Publisher: Viz Media
Publication Date: December 20, 2016
Tomie is another classic from Junji Ito’s series of horror manga first published in the late 80s. Readers originally read Tomie in the shojo magazine, Monthly Halloween in 1987. It was Ito’s first published work and has been adapted into an 8 installment live action film series and a tv series.
This series of horror stories focuses around a strikingly beautiful and mysterious woman named Tomie, who is identified by her gorgeous black hair and a mark just below her left eye. Although her origins are never discussed, it is implied that Tomie existed long before the events of the manga. She is a succubus who possesses an ungodly power to make any man fall in love with her, regardless of the strength of his will. Through emotional or physical manipulation, Tomie is able to control men and turn them into possessed, violent monsters. Often they kill other men in a jealous rage or they are driven to kill Tomie and hack her into pieces. Women are effected by her as well. She has no qualms about seducing taken men. Single women become obsessed with Tomie in another way – they want her beauty, and sometimes they end up becoming her.
Each short story shows Tomie in one of her many gruesome (or hauntingly beautiful?) forms, where she is driving a man to hack her up after she tortures them. Tomie finds ways to blackmail her targets and turn other women against them. In other cases, the women turn into Tomie through unfortunate circumstances. In one scenario, a strand of Tomie’s hair attaches itself to a young woman and grows until it pierces her brain. In another situation, Tomie is killed and her kidney is transplanted into a girl in desperate need of an organ donation. She recovers immediately from her illness… only for Tomie to regenerate right from the transplant!
In the majority of stories Tomie meets her death in some brutal way, usually at the hands of a man she has driven insane. Unfortunately, that’s not the end of her once she’s dead. The men she drives to kill are effectively her reproductive organs. If a man hacks her into 100 pieces, 100 fresh Tomie develop as a result. She can regenerate from any piece of her DNA, a splash of blood, a hacked off limb, an organ… well you get the point. As the series progresses, things become weird when the various Tomie become aware of each other and compete for the status of being ‘the real Tomie.’ In these arcs, the clones manipulate men to kill the others. Since each Tomie reincarnation never survives past young adulthood, she never has the opportunity to grow old.
Readers eventually meet one Tomie survivor who has become obsessed with following any incarnation of Tomie and making sure she reaches old age so she could see herself covered in wrinkles. This old man has an a backstory that makes it a bit difficult to sympathize with him, but at the same time Tomie is such a bitch I wanted to see her suffer so I cheered for him anyway. He is one of the few reoccurring characters that follow Tomie from arc to arc. Even though he’s not the nicest guy, it’s a relief to see someone linking different stories together who isn’t Tomie.
At the end of all of this, we get minimal access to Tomie’s thoughts so it’s hard to determine if she’s capable of human emotions, or if her succubus behavior is a basic instinct that she has no control over. Tomie engages in a variety of amoral behaviors that make you question whether she wants to get hacked up (to reproduce). In some stories, she seems to lament being burnt or diced or melted, yet she comes back each time and engages in the same behavior that got her chopped up into a stew in the first place.
When I first got a copy of Tomie, I wasn’t so sure what to expect. What I found in Tomie was a series of horror stories that engaged me not in the individual plots, but in reoccuring themes. Each story is different and can be read independent of the rest but they expose a vulnerability in humanity that can lead to chaos. I enjoy characters who can explore the human condition its vulnerability. Regardless of what drives people to murder Tomie, you feel satisfaction from her deaths. The characters suspect her death is the end, but in fact they are punished for taking the life of another(no matter how evil and inhuman she is) because she reproduces when she dies and finds more humans to torment.
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**This item was provided for review.