An anime based on Uzumaki, the legendary horror manga by visionary mangaka Junji Ito, is in development and will premiere on Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim’s Toonami block sometime next year. The four-part miniseries is being produced at Production I.G (xxxHolic, Ghost in the Shell: Arise) in Tokyo and is directed by Hiroshi Nagahama (Mushishi, The Reflection). Colin Stetson, who composed the score for 2018’s widely hailed horror film Hereditary, is on-board to score the soundtrack for Uzumaki. The miniseries is entirely black-and-white.
The announcement was made earlier this evening at an Adult Swim panel at Crunchyroll Expo 2019. As can be experienced in the haunting, grotesque debut trailer below, this team seems well equipped to interpret Ito’s unique brand of terror. “Nagahama is a MASSIVE Ito fanboy,” said Adult Swim Creative Director Jason DeMarco on Twitter, shortly after the trailer’s premiere. “So rest assured he is doing his absolute most to do the story justice. We are very lucky to have such a talented director who is willing to let this be exactly what it needs to.” DeMarco also said that Ito’s “support has been instrumental” in Uzumaki‘s production, which bodes well for the adaptation.
Originally printed in 1998, Uzumaki is a seminal, foundational work in modern Japanese horror. The title literally means “spiral,” and its 16 chapters chronicle the fate of Kurōzu-cho (Black Vortex Town), a small, fictional Japanese village whose denizens are haunted by a curse that manifests itself through spirals. It might not sound that impressive on paper, but Uzumaki is widely regarded as one of the most disturbing works of horror of its era, Japanese or otherwise.
As both author and artist, Ito is a master of creating dreadful atmospheres of unease and despair, punctuated by inventive, shocking moments that could surprise even the most seasoned of horror fans. His characters are monstrously expressive and his scares deeply earned, and to say that one is left shaken after reading is an understatement. I cannot in good faith recommend that anyone read Uzumaki (or any of Ito’s other works) as their first foray into the world of horror — it’s simply too potent. To paraphrase a famous potion seller, these manga could mentally scar a dragon, let alone a man.
While Nagahama’s production is the first time that Uzumaki has been adapted for television, a film based on the manga premiered in Japan and San Francisco in 2000. As the debut film of mononymous director Higuchinsky (aka Akihiro Higuchi), Uzumaki condensed the manga’s 16 chapters into 90 minutes, and was met with mixed reviews.
Meanwhile, two video games based on the manga came out around that same time: Uzumaki: Denshi Kaiki Hen and Uzumaki: Noroi Simulation, both for the Bandai WonderSwan. Denshi Kaiki Hen was a visual novel adaptation of the manga, while Noroi Simulation cast the player as an agent of the spiral curse, whose job was to spread the curse as widely as possible.
Junji Ito Collection, a 12 episode horror anthology co-produced by Crunchyroll, debuted in 2018 and featured anime retellings of many Junji Ito short stories, including Ito’s beloved debut manga, Tomie.