Josh Dunigan |||

Uzumaki

Uzumaki is a Japanese horror manga by Junji Ito.

The Spiral Obsession

The setting of this manga is in a small remote village near the sea. It is remote because of the natural barriers like a forest, mountains, and the sea, but the town is connected by roads to a near by town where one of the main characters goes to high school. The main character is a regular high school girl, Kirie, and her boyfriend, Shuichi, who is the one who goes to the near by high school.

Shuichi’s dad starts becoming obsessed with spirals at the beginning of the story. He starts noticing shapes in the town. He becomes enchanted with just the Platonic form of the spiral itself, especially the way you can get lost by looking at the spiral. Shuichi’s dad even goes to visit Kirie’s dad, who makes ceramics, asking for something spiral shaped to be made for him. The father then buys a circular wooden tub it seems like, and the chapter ends with his body stuffed into the tub in a spiral pattern. Even when the father is cremated, the ashes rise in the sky and ends up forming a spiral pattern in the sky.

More and more spiral stories emerge in this manga. One student ends up becoming envious of the spiral hair of Kirie and grows her own spiral hair. The spiral hair is demonic and seems to possess a life of its own and the envious student ends up having all of her life drained out, turning into a skeleton. Another student ends up being rejected by Shuichi and it was her first time being rejected from a guy after always having every guy fall for her. A spiral starts forming on her forehead, and ends up consuming most of her head. The spiral turns out to be a vortex-like portal and sucks in the own girls body and another student she was using for her own ends.

Kirie’s father started using the clay from the pond in the town to make his ceramics. The clay was mixed with the ashes of all the spiral obsessed victims who were cremated, and the ceramics took on weird spiral patterns and had the faces of the dead imprinted on the ceramics. Shuichi and Kirie, the only ones aware of the oddities happening in town, recognized the faces in the ceramics, the spiral patterns, and the fact that it was from the ashes mixed with the clay and ended up destroying the kiln.

After more and more spiral related madness takes over the town, hurricanes bombard the town and cause some weird physical phenomena to happen. Any big breathes taken or fast bodily movements will cause tornadoes to happen. Some of the residents start to take davantage of this and wreak havoc on the town. All of the buildings except the older shack like houses are affected by the whirlwind. Meanwhile, outsiders are pouring into the town for aid and to see what happened after hurricane, only to find out that they cannot leave the spiral-infected town and must stay.

As more people poor in for aid, the survivors start to crowd the old shacks and then extend them so that they can fit more people inside. After extending the houses, they formed a perfect spiral-like labyrinth. The main characters end up going to the center of the town to find that there is some sort of spiral like kingdom that is under the middle of the town, where the lake used to be. After a long descent down a spiral staircase, our main characters find some spiral kingdom that could not have been built just by man. After discovering that the shacks when extended make a spiral, the spiral staircase in the middle of the town, and the spiral kingdom under the town, Kirie and Shuichi understood that there was no escaping the spiral and their fate is sealed. They figured that it is some recurring event that happens every so often, the current residents are the ones who suffered this time. So Kirie and Shuichi lay down, embrace, and become entangled spiral humans.

Spirals in Reality

The concept of a spiral is just a regular thing we use for certain situations in everyday language. We might say someone spiraled out of control, or that a situtation spiraled out of control. Certain things we say are spirals like greed, envy, or comparative happiness (what results from comparing yourself with someone else) to others. If you want money from money’s sake, you are going to find no end to the amount of money that will satisfy you. If you compare yourself to others, there is always going to be someone who is better than you in some way or another.

Even more abstract, there are certain beliefs, ideaologies, and political beliefs that are spiral in form as well. The totalitarian regimes of Hitler and Stalin had no end. What started out was a fervor of national pride founded on hate, had no end for Germany. In Russia, you were either with or against the state. What being with the state meant was arbitrary, one would have to listen to what Stalin said was sufficient to be a good citizen each morning otherwise you may end up dead for breaking some law, despite thinking you followed the laws. The situations in both of these nations spiraled out of control because the reasons they were founded on had no determinate end, to keep the movement going you had to keep it going in a sense.

Americans and other consumerist nations are constantly redefining our lives to be oriented towards work, to a career. Work is a means to an end, not an end in itself. We are seeing the good things in our lives, things that are ends in themselves, being phased out. We are cutting liberal arts programs, art is becoming commercialized and data driven to make a profit, people are choosing work over things like love, social life, or self-love increasingly. If we are grounding our lives in work, there is no end to work and we may spiral out of control as well, which seems to be happening.

The rise of isolationism, racism, hate, society-as-workers, and greed make it seem like we are Kirie and Shuichi sometimes, being swept along in this endless spiral that we have no control over. The allure of the spiral is similar to the allure of many of the spirals of reality. It is alluring and easy to get drawn into money, it is easy to take that job at Facebook, to cash out, and live a nice bougie life. It is easy to blame things on people you irrationally hate. It is easy to be racist or sexist. All of the spirals that we can find ourselves in our psychologically tempting, intellectually satisfying, or just make it easier to live.

Maybe most people cannot resist the spiral and these things are out of our control. Maybe everything is spiral in some form or another and that life itself is a spiral. Maybe there is no Aristotelian final cause of humanity. I have no answer for those, but I do believe that some of the previously mentioned beliefs are spiral like in their nature and follow a similar path as the path for the townspeople in Uzumaki.

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