The second volume of Uzumaki spirals outwards — sorry, I had to say it — from its original premise to encompass one truly bizarre extension of the “spiral curse” after another. Some of them have only the most tenuous connection to the basic concept — what do mosquitoes have in common with spirals, for instance? — but Junji Ito continues to find ways to make his oddball premise stick. I had a mental image of him sitting back with a broad smile after inking each month’s segment, confident that he’d found yet another way to turn a simple design pattern into a vortex of all-consuming horror.
Sometimes the connections to the core inspiration of the story aren’t that obvious. The opening tale operates in this vein: it’s about a compulsive prankster whose corpse becomes animated by a stray car suspension spring, and it veers towards being merely silly instead of creepy. But the vast majority of the other chapters more than win back any lost confidence you might have, thanks to Ito’s amazingly perverse imagination for the macabre.
The freakiest of the stories by far is an extended foray into some weird goings-on at the local hospital that involves mosquitoes, spiral fungus, and a whole battalion of pregnant women who look like they escaped from the set of Cronenberg’s The Brood. Equally bizarre are the episodes involving the town lighthouse (with its concentric lens that melts into a spiral one!), and an attack by the biggest spiral of all, an inbound tropical storm which seems to have a malevolent mind of its own, and which seems to not only be coming for one of the main characters but calling her by name.
Horror stories are a tough balancing act to pull off. If they’re too outlandish, they just become laughable; if they’re not bold enough, then they’re easily dismissed. As with the first book, a big part of how Uzumaki remains strongly creepy throughout is because it keeps sidestepping our expectations. We know each segment will involve a spiral in some way, but the way that’s revealed to us is developed as a surprise — sort of like one of those cover versions of a well-known song where the arrangement disguises the melody for as long as possible. That makes it all the more fun, of course, when we get smacked in the face with it.
Despite the occasional off-target episode, the second volume of Uzumaki makes for an equally creepy ride as the first. Weak stomachs also need not apply this time around, either; in my opinion the “16+” rating is really something of an understatement.