Junji Ito is one of Japan's most well known horror manga artists, influenced by others of the genre: Hideshi Hino, Kazuo Umezu and one of the legends of American horror: H.P Lovecraft. It's no surprising that the front cover of Junji Ito's pulp graphic novel, Uzumaki, is horror at its best with an illustration of a girl gazing with big bulging: eyes as if she's seen a ghost, with the title: Uzumaki encrypted in creepy style letters across her forehead. Once I opened the book, it's instantly manga style, because the illustrations are shadowy in black and white colors, and the world seems so dark and intense that readers would be totally naive to think that something hair-raising wouldn’t unfold. The book is also traditional manga which is usually read in the opposite format, from left to right. The book contains disturbing monsters, graphic images and a very neat and organized storyline to go with the picture perfect illustrations. It's as if Junji Ito has taken cues from American illustrators such as Norman Rockwell and Drake Waller, and incorporated their style of realism art into his own material. The characters in Junji Ito's book look so much like real human beings, precise in line, shape and structure, that it hardly represents anything campy or amateur. Also, the book is in a novel format, with approximately 200 pages in paperback.
What stands out is the remarkable way in which the book, Uzumaki is presented. On the front cover all you can see is the close up face painting of an intoxicatingly beautiful young woman (who turns out to be the main character of the book named Kirie) with peach colored skin, soft red lips, penciled in eyebrows, and a look of despair, innocence and horror in her bulging eyes. Unlike the rest of the book which is in black and white, the face of this girl is animated in rich color as if Junji wanted me to be so enticed by the beauty of this girl, that I would be immediately compelled to pick this book up. Not only is the author capable of presenting to the public such extraordinary, impressionist art, but the cover of the book also sets the bar for what is to come inside of the book- which is a tale of love, danger, and a world torn apart between good and evil. The main character Kirie Goshima is the teenage, catholic school girl heroine of this intensely gory tale, who’s faced with the burden of trying to escape a haunted ocean near her neighborhood that breeds monsters, transforms into weapons of destruction and preys on the innocent who dare to walk pass it. The catastrophic ocean also becomes an intruding obstacle in Kirie's relationship with her boyfriend Shuichi. And the ocean even breeds a demon who transforms into a sweet young girl who Kirie foolishly befriends. Throughout the story (which takes place in modern day Japan) it’s graphic image after graphic image of people screaming, running, and exercising precaution against the unspeakable, as the haunted ocean grows enormous and eventually manifests its wrath.
What creates a remarkable story, and magnificent writing, is not just the story, but the whole package. I was already blown away by the front cover that I had to look this book over and check it out. It's about the presentation, the execution and the passion that the writer had when creating this book. I could pinpoint Junji's passion for horror, noir and the supernatural by the way he has drawn such graphic and disturbing images- and then narrated a shocking thriller to complement the art. This is the way storytelling should be. And even though Uzumaki
was made into a live action movie released in America, it raises the question: will more international artists/writers like Junji Ito finally become household names in the U.S?