When people think of “cosmic horror,” if they think about it at all, it’s usually in the same breath as H.P. Lovecraft. Certainly, Lovecraft is the father of that kind of horror; a focus on unexplained, metaphysical nightmares that are neither explained nor described. But ol’ H.P.’s been dead for over 80 years. Who is taking on the mantle of cosmic horror and bringing it to new heights? For my money, it’s manga writer and artist Junji Ito. His books are bizarre and unsettling, and often downright repulsive in their visuals. While anime adaptations exist, Adult Swim’s new mini-series Uzumaki looks the closest to getting Ito’s vision just right.
Uzumaki is undoubtedly Ito’s masterpiece. A three-volume epic that initially ran in 1998-1999, Uzumaki tells of a small Japanese town slowly succumbing to a supernatural fixation on spirals. The shape. If you think about it, spirals are everywhere. They appear in nature, in architecture, in fashion. But what if the spirals had an otherworldly hold on people? What if they took over the town? And what if they took over the world?
The series’ first chapter ends with a boy’s father—utterly obsessed with spirals—cramming himself into a cylindrical container, rolling himself into a spiral. As with most of Ito’s best scares, it’s a huge splash page, forcing the reader to actively scare themselves through the act of flipping forward. The book contains some of Ito’s most indelibly terrifying images and as the world becomes a mass of spirals, twisting into a vortex of oblivion, the true nature of the cosmic horror comes full… well, circle.
Crunchyroll adapted several of Ito’s short stories into an anthology anime in 2018. Critics and fans weren’t particularly kind to it, saying the images lack the startling sparseness of Ito’s art. But the teaser for Uzumaki, produced by Production I.G for Adult Swim, already looks like Ito’s art come to life. And who better to direct than Hiroshi Nagahama, the director of another slow-burn supernatural manga adaptation, Mushishi?
Uzumaki will premiere on Adult Swim some time in 2020. As we’re already pretty cosmically upset, this will certainly help.
Feature Image: Adult Swim