Spiral (Junji Ito): The Reason for everything. Part 2.
6."Medusa" (巻髪, Maki kami, Winding Hair)
Quite a few positive or productive things happened in the previous chapters. But I think that when Shuichi asks Kirie to cut her hair in chapter 6, he makes a mistake.
Female hair is always used as an expression of their sexual openness. Actually, another small indicator of Kirie’s sexual abuse is that her hair is not attached at the beginning of the story. This should mean that she is sexually available or serene but clearly nothing physical happens between her and Schuichi and it is surprising. No hug, no kiss. So, her hair should be attached, it isn’t because she is not a virgin anymore. She’s neither open sexually nor shy, she’s just an asexual beauty.
Shuichi corresponds to her. He’s not interested in sex, he might even find it slightly worrying. If she was abused by her father, he’s exactly the kind of boy she’d be looking for as she knows he will not bother her on that level. He doesn’t represent a threat.
The problem is that, thanks to all the positive evolution she’s experienced, Kirie now feels ready to be considered sexually by men. Her hair is suddenly longer. Her libido springs.
One of the thing that allowed this to happen is the death of a boy at her highschool. The kid fell from the roof while doing dangerous stunts in order to attract attention. Sekino tells Kirie that she too wouldn’t mind dying if it allowed her to get others' attention beforehand. So, if Kirie felt undeserving of attention while secretly desiring some, Sekino’s comment is exactly what could make her lose control of her urge.
Because of what Kirie went through, this desire is accompanied by shame. Her sex drive is associated with incest. It would have helped her if Shuichi had told her that she was pretty with her longer hair, if he had kissed her and showed a sexual interest towards her, because as her legitimate lover, it would have freed her from the guilt that she experiences for looking for sexual attention.
And so, Kirie’s hair starts to spiral and hypnotizes everybody to her deepest shame.
A new rival appears, or an extension of herself, in Sekino, who entirely admits that she wants to attract everybody’s attention. Very quickly Kirie and Sekino start fighting, so that there’s only one « hypnotic hair girl. »
Kirie acts like she dislikes all this attention and I do believe that she hates it from one point of view, but it is also strange that there should only be two girls like she and Sekino. Kirie is also happy to get attention, she needed it.
Both girls nearly die, but Kirie is saved by Shuichi. Nobody saves Sekino and she does die. Shuichi cuts Kirie’s hair, her attempt at becoming a healthy sexual being failed.
7."Jack-in-the-Box" (びっくり箱, Bikkuri-bako)
Having lost her urge to attract people her age, Kirie is now harassed by a younger boy who is entirely in love with her. He believes himself more legitimate than Shuichi. He keeps on "surprising" her by appearing suddenly from anywhere. This is also metaphorical. Any attraction directed towards her is now a surprise for Kirie, it has become incoherent.
His obsession for her will bring him to a tragic accident and to his death.
I have to point at something that is very... unsettling. We're talking about sexual attraction. When a man dies he can (or always) have an erection. It is rarely talked about in our litterature, a bit more often in asian litterature. (At the end of Battle Royal or in the movie The Servant)
When he dies, Yamaguchi "rises one last time." The accident and scene in the cemetary seem quite random and gratuitous in their horror but all these disparate elements create a very specific situation:
Yamaguchi rises from his grave, he shows signs of life post-mortem, helped by a mechanical force: a spring of the car, in his stomach. This is a very strange and convoluted metaphore for a post-mortem erection. Yamaguchi is erect by a reflex mechanism and expresses one last time his attraction for Kirie.
Once this last manifestation of the male gender's attraction for Kirie dead, it's really over. After this, it is very probable that Kirie will not try to become a healthy mature sexual being anymore.
8."The Snail" (ヒトマイマイ, Hitomaimai, Snail Person)
I don’t have a strong explanation here. Clearly, the men and boys who transform into snails do so because of a prior emasculation. They are the slow ones, the last ones, those who are always ready to run and hide.
Kirie and Schuichi’s story works as if they were part of the collective subconscious. They have an influence over the whole population of Kurouzu. (This is backed up by a comment of the journalist about the butterfly effect, page 447).
Kirie is a very kind girl who has consideration for everybody. The previous chapters have showed the collapse of her identity as a woman. She might have been the last hope of a few boys. Not because she is pretty or because they imagined that they had a chance with her, but because she represented the fact that somewhere there might have been a similar girl, as kind and compassionate as her, for them. If she withdraws herself from these dynamics, then it’s over, nobody will ever acknowledge them as men.
Katayama and Tsumura have very specific positions from that point of view: the ridiculous kid and the bully.
Katayama’s spiral appears when he experiences the worst humiliation of his life : he’s exposed naked to girls (Kirie).
On the one hand, they're humiliating the fat kid, but on the other hand, they're showing Kirie that even the least manly boy of the school is still "a man." The combination of Kirie's beauty with her selfless, asexual attitude is emasculating them all. They want her to acknowledge that boys are men, that she could be attracted to one of them.
Once Katayama has become a snail, Tsumura becomes the most ridiculous/disliked pupil and soon transforms too. Or maybe, it’s the fact that things went too far. He somewhat feel that he’s become a monster in the eyes of the other pupils after what he did to Katayama.
My point is that, kids or men who become convinced that they have no chance anymore to ever become legitimate sexual partners to a woman, are transformed by the spiral so that they have access to sexuality through a transgression of their « selves. » Katayama and Tsumara becomes hemaphrodites and mate together.
The chapter ends on teacher Yokota himself becoming a snail. I’d say it’s because he failed on many levels during the story. He didn’t prevent the bullying, he didn’t protect his pupils and he let the two creatures escape and reproduce. Enough to make you feel worthless.
All these hypothesis are just speculations.
The sole real point here is that some boys and men who feel emasculated by something fall under the influence of the spiral. And it's probably indirectly linked with Kirie's attitude.
9."The Black Lighthouse" (黒い灯台, Kuroi tōdai)
Following this regression of the most fragile men into mollusks/complete emasculation, it is masculinity itself that becomes alienated.
In the context of an allegory that revolves around the theme of sex, a lighthouse can easily be looked at as a metaphore of masculinity.
The corruption happens on several levels :
People are disoriented. Women as well as men. Without proper men, the community loses its sense of direction.
Who is sent there to deal with the problem ? A group of men. The lighthouse incinerates them.
The tall phallic building doesn’t spread life anymore but death.
Mitsuo is excited at the idea of the lighthouse, he sees it as a giant robot that shoots lazers at vilains. This perception is very gender oriented, it is very boyish. Boys want to go and visit the place, explore and discover what it is to be a man. They get incinerated too.
Kirie perpetually tells her younger brother/son off. During the whole book. Whereas his supposed mother is never seen "educating" him. In the last square of this page, Kirie is more likely to tell Mitsuo not to go to the lighthouse, but he answers "aw, mom."
Now, it might not be obvious why an incestuous relationship between Kirie and her father could engender the destruction of masculinity itself (in Kurouzu at least).
The link is made on the level of archetypes of the collective unconscious. Kirie and Shuichi aren’t only two young adults of the village, they are archetypes for the best individuals that the village can produce and as such, what happens to them can be generalized. It influences everyone.
And so, when the best young man is not enough for the best young woman, the gender dynamics that underlie the social life in the village collapse.
The involvement of the collective unconscious in the structure of the story also allows the use of metaphores like spirals.
To put things differently, Kirie and Shuichi’s story can be looked at as a phenomena happening on different scales : If in this village the most beautiful girl, nicest, most courageous etc. isn’t interested in a life with the cutest, nicest, righteous boy, then everything is wrong in men and in women there.
The lighthouse chapter represents the collapse of the last symbol of manliness in the village. It is now perceived as evil and has become evil under the influence of the spiral.
In this village in which incest wins over normal relationships, normal men’s desire to reproduce is turned against them. There’s no point having kids with your children, and therefore libido becomes self-destructive, and also, an enigma. Men are sent to explore the lighthouse.
The poor kid who dies fleeing along with Kirie and Mitsuo is the last boy who could have become a man. Not literally the last one, but just like the place, the event is metaphorical. There will not be other young boys who will attempt or succeed at becoming normal men.
10."Mosquitoes" (蚊柱, Kabashira)
Once the cursed has destroyed maleness, adult women become themselves alienated and nature tries to find a new way of triggering reproduction.
Mosquitoes are suddenly « strange » on that summer. Kirie’s friend, Shino, explains that these mosquitoes are male and looking to reproduce. Kirie is literally hypnotised to sleep by one, before he stings her. A metaphore for rape probably, like in Kill Bill. If men are emasculated, that’s what will happen.
Strangely enough, it’s mainly pregnant women who get stung (Kirie even finds a corpse and is not at all shocked). So, the idea is there. These mosquitoes are the men who will not try to be elligible anymore and will impregnate women against their will. Kirie’s cousin, Keiko, confesses that she loves these mosquitoes (She probably derides sexual pleasure from their stung).
Later on in the chapter, Shuichi explains that it’s only female mosquitoes that drink their target’s blood because they need it to feed their eggs. On the next morning, many male patients are found dead, pierced with holes. The pregnant women fed on their blood.
So, this chapter takes a look at the tragic state of relationships between men and women in Kurouzu. There’s no harmony anymore. No love, no tenderness, no benevolence. All that’s left are violent unrestrained sex drives that make the opposite sex a target and a victim.
The sexual act is reversed on several levels. The woman is not penetrated she penetrates. Not with an organ but with a tool, a weapon. She is not given sperm, she takes blood. The reproductive act, the act of love, has become an aggression.
11."The Umbilical Cord" (臍帯, Saitai)
I’m not going to dwell too much on this horrible chapter.
The babies born out of pure selfishness on both sides, mother and father, will also be exploited and abused. Could the umbilical cord mushrooms be refering to stem cells ? I don’t know, but there are a lot of beliefs about baby’s blood and satanical rituals happening in our day and age which rest upon the idea that baby’s flesh/blood/cells are extremely good for people’s health.
But this would be very literal. On a more metaphorical level, devouring is simply exploiting, building your comfort at the expense of someone. So, these baby’s born of selfishness will be the victims of this same selfishness and their sole desire will be to go back in their mother’s womb.
Now, I can only be very intuitive when it comes to the interpretation of these two pages but I really want to talk about this madness.
The baby goes « I’m getting so excited that my belly is rising. » And then when he realises that Kirie can see him he expresses his embarrassment. Clearly, this reaction is to be associated with an erection. The baby is sexually arroused when he thinks of returning into the womb. Again, the world is reversed. It’s not the man who get arroused by the thought of penetrating the woman and impregnate her, it’s the baby who is sexually arroused at the thought of cancelling his own birth by returning inside his mother.
Now, a baby is not active sexually and this absence of a sex drive is echoed in the fact that it should be the baby ombilical cord that is rising and in his description of the amniotic fluid. He says that the water there is like heaven ; a word that connotes asexuality. And from that perspective, I cannot but get the feeling that these belly/mushroom are trees from the garden of Eden. I’m not randomly saying that. They replace an erect penis (even if the babies are girls), they are asexual erections. The garden of Eden is the place from which you are expelled when you become sexualized. So… well, I can’t explain it. The garden of Eden is the place where flesh do not exactly and if made flesh it would be made of the ombilical cord of a baby and blood, the two purest substance that can be found. I told you, it’s my intuition.
The whole reproductive cycle is now destroyed. What’s next ?
12."The Storm" (台風1号, Taifū ichi-gō, Typhoon No.1)
Cyclone n°1 starts with Kirie and Shuichi sitting on a beach, everything is calm, quiet and peaceful.
The sea is tranquil and the lighthouse dark : Kirie (women/water/sea) and Shuichi (lighthouse/phallic object with specific action = light/ejaculation) both are sexually still.
As I was saying in my introduction, Shuichi foresees the danger that lies in Kurouzu and Kirie doesn’t listen to him. He reiterates his invitation to flee from the village later on and she only gets angry.
This storm isn’t a complex metaphore, it could have happened as a first chapter of the story, it’s just a quarrel between Kirie and Shuichi. He’s tired of her attitude.
They argue and then they reconcile because Shuichi only has eyes for her. Another woman dies because of his stubborn preference. The chase goes through about five phases and Shuichi never shows the least indicator that he might wanna give up Kirie.
The cyclone manages to catch them but it cannot do anything against them as it is only Shuichi’s lassitude towards Kirie passed through the transgression of the spiral. As Shuichi saves her instead of the poor anonymous woman, then the cyclone cannot do anything against Kirie.