Spiral (Junji Ito): The Reason for everything. Part 4.
14."Butterflies" (蝶, Chō)
15."Chaos" (混沌, Konton)
16."Erosion" (続・混沌, Zoku konton, Continued Chaos)
17."Escape" (脱出, Dasshutsu)
It is at this hopeless moment that the narration switches to a different character : Chie Maruyama. Chie is a journalist who comes to Kurouzu to investigate on the cyclones that hit the village but also on the radio silence that followed.
Making a new character the center of a chapter is quite a bold move and it is slightly unsettling that Chie should very quickly meet Kirie and be sent in the background. Her narrative arc is the one of a complete failure, just like the ones of her two colleagues who die as soon as they exit the tunnel that leads to Kurouzu. There also are boats which are swallowed by a giant spiral in two seconds.
I think that these three journalists, as characters, are just here to embody the powerlessness of the exterior world in front of what’s happening in Kurouzu. I’m talking about the cyclones and incest. There’s nobody to save, nothing they can do and the catastrophy is tabou, there’s nothing to report. None of them has actually anything to do here. The narration gets rid of them because there’s nothing they can do.
(Supposition here)=> The two men die as soon as they see Kurouzu whereas Chie does once she’s realized that nobody can be saved from this. The two men looked at the tragedy, let’s say, from an abstract, structural, societal point of view. They saw the village and they saw that it was entirely destroyed. They are « killed » by their powerlessness, the scale of the catastrophy makes them feel useless. Whereas Chie looks at things on a more human scale, if she can save one person then she’s satisfied.
As a consequence, her story is slightly longer because she has to witness the state of absolute debasement of the people still in the area.
She’ll see kids destroying everything for fun. She’ll kill one of them by mistake. She’ll watch people commit murders for fun. She’ll see humans turn into snails and people eating them, and then eating them alive. And she’ll see people reduced to a heap of intermingled bodies.
From this point of view, Chie’s narrative arc doesn’t exactly justify making her the center character even just for a chapter. She’s very passive, she accomplishes nothing and she dies very quickly.
Her introduction accomplishes something very important though, it conveys very efficiently the feeling of a new beginning. When she arrives by car, when she walks around surrounded by ruins, finds the dragonfly lake, the kids attached to poles etc... we do not know what she is going to find. Readers discover that Kurouzu was entirely leveled by the cyclones. The last time that Shuichi appeared, he had just been saved from the dragonfly lake and was unconscious. We don’t know where he is and whether he is still alive. As for Kirie, she had been saved from the horny monster and lived in a shack with her family. We could find them in any situation.
The strong narrative split that creates the arrival of this new main protagonist is quite important as it embodies perfectly the apocalypse that took place.
Apocalypse, ethymologically means « the revelation ». « The demon’s shack » is the chapter of the revelation. The final truth is unveilled, Kirie was raped by a monster that emerged from the house’s walls. The walls are the structure of the house, what holds the construction together, what protects the family on a material level, the father. A monstrous mother would be symbolized by rotten food, for example.
So, this chapter is an apocalypse and changing the central character, even for a short moment, conveys this feeling that we’ve entered a post-apocalyptic world very well.
Since the beginning of this analysis, I’ve been saying that everything that happened was a consequence of Kirie refusing to follow Shuichi. We’ve reached a point where the specific reason has to be explicited : she doesn’t want to abandon Mitsuo. Leaving Kurouzu means truly giving up on her child, truly pretending that Mitsuo is the child of her mother and of her father. That, she can’t.
This is the reason why the story carries on even after the apocalypse. The spiral could have suddenly stopped after the killing of the monster. But the « sorting » of Kirie’s rape only makes her position more clear : Her world is ruled by Mitsuo. Post-apocalyptic Kurouzu is the vision of a society ruled by incest.
We saw in « mosquitoes » how reproduction was compromised. In post-apocalyptic Kurouzu, the sole children left are killer orphans. They have no contact with their origin and all they do is kill and destroy. Life is reversed.
Mobility is the first indicator of life. At this point, movement gets people killed because it creates violent winds and people are brought to immobility, paralysis and death by this new environnement. At the end of the story, they are actually all turned into stones.
One very nice idea of Junji Ito is also to have destroyed the space and time dimensions, that which gives a real meaning to the title of his chapters « Chaos ». People who try to escape the village finds themselves coming back to it.
I really hope I can explain this properly because it’s absolutely wonderful of intelligence.
If the characters are in a spiral, if the story is a spiral, then everything will necessarily point at one thing : it’s center.
Of course, it could be argued that every story is a spiral. They all move towards a final climactic moment step by step and even though characters or twists will make this final climax look less obligatory, less unavoidable, it actually always is. So, we can perceive a story as a straight line, but also as a spiral if we take into account the many obstacles that seemingly could impeach the final climax.
What makes the story of spiral a true spiral, beyond the clear arbitrary magic of the numerous phenomena that takes places which embody the forced turns that the narrative takes, is that at this point, so close to the end, we’re in the last ringlets of the spiral, the smallest. It means that there isn’t much left that can resist the suction of the center, the wiping out of everything.
These obstacles aren’t only physical objects like walls or ropes but also psychological dynamics, love, hate, hunger, survival instinct.
I must say I’m really in awe of the fact that Junji Ito should have thought of this. At the end of the story, there’s only these very primitive urges that are left and it perfectly represents how close the center of the spiral is.
However, all that is destroyed is not necessarily what matters for the spiral. Its point of focus is one thing and it’s perceivable because of the way space and time are distorted.
Those who try to escape the village on foot, end up involontarily coming back. Chie explains that when she tried to flee through the tunnel, she had to stop because it plunged vertically into the void.
These violation of the space dimension convey the feeling that the center of the spiral is located in space. It’s true but not only. On page 532, when Kirie, Chie, Mitsuo and Shuichi come accross a group of men who explain that they actually were following them at first in order to flee the village, it is clear that their path didn’t lead them to the center of the spiral, the dragonfly pond.
It led them to… Mitsuo. Mitsuo is the problem and the spiral is bending dimensions to destroy the transgression of his link to Kirie. In order to save his life, she will have too abandon her poor (younger brother/son) who’s been transformed into a snail. Even strike him with a stick of wood.
This is a central event of the story. If she had accepted to do so in the first chapter, if she had accepted to leave Mitsuo behind and truly behave like a sister to him and a girlfriend to Shuichi, the spiral wouldn’t have woken up to "correct things."
One indicator of this is that the cannibals who are chasing them to eat the kid see their bodies break off as soon as Kirie has abandonned Mitsuo. The spiral needs Shuichi and Kirie safe, not these guys. She gets rid of them.
Another indicative immediacy is the one of the construction of the spiral of buildings. As soon as Kirie has abandonned Mitsuo and the chasers are dead, Kurouzu appears rebuilt in a spiral. The narration acknowledges the time disruption. The man who built all the shacks has a huge beard. Time passed quicker for him because time is now ruled by the spiral’s goal and this goal was to have this town rebuilt for the moment when Mitsuo would have been pushed away from Kirie.
It has to be pointed out that Mitsuo’s narrative arc is the one of the development of a normal sex drive and that Kirie opposed it firmly during the whole story. The kid saw a giant robot killing vilains in the lighthouse. He wanted to join the men who surfed on the tornados and ate snails, not sadistically, but as the last type of food available and praizing the strength it gave them. These last incarnation of masculinity were disgusting sure, but they were the last path to reproduction left. They try their luck with Chie and Kirie and get rejected, the spiral swallow them.
Still, Mitsuo wanted to try to become one of them. He had an urge to become a man. What was the problem ?
Mitsuo is ready to adapt to this new ruthless world, but Kirie prevents him from doing so, she emasculates him. He'll end up a prey instead of a predator and will change into a snail.
Was Kirie afraid of reproducing what her father did to her ? It’s difficult to imagine Kirie doing anything remotely wrong, but she’s actually in a situation of repeating her father’s transgressive crime. First, she’s been bullying Mitsuo from the beginning of the novel. She’s nice and devoted to everybody, selfless and humble etc etc etc. but when it comes to Mitsuo, she’s a systematic bitch. This is the realm of incest. I don’t know why, but her severity towards Mitsuo is really a bad sign in my opinion. Another problem comes from the fact that they are now in a world in which everything is « permitted » and she wouldn’t feel much of a bareer.
But when walking « in the woods », the place of all possibilities, she is accompanied by Shuichi, the man with whom she should be, and Chie, a universal witness who shall not look at the obscene.
This actually gives a meaningful reason for Chie to exist, she is a symbolic witness and she prevents something unacceptable from happening. She’s also developped as the person who values kids’ life more than anything. Her story with the three little psychopaths that she unties is an absolute demonstration of how she can’t accept harm done to kids in any circumstance and however evil they might be. So, clearly she would oppose any harm done to Mitsuo. Of course, most people would oppose any harm done to Mitsuo, my point is simply that Chie is defined through her incapacity to hurt kids even when she has all the reasons in the world to do so.
So, in those moutains, Kirie walks next to the kid who would be her victim if she was to replicate her father’s behaviour, next to the man with whom she should make love if she had a healthy sexuality, and the woman who would oppose anything wrong she might attempt with Mitsuo. My point is that the scene is built in a way that suggest what’s at stake.
Shuichi has tried hard to make Kirie follow him to Koriyama, she never does. She only accepts to leave Kurouzu for Mitsuo. This is a morbid priority.
And so, once Mitsuo is gone, the final phase of the phenomena starts.
18."The Labyrinth" (迷路, Meiro)
The city has been entirely rebuilt into a spiral. At this point Kirie again has the opportunity to give up and flee with Shuichi and Chie. They haven’t found a way to escape Kurouzu, but there still is a difference between trying to leave the cursed city and going for the center of the spiral.
I have the feeling that deep down, Kirie wishes Shuichi would give up on her, not because she doesn’t love him, but because she knows there’s no happy ending waiting for them. She’ll never have the right priorities. Here, she just wants to find her parents.
People are now all piled up inside the neverending lign of shafts, their bodies intermingled. One of them calls for Kirie’s attention. We can see that their iris and pupils are alterred : they are losing their individuality, just like their bodies are becoming one giant shapeless entity.
The poor souls ask Kirie to help them get rid of a body, that which is an interesting way of putting things again: they are losing their bodily integrity and ask Kirie to help them get rid of a body.
Kirie, Chie and Shuichi are now bothered by the smell of rotting bodies. All along this story they’ve witnessed a lot of horrible, disgusting and nightmarish things, but the whole situation should still make them run away. They are not indifferent or tough to the point that this won’t haunt them until the rest of their lives. Carrying on is stupid, violent and clearly dangerous.
What’s happening here, in regards to our hypothesis, is that kids who are abused sexually by their parents very often believe that the parent is in love with them (The same happens in The Edge of Seventeen). Kirie still cannot follow Shuichi because she needs a last conversation with her father. If it’s not about their love, it’s about what happened to Mitsuo, about their son. And thus, even in this grotesquely hopeless situation, she carries on asking monstrous dying creatures about her parents. And when she comes accross Tanizaki and he tells her the Goshimas « live » next to the dragonfly lake, she is elated and enthusiastic.
At this point, the feverish enthusiasm of Kirie’s father for the « art of the spiral » and the dragonfly lake has become obvious. He is a madman. He doesn’t look mean or dangerous, but he clearly is deranged.
The thing is, we’ve seen earlier that his activities are frankenstein-like. His obsession with creating things from the earth of the lake is an endless celebration of what happened with Kirie. It’s a perpetual assertion of his morbid love for his daughter. It is thus difficult for her to escape the morbid dynamic.
Chie is devoured by the construction of the spiral-shaped shacks just before it ends and the « people » inside are sucked in the center of the structure. The last thing we see of the journalist is her eye. That’s what she was, a witness but there’s no room anymore for a witness now, only agents.
19."Completion" (遺跡, Iseki, Ruins)
At the center of the spiral village, Shuichi and Kirie find stairs that descend into the bowels of the earth. This conveys the very legitimate feeling that they are going to discover something primitive and primordial :
1.Being or happening first in sequence of time; original.
2.Primary or fundamental.
3.Belonging to or characteristic of the earliest stage of development of an organism or a part.
Shuichi has to fight with a spiral man and falls. Kirie hurries, climbs down, falls herself but is caught by the wind. She wakes up and beholds the gigantic spirals.
I can’t find a proper way to introduce my interpretation here so let’s just say it :
These gigantic spirals are Gods. It’s not hard to believe so. Gods of sexual reproduction. Phallic and vaginal structures can easily be identified.
What happened to Kurouzu is that Kirie’s story with her father woke the spiral up, not only because of the transgression that is incest, but because Kirie is herself like a goddess. She is the most « achieved » female individual of Kurouzu, that which might be why her father was attracted to her.
The fact that she was abused thus created a transgression of the evolutionnary logic. Of all the woman in Kurouzu, she should be the one to have as many children as possible and certainly not reproduce with her father.
But when she refuses to leave Kurouzu because of Mitsuo, the spiral wakes up and their power starts to influence and alter everything in order to make Kirie evolve and understand where her destiny truly lies.
During the whole story I told my girlfriend that the sole thing needed for everything to stop would be that Shuichi and Kirie make love. They never do, they never even kiss.
Kirie finds her parents in the sea of bodies. They are together. This heals her final wound. Whatever happened, her father belongs to her mother. All the victims are turned to stone, they have become tokens, eternal symbols of the spiral’s power and domination… that which is positive.
The spiral corrects the transgression and when she finds Shuichi, although he is emasculated (broken legs) he is still alive and Kirie can finally offer herself to him. Shuichi is emasculated because he was right from the start, Kirie never followed him and they now have the proof that he was right from the start so, she won't be able to proove him her trust, and faithfulness, it's too late.
As soon as Kirie and Suichi « asexually make love », a huge rumble resonates and the spiral staircase is penetrated by the spiral tower.
It’s not a negative ending. Because of the Goshima’s family transgressive act, the spirals woke up and decided to take their gift to humans back. And Junji Ito tells the story very intelligently. Everything collapse step by step, sex, flirting, becoming sexual adults, having children, species disappear and others can become food, then having an individuality, bodily integrity, then time, space etc. Or maybe, the spirals do not take "their power back" but the power that they entrusted humans with becomes corrupted and they lose control of it.
At any time, if Kirie escaped her trauma and made love to Shuichi, the spiral might have deemed the problem solved, but because Kirie remained alienated up until the end, the Spiral went the whole way too.
The final cave is the depiction of what humanity is without sexual reproduction : we are just lifeless tokens of its limitless greatness.
The spiral gives their final lesson through this gigantic godlike penetration and Kurouzu is ready to start again on healthy grounds.
I don’t know exactly what difference it could have made but, this ending is not truly sad as Shuichi and Kirie are ready to be together at the end of the story. They are the best ground on which Kurouzu could rebuild itself.