Month: July 2018

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    Painter (Tomie part 9)

    Just look at it! You think this silly thing captures even a tenth of my beauty?

    Tomie really doesn’t like her portrait — Painter

    What is Painter about?

    Mitsuo Mori is a Painter whose exhibition opening is where we begin this story. He is a Painter who is known for his collection of works containing a model called Nana. During this exhibition he meets a lone girl – Tomie – who seems to completely disregard his current model. Later, she follows him home and essentially forces Mitsuo’s model – Nana – out, and herself in as the replacement.

    As we know by now, Tomie isn’t the most photogenic person in the world, with each photo bringing her hidden demonic visage to the surface. So her plan is to enlist this Painter in order to “record her beauty”, as she puts it, making it immortal. He does his very best to paint her portrait and, despite him being proud of that work, Tomie just laughs him off before leaving him. According to her, he hasn’t managed to capture even “10%” of her beauty.

    After their fleeting relationship ends, Mitsuo starts becoming increasingly obsessed with Tomie. Or rather the memory of her. Things that would have once inspired him, no longer do so. Nothing will do it for him now – nothing but that exceptional young woman with whom he came to meet briefly. But how far will Mitsuo’s increasing obsessiveness take him down the spiral of madness? What will he do when he discovers that Tomie has found yet another artist to try and capture her image?

    Will he finally manage to capture the true essence of Tomie and, more importantly, will she like the result?

    Main Characters

    Obsession

    Painter really focuses in on the mental instability that Tomie manages to create within the men around her. Mitsuo, like most others who come into contact with her, becomes completely intoxicated by her, especially after she leaves him. His life is slowly consumed by the memory of their single painting session, which ultimately leads him into trying to track her down in a frenzied state of mind. I think of Tomie as a train that passes through the stations of these men’s hearts and minds. She taints them with her insanity before moving on to the next.

    It is sometimes hard to know if she is being sincere when she acts vulnerable towards people as well. Towards the end of this story, she is discovered in a state of somewhat fear, but it’s unclear whether this is real or yet another method of manipulation from her. Going by her previous actions she has taken when either crossed or assaulted, I’m inclined to believe it’s all a ploy. Just one of many methods to get what she wants from her large bag of tricks.

    A Fragment of Horror

    I actually first discovered this chapter within Junji Ito’s Fragments of Horror. And I think I can see why this chapter was chosen over others to represent Tomie within that collection. The artwork in Painter is amongst the best from all of the chapters within the Tomie Collection. Not only that, but the story itself is pretty well rounded too, whilst also being completely standalone. No former knowledge of the character is needed to fully enjoy this.

    Within Painter we get a good taste of most of Tomie’s signature characteristics as well. It almost manages to wrap up all of the important aspects of her character into one easy to explore bundle. We hear about the hypnotic effect that she has over men from her own lips; we learn about the distortions beneath the visible layers of her skin; and we get a good sense of her as a person. She is self-centred, egotistical and lacks any form of empathy towards those she hurts.

    I feel that the ending manages to capture the same feeling for the first-time reader as the first chapter did as well. And it does so in an even more grotesque way than before.

    Closing Thoughts

    Painter will live on as one of my top favourite Tomie stories – possibly due to it being the first one I ever read. It has probably the best introduction to the lady herself than all of the other chapters in the Tomie Collection. But of course, that is only my opinion. If you have never read a Tomie story, you would do well to start here. Although not the first to be published, it is probably the best opening to the large collection of stories about my favourite manga lady.


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    Waterfall Basin (Tomie part 8)

    You have a wonderful garden. Why not take this bundle and plant it somewhere? Water it periodically, tend to it, and eventually you will be blessed with a lovely new daughter.

    The Salesman tries to sell his wares to the villagers — Waterfall Basin

    What is Waterfall Basin about?

    In this eighth chapter from the Tomie Collection, Waterfall Basin, we encounter a very strange man – the travelling salesman. This salesman enters a small mountain village one day, carrying a very strange product indeed. Within his briefcase, he carries a selection of small, neatly-tied packages. These packages, one of the villagers discovers, contain pieces of flesh.

    Yes, it is safe to assume that the flesh is that of Tomie’s.

    The villagers quickly tire of the salesman and his vile product, and chase him out of their village. He is chased up to the edge of a nearby waterfall, where he soon begs for his life. He requests his safe escape in exchange for him dumping his entire stock into the waterfall. They accept his plea and allow him to leave empty-handed. However, the villagers have no idea about the horrors that they have unknowingly brought upon themselves.

    Soon after the Salesman’s escape, a very strange thing begins to happen. The bodies of young men start being discovered in the mornings, after having committed suicide off the side of the same waterfall. But what is summoning them to their deaths? And will there ever be an end to the deaths of these young men?

    Main Characters

    Who is the mystery Salesman?

    This was a strange story indeed. The idea of a random salesman turning up at a village to sell pieces of flesh (Tomie’s flesh) is one of Junji Ito’s weirdest ideas yet, in my opinion.

    But do you know what? It works!

    Within the context of the world of Tomie, this adds yet more interesting dimensions to the ever-winding tale. And the fact that Tomie herself almost takes a back seat to the story as a whole, was equally as interesting for me. Despite it being a story about her, it feels more centred around the events that she causes.

    There is no single Tomie character here; there is only the legion of her that emerge from the water.

    The most interesting question posed in Waterfall Basin, is who this travelling salesman actually is. Is he a former lover of Tomie’s who has cut her up like so many before him? Was he driven by madness to decide to distribute pieces of her to unknowing people? Or is he in fact conducting some kind of research into the effects that she could have on an isolated community? These are questions that we may never get answers to, and maybe that’s not a bad thing.

    Some mystery can be a good thing, after all.

    What to show and what to hide

    The gruesome factor got turned up to eleven in this chapter. It also helped to solidify a big facet of Tomie’s character. It shows how she has no problem feeding on human flesh in order to regenerate. We saw this a little bit at the end of Revenge, but Ito has gone even further with that idea here.

    Her power over the compulsions of others took on a whole new level too. She was able to summon people to their deaths from afar, ultimately to feed herself back to life. I wonder whether there is some kind of enhanced power that she is able to harness when there is a big enough group of her in one place? Or perhaps the village use that waterfall basin as their main source of water?

    I really love how, even though Junji Ito isn’t afraid to show us visual horrors in his work, he equally isn’t afraid to leave some of it to our imagination.

    In Summary

    A strange one to write about for me, this was. To be honest the story feels very short, but is no less interesting than many of the former chapters. The introduction of the mysterious salesman raised yet more questions for me. However, I’m not worried about not finding out their answers. One of my favourite aspects of the artists I admire, is in the deep mysteries that they leave buried for us to imagine.

    I think that Waterfall Basin would be an interesting introduction to the unique imagination of Junji Ito. There is good mystery, grotesque imagery and a haunting closing to the story.

    Conversely though, I probably wouldn’t advise this as an introduction to Tomie. This is mainly down to the fact that some backstory is needed here I think. It really helps to know who she is in order to get a grasp of what is going on as a whole. Plus the fact that she isn’t really featured heavily in this story – at least not in the more traditional ways that she is in other chapters.

    A great entry into the mythology, with some very iconic imagery, but perhaps best experienced in its proper order within the Tomie Collection.


  • 📂

    Revenge (Tomie part 7)

    Such a beautiful woman… having her on your back… does it excite you?

    The Captain’s jealousy over Tomie grows — Revenge

    What is Revenge about?

    Revenge is the first standalone chapter in the Tomie Collection that I have come across, excluding the very first one. It takes place in a single afternoon and evening up in the snowy peaks of an unnamed mountain range. We travel with a group of three people who are hiking across this landscape – their reason unknown. During their journey, they come across a body buried within the snowy rocks. It’s the naked body of a young woman who, amazingly to them, is still alive. That girl, in case you hadn’t guessed it, is Tomie.

    After helping her out of the rocks and into one of their sleeping bags, they start carrying her towards shelter. But it isn’t long until Tomie gets a mental hold over the captain of the expedition. Under her control, he gifts her all of his clothes and suffers the sub zero temperatures in just his underwear. Circumstances then lead to Tomie being left with a single member of the group, Tanimura. I wont ruin those circumstances for the people who are yet to read this chapter.

    Later in the evening, Tomie and Tanimura make it to a cabin safely. Once inside, they each begin warming up together from the harsh conditions outside. But it isn’t long at all before Tanimura’s true purpose for the expedition is revealed. Not only that, but it seems that his presence is in fact linked to Tomie’s current situation and previously-buried state on the mountain. But how long will his mind stand against the will of Tomie, and what fates await him once their stories are revealed to each other?

    Main Characters

    Standing on it’s own in a single time and place

    Revenge is a chapter that stands completely on its own in the Tomie universe. And we get just enough background information to be able to understand the situation. I found that this approach to telling a particular part of Tomie’s life was very effective. I love how even though it is isolated from the main story lines so far, it still fits comfortably into the world as a whole.

    Tomie, as a force of nature, has many strands of life and versions of herself floating around in the world. As we know, each time she is killed or cut up, she is able to grow back from the smallest molecule of flesh or blood. For this reason, it is entirely feasible for there to be countless – perhaps even unlimited – stories out there centred around any of these incarnations of the girl.

    Also of interest, is that this chapter takes place at a single point in time – the mountain journey of the exploration team across one fateful afternoon. This, along with its single location in the snowy peaks of the harsh mountain landscape, give this story a claustrophobic feel. At least for me. The Kiss chapter had a similar tone with it being set mostly within Tsukiko’s apartment, but this is the first time within the collection that this idea has been expanded more fully.

    Closing thoughts (with some minor spoilers)

    Revenge is one of my favourite Tomie chapters, mainly because it poses more questions than it answers. Like what happened to the other pieces of Tomie that were scattered on the mountain by Tanimura’s brother? What drove that former boyfriend of hers to take her to that mountain in the first place? What was the ultimate fate of all three of the exploration team? We can always surmise their fates from what we see in the chapter. But I think it’s still left pretty open for the stories of each to possibly continue.

    I’d probably list this chapter as one of the best ones from which to dip one’s toes into the story of Tomie. There isn’t any real extreme horror or gore in this one, aside from the last panels perhaps. But even those are pretty light from the pen of Junji Ito.

    All in all an enjoyable read, and one that I often go back to from time to time.


  • 📂

    Mansion (Tomie part 6)

    You appear to have some extraordinary talent. I’ve been fascinated with these pictures you took of my daughter.

    The old man compliments Tsukiko on her photographs — Mansion

    We have seen the mansion twice so far, during our exploration of the Tomie Collection. First we saw a wet, slightly-dishevelled Tomie appear on the mansion’s doorstep in the opening to Photo. And from what we could tell, It seemed to be occupied by an old man and his daughter. Second, we see her run back there after the shocking events in Photo, and its follow-on Kiss. She runs back to the old man as if he were her father, meaning she had somehow taken the daughter’s place.

    What is Tomie : Mansion about?

    In Tomie : Mansion we delve deeper into the story behind that mansion, exploring the secrets within its depths. Tomie mentions to the old man, who I’ll refer to as father from now on, that she has tracked down Tsukiko. (Tsukiko is the girl from the previous couple of stories, Photo and Kiss.) She was one of the lucky ones to have come face to face with Tomie and lived to tell the tale.

    Well, it seems Tomie doesn’t let go of grudges too easily, and manages to lure her back to the mansion. She does this with the promise of reunited her with her friend, Yamazaki. But once she realises that it was just a trick to get her trapped, Tsukiko must fight to escape the place.

    We then follow her as she comes across past admirers of Tomie – people who are still under her spell. They are hell-bent on using Tsukiko for experiments for research into Tomie’s powers. But will she escape those clutches alive once again, or will her luck finally run out?

    Main Characters

    A mystery revealed

    We are finally shown the truth about what happened that rainy night; the night when Tomie first appeared at the mansion’s doors. And not only that, but we also have an extra piece of information about that night, that I thought was a nice touch. The reason behind the old man’s apparent acceptance of Tomie is revealed too.

    It was nice that Junji Ito took the time to put these details in. It really helps to flesh out this whole world, as well as tying those other stories together. I can’t help but think that Ito must have had some sort of over-arching story line already in mind whilst writing each chapter. Perhaps not so much with the early ones, but there are definitely strong threads through these last few.

    What lurks beneath

    This chapter felt like a good ending to the “Tsukiko Trilogy” for me. And although it didn’t seem to last very long, it still has some interesting reveals. It also has a good mix of Tomie mutations thrown in for good measure too.

    It would have been great to have delved a little deeper into the mansion story. Perhaps if Tsukiko were driven further inside its walls, with a tougher escape journey, it could have been really special. Nonetheless, I enjoyed it for what it was.

    A special mention needs to be made for the poor family who call this mansion their home. I wont spoil their ultimate fate for you, but rest assured that they have a bad time with Tomie around. I don’t know why she chose that particular home to essentially invade, but when Tomie wants something – no matter how large or small – she gets it. This girl is a real piece of work.

    In Summary

    If I’m honest, I was expecting a much larger story within the mansion, as it seemed to have been built up through its previous appearances. Despite this, Mansion was an enjoyable read as always. It was even fun to see some old characters come back from previous chapters – one from very early on.

    Tomie : Mansion is probably best read as part of its full story arc – namely Photo; Kiss; and finally Mansion.


  • 📂

    Kiss (Tomie part 5)

    I was right, she’s here… Tomie… she’s here… somewhere in this house.

    Yamazaki swears he can feel Tomie’s presence still — Kiss

    Tomie : Kiss is the direct follow-on story from Tomie : Photo. In it, we’re following Tsukiko again, as she struggles to come to terms with the extreme occurrences that closed that previous chapter. We open the story to her having a nightmare of that previous night, which serves well as a quick reminder if you hadn’t read Photo in a while.

    Outside of her apartment she bumps into Yamazaki. She finds him free from Tomie’s spell after getting beaten up by the possessed boys Daichi and Kimata. Tsukiko, being the friendly girl she is, forgives him for his past actions and takes him back to the scene of the crime – her apartment. Here she attempts to nurse him back to health despite her apartment being a wreck from before.

    Within no time at all though, Tomie’s presence makes herself known to Yamizaki. She whispers to him directly, making him go looking for her in the apartment. Sure enough, he comes to the room where Tomie was killed the night before – and subsequently where she got back up from. Tomie then goes on to manifest herself in one of the cleverest ways I’ve seen in the series up until this point.

    How far will Tomie’s bodyguards, Daichi and Kimata, go in honouring their commitment to her? Will Tsukiko survive another day under Tomie’s shadow? Will Yamazaki now stay true to Tsukiko, or will he stray back into the arms of the possessor?

    Main Characters

    Single point in time

    Previous stories from the Tomie collection have been narratives that would span a decent length of time. Meaning, we would move from scene to scene – advancing the movement of time for the characters. With Kiss though, once Tsukiko has brought an injured Yamazaki back to her blood-stained apartment, we stay there. We are stuck in that room with them, witnessing the horrors that Tomie still manages to bring.

    Kiss is a chapter that really focuses in on the hold that she has over people too. Tsukiko is suffering from nightmares of that night; Yamazaki is still driven by the haunting voice of Tomie. Even the two henchmen of hers from the previous story have a more central role here. Both Daichi and Kimata are still hell-bent on killing Tsukiko, after having now taken Tomie’s mutated head away from the scene.

    While this chapter doesn’t really do much in moving the world forward too much, it does manage to give a satisfying – and suitably haunting – closing chapter to what happened in Photo. I like how it really drills down into a single moment in time that seemed to read in real-time for the most part.

    The blood is alive

    I love seeing new ways in which Junji Ito has Tomie regrow herself. Not just as simple as limbs growing back after being removed – the idea of the blood taking control was a nice addition to the canon. The exploring and pushing of the limits of her abilities show great promise for the future of the series.

    Tomie’s spilt blood giving life to the carpet underlay is one of those visions that stays with me. Out of the entire Tomie collection, it is one of the scenes that I remember most. I loved how it brought back my memories of the scene in Terminator 2: Judgement Day. Specifically that scene where the T-1000 rises up out of the ground in the mental hospital. Even though the basic idea is similar, it was good to see it here in a much more raw and bloody way.

    It was also fun to see this idea fleshed out further in the closing pages of this chapter.

    In Summary

    Tomie : Kiss is a continuation of the events in Photo. However, its still worth reading on its own if only for the visuals that Ito creates.

    The story itself is very simple and set in a single location for the most part. This really lets you focus in on the horrifying scenes that unfold for Tsukiko, without having to hold a bunch of extra characters and locations in your mind.


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    Just started #CaptainSpirit. It’s gonna be another tear Fest isn’t it? I can just tell.