongoing comic in whatever creative way he could manage. Mangaka are on such a demanding work schedule, they aren't ever given a lot of time to plan out their ideas, so sometimes the stories seem forced and don't work out very well, and sometimes they're really successful. This isn't dissimilar to the way Stephen King (in particular) works, actually.
Because this was a complete collection of the series, there were a few subtle details you notice when looking at the work as a whole instead of having collected the series book by book. For instance, early on, the series starts slow, but steady. Our heroine, Kirie, watches as her boyfriend's family is driven insane by any natural occurrence of spirals. When he loses both parents, natural spirals steadily begin effecting other people. Curls in your hair, snails, metal springs, ect. - all these become unlikely, yet all the more horrifying, killers. Though it's clear that when Junji Ito had his ending in sight, he knew exactly what he wanted to do with it. On a whole, it became creepier and creepier as the series progressed. It may be *gasp* my new favorite horror book!

Besides the story, it also had beautiful illustrations - in manga, it's unusual to see characters that are actually distinctive in ways besides haircuts and gender (sometimes, not even that!). But that wasn't the case here. Also, Kirie is one of those great feminist characters you don't get to see much in comic books. She's girly and loyal - in fact, her loyalty is her real strength. I disagree that feminist heroes can't have love, and must be bombastic. They can be, you know, regular, realistic girls too! They can be pretty, but don't have to be sexy. Kirie is all that!

Uzumaki might be my new favorite horror!!

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