Just a few days after Halloween, and who could have thought the inner ear could be so terrifying? Uzumaki by Junji Ito is a magna that I recently picked up, which describes a town whose inhabitants are becoming infected with an obsession with spirals. Although I’ve only read the first of three books in the series, the art is both beautiful and grotesque AND involves the subtle integration of the cochlea into the horrible tale. Specifically, one of the main characters is driven mad by her “contamination” with spirals and feels the desperate need to eliminate all spirals from her body. First she shaves her head, to get rid of whorls and curls in her hair. Next she notices spirals in her fingerprints so she slices off the tips of her fingers and toes, to her son’s horror. But, eventually she seems to be getting better–she’s eliminated all the spirals in her body, right? Her doctor’s anatomical chart suggests otherwise.
She then becomes haunted by the spiral in her head…
This internal torment continues until *GASP* the patient takes drastic steps!
I’ll leave the patient’s, and the story’s, resolution as a surprise. I highly recommend this manga if you like psychological horror stories, you can buy it here.
I also love this manga as it uses a particularly interesting meme in suspense literature- the notion of an idea so potent it is infectious and destroys the host eventually. Two other examples of this same theme is Darron Aronofsky’s “Pi” (the protagonist discovers a pattern in pi and slowly goes mad) and Christopher Cherniak’s “The Riddle of the Universe and Its Solution” (some scientists studying consciousness begin falling into comas when they uncover the equivalent of Godel’s incompleteness theorem for the mind). And in the horror movie “Ringu” (“the Ring”), viewers of a certain video tape were damned after seeing its contents unless they show it to another person. Knowledge has the power to propagate itself, grow, and consume the “knower.” You don’t have to go far in *medical* literature to find the real-life correlates: viruses or prions, perhaps even some parasites. Many of these pathogens are able to gradually modify behavior as well as the physical body.