Manga / Uzumaki

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"This is Kurôzu-cho, where I grew up. I would like to share with you... the strange events that took place here."

Kurôzu-cho, a small Japanese seaside village, is plagued by mysterious happenings. A man commits suicide in his own bathtub. A student's scar becomes a black hole. People start transforming into giant snails.

What do all these events have in common? The spiral. A suicidal man's body was contorted into a spiral. The student's scar became a spiral in its transformation into a black hole. The "snail people" are marked by their spiral-shaped birthmarks, which slowly transform into shells. To make matters worse, the small island town is completely cut off from the rest of the world; all ships are sunk by whirlpools, while the tunnel that leads to the outside world becomes an endless trip.

So begins the terrifying three-volume manga by Junji Ito (creator of The Enigma of Amigara Fault), centering upon a supposed curse placed upon the town.

The whole thing can be read here.

Not to be confused, in any way, with the main character of Naruto. Or Spiral Energy.

A live action film adaptation exists that has a large portion of the story left out, although this is partly due to the manga still being incomplete when the movie was made.


Tropes associated with Uzumaki:

  • Action Survivor: Shuichi and Kirie directly confront and fight off several of the spiral's manifestations and made it out alive, despite being average human beings with nothing that really makes them distinctive.
  • Adaptational Attractiveness: Shuichi. In the manga, he's scrawny and sickly pale to the point of some of his panels bordering on disturbing to look at, his clothes practically dangle off his body, the circles under his eyes are dark enough to almost look like bruises, his hair is shaggy and messy, and he's always got this bleak expression of pure hopelessness and exhaustion like he can barely keep his eyes open—but in the movie, he's tanned and athletic-looking and has well-groomed hair, his eyes have no dark circles, his cheekbones look perfectly normal, and his expression is more often than not a neutral one. This said, Shuichi wasn't exactly ugly per se in the manga, just astonishingly disheveled-looking.
  • Adaptation Dye-Job: In the movie, Kirie's hair (which was ginger in the manga) is black.
  • Adaptation Personality Change: Kirie, who was serious and often irritable in the manga, is made far more fearful and less independent. Shuichi, who was severely mentally ill and fearful in the manga, is made perpetually emotionless and abusive.
  • Adaptational Angst Upgrade: In the manga, Kirie was a fairly average young woman with an average social life and an upper middle class family. In the movie, she was extremely poor, bullied at school, and lived with her drunkard father, as her mother had died when she was young. To make matters worse she was also the constant victim of Shuichi's manipulative and abusive tendencies since she was a child.
  • Adaptational Intelligence: There's no proof that Shuichi is any smarter than many of the other manga characters; he's just psychic. However, in the movie, his psychic powers are nowhere to be seen, but he's a genius. Also completely inverted with Kirie, who was seemingly of average intelligence in the manga, but is shown as The Ditz in the movie.
  • Adaptational Villainy: Shuichi is a recurring antagonist of the movie, as Kirie's psychological/emotional abuser since childhood.
  • Adapted Out: Chie, Azami, Kazunori, Yoriko, Wakabayashi, Tanizaki, Okamoto, and Mitsuo do not appear in the movie at all.
  • Age Lift: Shuichi and Kirie, who were both eighteen in the manga, were made respectively twenty-something and fifteen in the movie.
  • Alien Geometries: Of a decidedly spirally sort.
  • Amateur Cast: The movie.
  • And I Must Scream: Practically the entire series, but special mentions go to...
    • Kirie is telling the story as a memory, which implies she (and possibly Shuichi) is still conscious... Even though they were frozen in time.
    • The people in the row houses who become so cramped that they become tied together like knots
    • A relatively mild example, but the people affected by the Lighthouse who are unable to walk in straight lines, experience constant vertigo, and end up walking around in a circle until they die
  • Apocalyptic Log: Kirie keeps narrating even after she's frozen in time. The scroll found hidden in the wall of the row house may also have been one of these.
  • Arbitrary Skepticism: Given what some people witness directly, their refusal to accept the possibility of later events is stupidity. (Most commonly the bat/ostrich archtype.) Lampshaded in chapter 7 when Kirie's jack in the box tells her that the jack in the box kid is going to come back to life and kill her, so Shuichi decides to go to the graveyard and stake the corpse before it can.
    Kirie: So you believe what that clown said?
    Shuichi: Tell me, how you can believe a toy clown said anything at all?
  • Arc Symbol: Spirals.
  • Arc Words: "It just pierces through my ears!"
  • Ascended Extra: Shiho, who only appeared for short bits of three chapters in the manga, had more screentime than Shuichi in the movie.
  • Attempted Rape: Azami to Shuichi in chapter 3.
  • Attention Whore: Sekino from the "Medusa" chapter.
    • On a larger scale, the Spiral itself seems to fall into this trope. The fact that spirals draw a person's eye into their center seems to be a major part of the story's underlying philosophy, and Suichi suspects that the Underground City beneath Kurozu-cho is angry at humanity for ignoring it.
  • Baleful Polymorph: Some people are turned into snails, while others turn into much worse things.
  • Beauty Is Never Tarnished:
    • Kirie was also infected with the godawful, demonic spiral warts later in the story. They're on her feet, but are very small, and cause no problems, and then disappear completely.
    • Also played straight with Kirie's burns, which are severe enough to have her hospitalized, yet mostly miss her face and heal without leaving scars.
    • Likewise, we only hear about her eating the flesh of the snail-people in vague narration, while everyone else is depicted in full, disgusting detail.
    • Averted, however, with female characters other than Kirie (particularly, and brutally, with Azami). It's more that nothing permanently disfiguring happens to the protagonist, at least until she finally gives in to the Spiral.
  • Beneath the Earth: The final chapter.
  • Bespectacled Bastard Boyfriend: Shuichi in the movie, who is extremely manipulative and makes a hobby out of trying to convince Kirie she needs him there to protect her from everything just because he finds it amusing. He *really* gets what's coming to him.
  • Bizarrchitecture: In the later chapters of the book, Kurozu-cho becomes a single long rowhouse. Beneath it, the protagonists find an enormous, abandoned Underground City made entirely from spirals. In the latter case, there is significant overlap with Genius Loci.
  • Blessed with Suck: Kirie's and Sekino's spiral hair has a mind of its own and very much wants to live. Also, it drains the life of the user. Shuichi's psychic abilities also warrant a mention, as while they save his life (and often others' lives), they're shown taking a massive toll on him, emotionally and mentally.
  • Bloodier and Gorier: The movie—while the manga was hardly easygoing as far as Gorn goes, the movie contained gallons more actual blood.
  • Body Horror: A huge part of the story. Particularly freaky are the human hedgerows inside the houses after the town succumbs to the curse.
  • Campbell Country: Kurôzu-cho is an isolated village by the sea.
  • The Cassandra:
    • Shuichi. The problem is that he mostly only talks to Kirie.
    • Also, Kirie, when she's trying to alert everyone about the bloodsucking mothers.
  • Canon Foreigner: Reporter Ichiro Tamura, Shuichi's colleague and rival in the movie.
  • Catch Phrase: Pretty much every character will at some point utter the words "That sound! It just pierces through my ears!"
    • Also Shuichi saying "X is contaminated by the Spiral" (or some variant of that phrase).
  • The Cavalry: Horrifically subverted when a large fleet of ships gets close to Kurozu-cho, only to be swept up in a Mega Maelstrom within a matter of minutes.
  • Cellphones Are Useless: An early example, given that the story is presumably set in or around its original publication year of 1998. Once the town goes Closed Circle, cell phones are shown not to work there.
  • Charm Person: Kirie's and Sekino's spiral hair has a hypnotic effect.
  • Chekhov's Gun: In the "Mosquitoes" chapter, Keiko's cloth-wrapped item. It was a hand drill. In the same chapter, Shuichi's bug spray.
  • Compressed Adaptation: Chapters 3, 5, 9, and 10-19 were all cut entirely, and many chapters that were not cut were reduced to one or two short scenes.
  • Cosmic Horror Story: The town is built on top of an impossible spiral structure, which proceeds to cause increasingly horrible things to happen before absorbing the entire town. It has done so countless times before and will do so countless times again.
  • Creepy Child: The children who create and ride tornadoes definitely fall into this trope, although they were presumably normal prior to being orphaned and influenced by the Spiral.
  • Death by Adaptation: Mrs. Goshima, who wasn't confirmed deceased in the manga until chapter 19, and Shuichi, who didn't die in the manga, but was instead frozen in time inside the Spiral, presumably for centuries.
  • Declaration of Protection: Shuichi to Kirie in the movie. Note that this does not occur in the manga, despite popular belief that it did.
  • Demoted to Extra: Chie, who was a central character in volume 3, had less than two minutes of screentime in the movie.
  • Despair Event Horizon: For the overwhelming majority of the story, Kirie seems to be willing to do whatever it takes to keep herself and her family from succumbing to the Spiral. In the end, though, it becomes too much to bear. Her brother has turned into a giant snail, her family are frozen in time staring at the Eternal Spiral, and her boyfriend is badly injured and unable to move away from the same Eldritch Abomination. By the time when she reaches out and grabs Shuichi's hand, she is just done and has no more fucks left to give.
  • Deuteragonist: Shuichi, and later Chie.
  • Double Standard: Rape, Female on Male: Even after Azami tried to force herself to Shuichi in chapter 3, she is often portrayed as having a tragic one-sided love for him, as if she hadn't broken into his house and refused to get off him until he convinced her her face was deformed, at which point she got off to look in the mirror.
  • Downer Ending: It gets worse if you remember from the beginning of the series that the narration in the first few pages, seen at the top of the page, talks about the events that occur during the series in the past tense and spend the entire series positive that no matter how bad it gets at least the main character's going to get out of Kurôzu-cho to tell her tale. She doesn't.
  • Eldritch Abomination: The giant spiral ruins underneath Dragonfly Pond that are turning the town and everyone in it into spirals.
  • Empathic Weapon: Kirie's and Sekino's spiral hair.
  • Enfant Terrible:
    • The babies born to the bloodsucking pregnant women. They have some terrible tricks of their own.
    • Also, the nasty children from the latter chapters. According to citizens, half of the structural damage is due to their pranks, exploiting the wind phenomenon.
  • Face–Heel Turn: Tanizaki's party.
  • Fate Worse Than Death: The eventual fate of the entire town, considering Kirie is narrating the story in the past tense.
  • Fragile Flower: Kirie in the movie—and Shuichi comes pretty close to being the male version of this, sometimes, in the manga.
  • Freak Out: Shuichi, as of chapter 14. To the extent at which he has to be briefly replaced by a new deuteragonist.
  • From Bad to Worse: The first two chapters feature the female lead's boyfriend's parent's deaths. The father becomes obsessed with spirals, killing himself by turning into a giant spiral. The mother, by contrast, becomes deathly afraid of spirals, hallucinating her husband's body in each one, and cutting off her own fingers tips, to get rid of the spirals. Then she finds out about the spiral in the inner ear... When they're cremated, their ashes turn into spirals with an image of their screaming face. It STILL gets worse. Much worse.
  • Genius Loci: Kurozu-Cho, it would seem.
  • Gonk: The original snail-people. Even before his transformation.
  • Haunted Heroine: Kirie in the movie, though she comes close to it on some rare occasions in the manga.
  • Heroic B.S.O.D.: Shuichi, very gradually. He never recovers.
  • Heroic R.R.O.D.: Kirie in chapter six after her hair absorbs all of her energy. A rare example where the affected protagonist is still able to stand up despite being unconscious, because she's literally being held up like a puppet.
  • I Don't Like the Sound of That Place: It doesn't translate well, but depending on the reading, Kurozu-cho can mean either "Closed Town" or "Black Vortex Town". Justified in that the town's history and psychological effects mean that it was almost certainly named for its terrifying Spiral curse.
  • I Know Mortal Kombat: Jack-in-the-Box's stuntman skills. They don't work.
  • I'm a Humanitarian: After Kurozu-cho becomes a Closed Circle, almost everyone resorts to consuming the flesh of the Snail People. This eventually includes Kirie, the series' protagonist.
  • Important Haircut: Kirie is short-haired for more than half the tale after the chapter that shows the first time the spirals affected her directly, turning her from The Scully into a believer.
  • Karmic Transformation: Tsumura in the "Snail" chapter.
  • Kids Are Cruel: Several of the human villains in the later chapters of the book are children who have figured out how to create and ride tornadoes through the ruins of Kurozu-cho.
  • Kill 'em All: By the end of the story all of the named characters (with the possible exception of Mitsuo, who is now a snail-person) are almost certainly dead.
  • Killed Off for Real: Chie
  • Laser-Guided Karma: After a bully, Tsumura, pokes fun at the first snail-person, he ends up becoming one himself. Later, the teacher of the class destroys a nest of their eggs and suffers the same fate. Needless to say, it's probably apparent that nobody else in the class did anything to the snail-people.
  • Lighthouse Point: A lighthouse with a spiral staircase causes problems at one point.
  • Living Statue: Given that the story is being narrated in the past tense by someone caught up in the Spiral's curse, this seems like a likely end result for all of the people it turns to stone.
  • Loud Gulp: Shuichi on multiple occasions, notably in chapter 4.
  • Ludd Was Right: By the last chapters, any semblance of modern society in the village has all but vanished.
  • Lust Object: Arguably, Shuichi is this to Azami around the end of Chapter 3.
  • Madness Mantra:
    Shuichi: Mad... Mad... the town's going mad... Mad... Mad...
  • Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane: When Jack-in-the-Box comes back as an apparent hopping zombie, it's revealed that he's actually bouncing on a spring stuck in his spine. But there was still a talking clown toy, and he was moaning something after the coffin was opened. Whether the former just Kirie being a little unhinged after the events of the last chapter and the latter was just escaping gas is never explored.
  • Mean Character, Nice Actor: Fhi Fan and Masami Horiuchi, who played Shuichi and Ichiro respectively in the movie, are actually quite nice. Can't say the same for their characters.
  • Mega Maelstrom: Being aquatic spirals, whirlpools are ubiquitous in the waters in and around Kurozu-cho. As the story goes on, they get extremely large. One of them finally sweeps away the last shred of hope that the main characters have by consuming the rescue ships sent to Kurozu-cho.
  • Men Act, Women Are: Inverted with the two main characters, Kirie and Shuichi. While there are exceptions, Shuichi mostly passively responds to his circumstances while Kirie's actions drive the plot of the story.
  • Monster Clown: Jack-in-the-Box's gift.
  • More Than Mind Control: A frequent modus operandi for the Spiral. Although it can act in such an all-consuming way that it completely overwhelms a victim's personality (as with Shuichi's father and Azami), it's much more unnerving when it takes advantage of a person's weaknesses to get them to succumb to its influence. Kirie's father is motivated by his love of pottery, the two lovers in "Twisted Souls" are motivated by their love for one another, and in the end Kirie and Shuichi are motivated by a combination of love and despair.
  • Morton's Fork: At the end Move too fast: tornadoes. Move too slow: turn into a snail. Stay outside the rowhouses: risk the tornadoes and anarchy; stay inside to be entangled with everyone else.
  • Mythology Gag: "Medusa" has some similarities to the "Hair" chapter from Junji Ito's Tomie.
  • Nervous Wreck: Played fairly straight with Shuichi.
  • Non-Actor Vehicle: Korean model Fhi Fan, who played Shuichi in the movie, had never acted before, and never did again after the movie.
  • Nothing Is Scarier: The neighbor's son in the row house from Chapter 13 is never seen, but it is implied that he was suffering from a very severe version of the spiral "warts" that affected everyone else on the property. Given what we see of one person heavily afflicted with the disease (but still alive), he couldn't have looked good.
  • Oh Crap!: Chie, upon realizing that she's trapped inside the spiral building.
  • Only Sane Man: Shuichi, which quickly reaches the point of absurdity.
    • Then again, he along with a few other people had every single opportunity to just get out of town before things really started going to hell. By the time he actually decides to do it, it's already too late.
    • Tanizaki as well in the end. By willingly cooperating with the curse, he ultimately becomes the last reasonable human left alive in the village.
    • In the movie, Ichiro is this.
  • Our Vampires Are Different:
    • Upon getting bitten by mosquitoes, pregnant women start sucking people's blood. Drills are utilized.
    • Jack-in-the-box's corpse brings hopping vampires to mind.
  • Prehensile Hair: Kirie's hair becomes this in the "Medusa" chapter.
  • Psychological Horror: The genre of the story.
  • Redshirt Army: The rescue ships that come to Kurozu-cho, only to quickly vanish beneath the sea.
  • Room Full of Crazy: The collection of spirals in the first chapter.
  • Rubber Hose Limbs: Happens to quite a few victims of the Spiral. Unlike most examples of this trope, cases in this story are played horrifically enough to involve grotesque and sometimes fatal levels of injury.
  • Rule of Scary: Needless to say, most of the insanity that goes on in this series doesn't make a lick of sense when you consider the laws of physics. But goddamn does it make for some unsettling material.
  • Sanity Slippage: Shuichi, who, ironically, was the first one to realize the terrible things about the town.
  • Scenery Gorn: Prominent especially in the later chapters of the graphic novel, when the landscape around Kurozu-cho starts to twist into distorted shapes. Taken to an extreme in the last chapters, "Labyrinth" and "Completion", where the town's spiral-longhouse shape is completed and where the main characters discover the spiral ruins under the city respectively.
  • Sentient Cosmic Force: The Spiral seems to have some level of sapience, as it was able to target specific people in some chapters knowing full well it was doing so, such as the hurricane in Chapter 12 that was in love with Kirie.
  • Serial Escalation: Early events tend to occur on a small scale, with the Spiral affecting individuals or small groups of people. By the end typhoons are being directed toward Kurozu-cho, and an entire naval detachment is swallowed whole by a whirlpool.
  • Shoot the Shaggy Dog: They went to all that effort of surviving through most of the Spiral, lost everything and everyone, only to end up frozen in time, while conscious, for centuries at least, in a city made entirely of spirals.
  • Sinister Geometry: Pretty much the underlying style of horror present throughout the story. Special mention has to go to the Spiral City underneath Kurozu-cho, though, for its sheer scale and ominous nature if nothing else.
  • Slow Transformation: The process of turning into a snail person usually takes several days.
  • Stalker with a Crush: Jack-in-the-Box and Azami. And Wakabayashi, however briefly. Heck, there was a hurricane with a crush.
  • Star-Crossed Lovers: The two kids in the "Twisted Souls" chapter.
  • A Storm Is Coming: Shuichi panics when he realizes that it's typhoon season, and nearly repeats this line verbatim. He's right to be concerned.
  • Stress Vomit: Overlapping with Vomit Discretion Shot, Shuichi in chapter 4.
  • Stubborn Hair: They try to comb Kirie's Prehensile Hair in the "Medusa" chapter but it doesn't stick.
  • Submissive Badass: Shuichi can come off as this at times; he's generally timid and a bit of a pushover, however he still manages to take far more damage than any other character and still keep fighting.
  • Surreal Horror: The Spiral itself.
  • Time Abyss: In the last chapter, the apparent source of the Spiral curse is revealed: an enormous, ruined Spiral City buried under Kurozu-cho. At a minimum, it's several thousand years old. The human victims of the Spiral, since they appear to remain conscious, will eventually fit this trope as well.
  • Town with a Dark Secret: Does it ever.
  • Underground City: An example that apparently falls into the Buried City variety. There's an enormous, spiral-shaped urban ruin under Kurozu-cho. Who or what built it is unknown, but its original designers seem to be long dead. It's become a sentient Genius Loci determined to continue building itself.
  • Vicious Cycle: The events that take place in Kurozu-cho repeat every so often, in a pattern that only becomes clear once it's probably too late to do anything to stop it.
  • Villainous Crush: Azami had an innocent crush on Shuichi to begin with, however after she became cursed by the Spiral, she started trying to force herself on him in a much less innocent way and even murdered someone to have her way with him.
  • Waif Prophet: Shuichi becomes a male example of this after chapter 2, though he starts predicting the future from shortly after his introduction.
  • Weaksauce Weakness: How does Kirie survive the rabid mob of drill-wielding bloodthirsty women? Bugspray. Not lit like a blowtorch, just bugspray.
  • Wham Episode: "The House". Stories in the first two volumes are terrifying, yes, but still within a somewhat Magical Realism setup. Starting from "the House" it's post-apocalyptic Survival Horror. With twister-riding super-power delinquents.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?:
    • Kirie's friend Shiho, who had been a recurring character through the series, is absent from Chapter 11 on with no one addressing her disappearance.
    • What happened to Mitsuo? He's last seen on a sheer cliff as a snail person in hiding. Could he possibly be the sole person in the town to survive the cataclysm at the end and live out the rest of his natural life, albeit as a snail?
    • And where's Tanizaki? We last see him cleaning up twisted corpses in one of the final chapters. Once he exits, he's gone for the rest of the series.
  • What Measure Is a Non-Human?: The snail-people, milked for every bit of squick possible.
  • When Dimensions Collide: The laws of the spiral world begin to rapidly overtake those of physics throughout the story.
  • With Great Power Comes Great Insanity: The Dragonfly Gang.
  • Worst News Judgement Ever: In the movie, Ichiro Tamura and Chie Maruyama are guilty of this. While an entire town is being plagued by horriffic and mysterious deaths, all Ichiro wants to do is study the Saito family—and all Chie wants to do is talk about the giant snails. It certainly doesn't help that Shuichi, the de facto "head" (of sorts) of the Saito family, does not want Ichiro doing a story on his family.
  • Yank the Dog's Chain: Rescue boats are sunk by sudden whirlpools.
  • Year Inside, Hour Outside: Kirie and the others spend an unknown number of days wandering the hills trying to escape, but when they give up and go back to town, an unknown number of years have passed within it.
  • You Are Worth Hell: Through all the events of Uzumaki, not once do Kirie and Shuichi question their love for one another, or consider abandoning each other. And by the end, it's clear that they will truly be together forever.
  • Your Head A Splode: At the end of the lost chapter "Galaxies," the astronomer Torino receives an overabundance of galactic radio waves, causing his head to grossly enlarge until it explodes "like an egg in a microwave," according to Kirie. It then shoots into the night sky to exist as its own galaxy.

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