Hello dear readers, it’s been awhile. Did anything interesting happen since I last wrote…oh.
The days are getting shorter and Pumpkin Spice fills the air so you know what that means, it’s Spooktober, Doot Doot! That time of the year where we take pleasure in the macabre and celebrate the things that go bump in the night. Like years prior I’d like to introduce you new ways to get your fix of goosebumps and make you look at your closet nervously before bed wondering what could be hiding just behind those doors waiting for you to close your eyes.
If I had to summarize modern living in one word it would have to be “routine”. We wake up, get dressed, grab a quick bite to eat (sometimes) and head out to work or school, only to come home have an hour or two of leisure time then it’s off to bed to do the same thing the next day, and so on and so on.
The sense of routine in our day to day lives makes us as humans feel comfortable, it gives us a sense of place in our world but what happens when something disrupts that routine and not all is as it seems? We, as mere humans, cannot fathom a world where we are not in control and when that control is stripped away from us we begin to question our very existence and that’s when insanity creeps in.
The idea of this existential angst is a popular theme in horror but no one does it better than our subject today, author/illustrator Junji Ito. Those lurking in the horror world may already know him, maybe not by name but through his works and projects inspired by his work. Fans of the Silent Hill franchise may know him as a direct inspiration for the franchise as well as Guillermo del Toro’s P.T. and Silent Hills videogames.
Who is Junji Ito though? Despite being highly influential and defining an entire generation of horror he is incredibly secretive and shy. Often opting out of public speaking and interviews and preferring the company of his studio where he works. I want to recommend some reading from his extensive catalog for you to enjoy this Halloween season so let’s follow Ito’s spiral down into the darkness and see where we end up.
Of course I would be doing a huge disservice if I did not recommend you read his master work Uzumaki (ohh-za-ma-ki). A 19-chapter story where a small seaside town is being haunted by a spiral. Yes, you read that correctly. The town is slowly being driven mad by the shape of a spiral and its inclusion in everyday things. The first chapter follows one of our main protagonists as his father slowly becomes obsessed with the shape, collecting anything with a spiral shape obsessively only to end spiraling himself into a container, killing himself.
At his funeral his ashes form a black spiral cloud above his family driving his wife mad with grief leading her to hate any spiral shape to the point of removing her fingertips as they contain spirals.
Events ratchet up when she learns the cochlea (small cavity in the inner ear that helps us hear) in the inner ear is spiraled and well… Events continue down that path with strange occurrence after strange occurrence until the entire town is driven to madness and escape is all but impossible.
I am purposefully being vague because I don’t want to spoil the fun that comes from turning the page only to get shocked by what you see.
But why is it scary, you ask? ‘Spirals aren’t scary,’ you may say. Well allow me to bring up something truly frightening…MATH! The spiral is an amazing shape that is more common in nature than one may think. The shape can be expressed mathematically as The Fibonacci Sequence also known as “Nature’s Numbering System” and the “Golden Ratio”. The equation for such sequence is Fn=Fn-1+Fn-2 or simply every new number is the sum of its previous two numbers. For example, 1 followed by 1 again because there is no prior number, then 2 because 1+1 is 2, and then 3 because 1+2 is 3. The beginning of the sequence looks like: 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34…and so on.
Aside from its place in mathematics it is everywhere. Roses petals are laid out in this exact sequence, buildings all over the world are laid out in this sequence as well. Famous paintings are composed in the Golden Ratio which our eyes see as the most beautiful composition. Logos are made using this sequence. The ratio is scientifically proven to be aesthetically pleasing to us, and on a deeper level we want to lay things out in this sequence.
Hurricanes break landfall in this pattern, branches on both house plants and trees are spaced out according to this pattern. Bee’s layout their honey comb in this pattern, pineapples and pine cone spurs, the relative length between the bones in our hands, the way seeds are laid out in sunflowers and yes even the cochlea in our inner ear follows this pattern.
From even the smallest cell to our entire galaxy the sequence can be seen. The Milky Way Galaxy is made up of a giant spiral of four arms that follow this exact pattern. It’s mind blowing to think about and scary at the same time. It’s as if we are being haunted by the spiral in real life. Apply this idea to the book and you can see how this shape can drive regular people mad once their daily routines are invaded by the spiral.
Uzumaki is a fantastic read but say you aren’t ready for it, why not read his other short stories? I would recommend The Enigma of Amigara Fault and The Hanging Balloons.
The first tells the story of mysterious human shaped holes that appear on a mountainside that attract people to seek them out and find the one that fits them perfectly, it becomes an obsession for those attracted to the holes which sooner or later their resolve breaks and they enter the holes…I won’t spoil what’s in there though as the scary part is what the holes look like on the otherside. The latter is about large head shaped balloons with nooses attached at the end that seek out those who share their appearance and are bent on…well, hanging them.
The stories are quick one shots akin to the book series “Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark” and are easy to get into being as they have been collected into editions sold at most book stores or read online if you look.
The artwork is chilling and truly grotesque at times with a very disturbing undertone throughout. Taking normal mundane things like a balloon or a hole in the wall and warping it into something truly frightening is his signature style. Unlike other works in the genre that have some sort of boogie man to fight, Ito’s work puts the boogie man inside of us and how do you fight something that’s coming from inside yourself?
‘Til next time dear readers, stay safe.