Legendary horror manga artist, Junji Ito’s most iconic work is getting an animé adaptation that remains true to the mangaka’s gripping style. The artist’s spiral motif themed horror series Uzumaki is set for release on Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim later this year.
Written and illustrated by acclaimed manga artist (mangaka), Junji Ito, Uzumaki uses a common Japanese symbol menacingly, and attaches it to a mysterious force, which the story’s protagonists must contend with. Ito expertly explores the concept of obsession, having himself obsessively studied spiral shapes in the creation of the original manga work.
Uzumaki, received massive critical acclaim at the time of it’s release, even going on to be nominated for an Eisner Award. Adaptation of the narrative, and haunting atmosphere of the manga to other media however, have previously failed to fully capture it’s spookiness. Video games, and a live-action film adaptation have fallen short of doing Ito’s work any justice. So much so, that the mangaka was reluctant to agree to this iteration of his narrative. Except, the proposed director, and the fact that it remains true to it’s monochromatic origins won Ito over.
The story is centered around a small coastal town, Kurouzu-cho (Black Vortex town), which appears to be plagued by a supernatural force that has a thing for spirals. Kirie and Suichi, the star-crossed protagonists of the tail,play witness to the effects – on town and citizens – of the spiral curse, as it warps it’s way through reality. Obsession & paranoia are the order of the day, as even Suichi becomes a recluse after losing his parents in spiral related incidents.
Kirie herself isn’t spared from the spiral curse as her hair develops a will of it’s own, draining her of her life force, playing havoc with people’s minds, and even trying to kill her when she attempts to chop it off. A signature Junji Ito theme.
Terraced houses are central to the narrative, as Ito first imagined the manga playing out in a traditional Japanese terraced house. However, the terraced house theme expands to a point where the spiral curse forces Kurouzu-cho’s citizens to move into such structures as the spiral curse destroys all buildings, except terraced homes.
The pair, after witnessing, and experiencing a series of supernatural spiral related tragedies, and a failed escape from the town, venture into the centre of the spiral curse. This leads to the discovery of the origin of the curse, an answer which artfully hints at the infinity implied by spiral patterns.
Ito was inspired to develop the Uzumaki narrative when he noticed the positive representation spiral shapes received in local media and decided to subvert spirals in a horror theme.
“Usually, spiral patterns mark character’s cheeks in Japanese comedy cartoons, representing an effect of warmth. However, I thought it could be used in horror if I drew it a different way.”. Junji Ito
Throughout his career, Ito has subverted many common, positively viewed, themes. A recurring theme in his work is that of a female character with living hair, itself being a subversion of the tradional Japanese feminine ideal. Ito also attests to drawing a great deal of inspiration from the work of horror novelist H.P. Lovecraft, who’s atmospheric expressionism and story development had a large influence on the creation of Uzumaki.
The Uzumaki animé adaptation is under the development of animé house Production IG and will air on Adult Swim’s Toonami. Although originally slated for release in the middle of this year, Covid-19 related delays have caused the show’s released to be pushed back to around October of this year.