Manga: Uzumaki

"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. The 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.

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 directly confronts and fights off several of the spiral's manifestations.
  • Alien Geometries: Of a decidedly spirally sort.
  • 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!"
  • Attention Whore: Sekino from the "Medusa" chapter.
  • 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.
  • Beneath the Earth: The final chapter.
  • 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.
  • Catch Phrase: Pretty much every character will at some point utter the words "That sound! It just pierces through my ears!"
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Eldritch Location: The entire town.
  • 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.
  • Eternal Recurrence
  • Face-Heel Turn: Tanizaki's party.
  • Fate Worse Than Death: The eventual fate of the town, considering Kirie is narrating the story in the past tense.
  • 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.
  • Getting Crap Past the Radar: In the "The House" chapter, the local peeping Tom grows giant horns all over his body.
  • Gonk: The original snail-people. Even before his transformation.
  • Heroic BSOD: Shuichi, very gradually. He never recovers.
  • I Know Mortal Kombat: Jack-in-the-Box's stuntman skills. They don't work.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Ludd Was Right: By the last chapters, any semblance of modern society in the village has all but vanished.
  • Madness Mantra:
    Shuichi: Mad... Mad... the town's going mad... Mad... Mad...
  • Monster Clown: Jack-in-the-Box's gift.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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. Overlaps with:
  • Psychological Horror: The genre of the story.
  • Room Full of Crazy: The collection of spirals in the first chapter.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Surreal Horror: The Spiral itself.
  • Town with a Dark Secret: Does it ever.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Narm: In the movie adaptation, many of the horror scenes are this due to bad special effects and acting. Honorable mention goes to Toshio's death scene, in which the dead body comically sticks out its tongue, Yukie pukes, Kirie nearly faints, and Shuichi simply remarks "Spiral," in a deadpan voice.