You know: in a foolish, undiscriminating way, I've been happy these last few months. I don't know why. I just am. I love my friends; I love my pupils; I love what I read; I -- dammit -- love my thoughts. I love the taste of oranges.
Thornton Wilder in a letter to Gertrude Stein, Aug 14, 1936

Sunday, May 29, 2011


Uzumaki, Volume 1Uzumaki, Volume 1 by Junji Ito
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I became aware of Uzumaki several years ago when the film version (2000, dir. Higuchinsky) made its way onto my Netflix queue. HIguchinsky is a Ukrainian born Japanese director of music videos who has not made a feature since 2003.Uzumaki tells the story of a remote mountainside Japanese village, accessible only by a long tunnel cut through the mountain, where the inhabitants fall under the spell of Spirals. That probably doesn't have you shaking in your boots, but the sheer weirdness of the concept, and the way in which it unfolds, does have its unsettling moments. I guess this is a spoiler, but when the teenage characters finally decide to flee the village, which I would have done about the time one of my classmates showed up secreting snail slime and  climbing up the wall, when these kids get in the car to make their escape, the last line of the film is, "There is no light at the end of the tunnel."

Like so many of these films, Uzumaki started its career as a manga series, eventually collected into three volumes. Although the situations are as bizarre as those of the film it inspired, it can never be as unsettling as its cinematic counterpart. In the graphic format, the visceral extravagance of Hideshi Hino is much more effective than Ito's atmospherics. The young protagonists watch their parents and classmates go mad in the most bizarre ways, but they stay on, going to their school and sharing meals with their deranged families. Of course, if they were to leave, there would be no story, and as I learned from the film, there is no light at the end of the tunnel.

The local library had only the Uzumaki Vol. 1, so if I want to proceed it is either interlibrary loan or Amazon secondhand.

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