Passing Demon (Tomie part 18) by Junji Ito

What is Passing Demon about?

Ayaka, the youngest of a couple’s two daughters, is the odd one out in her family. She is beautiful; she is confident; and she bares a striking resemblance to a certain lady we’ve all come to know and love – Tomie. But she is not Tomie – at least not yet. A shocking event that happened to the family when Ayaka was just a baby, put her on a completely new – and doomed – path. A shadowy figure had taken away her innocence in one fell swoop.

It seems that Ayaka wasn’t the only one either. There are other young girls of Ayaka’s age who are discovered living in the very same town. They each stand identical to the next, and bare that unbelievable resemblance to Tomie. And It isn’t long at all until they become aware of each other’s existence – triggering the desire in each of them to kill off the others.

This desire to each rid the world of the others’ existence leads to some very troubling and violent scenes. These mainly come from the poor people who are caught in the crossfire, however. Of course, these girls don’t lift a finger in their attacks; they get others to do their bidding instead. Namely young boys that are easily controlled with those classic Tomie charms.

But will any one of the girls end up on top? Could they even learn to accept each other? And what will happen once the shadowy figure, who started all of this off, steps out of the shadows?

The shadowy figure

This is the first time I can remember that an apparent force more foreboding than Tomie took a foothold in these stories. When she is walking alone, Ayaka (who is at least 80% Tomie by now) is aware of a presence watching her from the bushes and the shadows – at least she can sense it anyway. I almost felt as though she was scared – like genuinely scared. And I don’t think I can remember a time when I saw Tomie scared – except when she was faking it, of course.

I feel as though this shadowy figure, who is revealed in the closing panels of Passing Demon, is much more depraved than Tomie ever was. He has no problem whatsoever with corrupting these tiny babies with Tomie’s blood, simply to have a chance at revenge against her some years down the line. This man is a truly sick individual, no matter what his motivations are.

Echoes of Assassins

I loved the call back to a previous chapter “Assassins” in this story. The whole concept of having brainwashed young men made to kill off other copies of Tomie was explored there. And it is one of my favourite stories too. So to see that idea return truly was a big treat for me. I even like to imagine that the chapter Assassins is in fact this moment in time – when these identical girls are each trying to kill one another off.

I wonder if Junji Ito envisioned that himself, or whether it is simply a coincidence. Nonetheless, the reference back to it was great.

In Summary

Passing Demon kicks off the final story arc of the entire Tomie Collection. It, along with “Top Model” and “Old and Ugly”, close off what has quickly become one of my favourite collections of all time. Although this chapter alone isn’t one of my favourites, I do really like the final trilogy’s overall story and how it all ties in together.

Passing Demon, and the two that follow, felt a lot more tied together than the Tsukiko trilogy did in the beginning of the collection. (the Tsukiko Trilogy being “Photo”, “Kiss” and “Mansion”) That’s not to say that those chapters were bad – quite the contrary. It’s just that I can really see how much Ito has progressed as a storyteller from those early days up to these final farewells.

Gathering (Tomie part 17) by Junji Ito

What is Gathering about?

Umehara is in the throws of grief over the passing of his girlfriend. We join him as he is being consoled by his good friend, Miyagawa, who offers a hand to help. Miyagawa invites his friend to a gathering that he has been regularly attending, but it is a gathering like no other.

On arriving, Umehara finds a room full of men on their knees all looking towards an empty chair on the room’s opposite wall. The whole place has the air of a cult, with those suspicions being solidified once the target of these men’s attention appears. It is Tomie. All of the men go wild and Miyagawa reveals that he has brought his friend as a gift to Tomie in order to receive a reward.

Tomie seems taken by Umehara immediately, however, he couldn’t care less about her. It seems his love for his recently passed lady are just too strong. As the story moves forward, Tomie tries to work out why she has no effect on him. Her failure leads to her turning her worshippers against him in response. But what is truly shocking, is when the inevitable happens and the crowds of men move past the infatuation stage, and into the “I just want to kill her and cut her up” stage. By the end of this gathering, things get rather messy – and perhaps not for the reasons you may first think.

An army of the obsessed

This story is about Tomie’s power of obsession over men, except it’s turned up to eleven. She essentially has an army at her disposal, and chooses to have them shower her with complements and gifts. She will demand for them to make her laugh; to entertain her in any way she shes fit. But when she doesn’t get her way, as is the case with Umehara, you’d better not be in her path.

The power that she has over these men is potent. And the conclusion of such an odd situation – with these men all sitting at her feet in a growing internal frenzy – could only lead to bad things. The whole chapter feels like a boiling pot of water just waiting to break over the sides. The final panels present a suitably violent scene for such a dangerous, high-pressure atmosphere.

In Summary

Not a favourite of mine in the Tomie Collection, but still a very worthwhile addition to its overall world. Here, Junji Ito is focusing in on the side of Tomie that drives men to obsess over her – and to do anything she asks in order to please her. Although it isn’t very large in scope, when it is digested along with all of the other chapters, really give a complete picture of this Queen of horror manga.

I don’t think this would be the best chapter to serve as an introduction to the lady. Although most of what you see in here would have been seen before in earlier chapters, there is one part that I believe is new. She manages to force herself into the reoccurring dreams of Umehara. Whether it is her doing or just from the effect she’s had on him, is not clear. So perhaps she manages to win him over after all?

If you are an existing fan of the series and want to see more of what you have come to enjoy from Tomie, then Gathering will make a fine addition to that repertoire.

Babysitter (Tomie part 16) by Junji Ito

What is Babysitter about?

In Babysitter, the story is confined to one small room throughout its entire 22 pages. That small room has the look of a cell, but is in fact a baby’s nursery. The babysitter herself is a young woman named Erita, who arrives at an elderly couple’s home in the opening pages. She is quickly introduced to the couple’s baby, although without actually seeing it properly, before being shown into the nursery.

Once in the nursery, Erita is locked inside with the baby. The couple tells her that they’ve had past babysitters run away during the job, so this is merely a precaution from them. After the brief explanation to the situation, Erita is encouraged to pull back the baby’s blanket. Can you guess what she finds underneath? That’s right – underneath the blanket is not a baby at all, but what she believes to be a little monster. However, us as readers of this series will recognise it as being a regenerating Tomie.

Once the couple have left Tomie (the baby) and Erita alone, Tomie begins to cry and slowly drive Erita mad. Babies crying in general, to those outside of their family, tend to have that shrill, piercing effect on many. But couple that with the powers that Tomie has and you have a deadly mixture. As it turns out, the only thing that can calm the small Tomie is the colour of red, which Erita slowly realises she must use to her advantage. But in such a small, confined space that colour is sparse – save for the blood in her veins and the growing number of town fires outside the window. Oh yes the fires – I didn’t even mention those did I?

Confined in space and story

Babysitter is very much a confined story. Not only does it trap our heroine, Erita, inside a small cell with this demon baby Tomie, but it also focuses the story there too. Except for the opening panels with Erita travelling to the home, we only see things from her perspective within that room. Even whispers and rumours from outside are learned from her spying outside of the barred window. We only know what she knows.

Tomie’s madness is always something to be feared, but generally when people start to feel the effects, they have the opportunity to run or hide. However, in this small locked room, the babysitter Erita has no choice but to withstand and eventually comply with Tomie’s demands.

Despite the story taking place solely within this nursery, don’t be fooled into thinking that this has no extra layers. There is in fact a wider story going on outside the window, which actually has a big impact on the overall story. And not only that, but only the future of both Erita and Tomie.

In Summary

I find this chapter to be a very charming one. Something about it makes it one of my favourite from the collection. It has a certain charm in how it focuses in on the doomed relationship between Erita and Tomie. Although the story doesn’t really take us to many places, I find it does quite a lot in the space it does have.

I always find it more interesting somehow, when artists work within certain constraints, whether self-imposed or not. In this, Junji Ito has limited himself to a single room and seen what he can create from it. For me, he has created a short but nonetheless very entertaining segment of Tomie’s life. At least one of her many lives anyway.

Moromi (Tomie part 15) by Junji Ito

What is Moromi about?

In Moromi, Junji Ito mixes things up a bit, centring the entire chapter around the attempted disposal of an already-killed Tomie. Not only has she already been killed, but her former partner – Ishizuka – is busy mashing her remains into a fine paste on the floor. And even though he is putting a lot of work into it, her bloody remains seem to not be getting any smaller. In fact, he has noticed that the flesh seems to be getting larger in volume.

In order to get some help, Ishizuka invites his friend Nagaoka round. Once he arrives, he is told about the strange situation going on. Ishizuka brings him up to speed, revealing that he has discovered that the pieces of Tomie seem to be regenerating. Tomie just can not die. He explains how he has tried to fight the growing flesh, by cutting it up as small as possible. However, he now has buckets and buckets of her remains that are still growing out of all proportion with no way of disposing of it.

His friend then comes up with a very strange method of disposing of the meat. And this is where the story gets a bit odd, at least within the context of Tomie. They both travel to Nagaoka’s parent’s Sake factory, where there are huge tanks of mixing vats. These mixing vats are where the family Sake is produced, and it will also become the target for Tomie’s disposal. They begin mixing in parts of the flesh piece by piece into the Sake mix. This begins to have a very strange effect on everyone as the vapours begin to circulate round the factory. Not only that, but when they decide to taste the new recipe things really get turned up a notch in strangeness.

Regeneration

This is a story that focuses solely on Tomie’s regenerative powers. But not as we’ve seen before from complete limbs or cuts in the body. Instead, this is regeneration from the mangled, squashed flesh of a once-beautiful woman. Her appearance in this chapter is relegated mostly to being just that of buckets of body parts and ooze. Except, that is, for the spirit hallucinations that occur once the vapours being to rise. It reminded me of the chapter Hair in that respect, as she didn’t appear completely in that one either.

There isn’t as much elegance attached to her here either, due to the fact that she spends the time as buckets of chopped-up flesh. This chapter is a much grittier, dirtier story than we’ve come to expect so far from the Tomie Collection. For that reason I enjoy it on its own level from others. I believe that Junji Ito must have approached this story in a very tongue-in-cheek manner. Just the fact that the friends very first suggestion, and the one that they actually go with, is to shove her parts into Sake vats in his family’s factory. It’s so ludicrous, but its one of those stories that always makes me smile.

Not only is it a fun and silly one, but it provides some much-needed relief after the much darker events of the previous chapter “Boy” too.

In Summary

This isn’t a chapter that features highly in my favourite Tomie stories, but it is still enjoyable nonetheless. I loved the juxtaposition of the opening panels – with the loving words from the boyfriend, followed by him beating her corpse into the ground.

This is another standalone chapter, which I think is suitably placed with its other chapters. Moromi sits comfortably in the middle of the overall collection. And while not the best there is, is definitely worthy of your time in reading.

Boy (Tomie part 14) by Junji Ito

What is Boy about?

Satoru is a young boy whose parents have recently moved them all to live by the sea. It was the father’s thinking that it would be good for a young child’s health and growth – how wrong he was. While wandering the beach alone, Satoru stumbles across a small cave with a pool of dark red coloured sea water inside. On closer inspection he finds the body of a young woman floating to the surface – her face cut to pieces but miraculously, still alive.

The young boy befriends the woman, who introduces herself as Tomie. As their friendship grows, she convinces the boy to help her in her recovery. First with bringing her food and some clothes form his mother’s wardrobe, followed by her having him steal a fancy dress more “befitting” of her. Tomie has the boy completely under her spell, even convincing him to call her “Mommy” from now on.

Satoru’s sanity declines very fast, as his obsession over his new mommy drives him to do some very bad things. Eventually, the parents notice that something strange is happening, and do their best to stop it. But will the boy’s parents be able to break the hold that Tomie now has on their son? Or have they tried to help him too far down the track; are they too late to save their only son?

The darkest Tomie chapter

Throughout our looking into the stories from the Tomie Collection, we have come across some pretty dark themes. However, this chapter sits up top for me as being the single most darkest one. Simply down to the fact that it involves the corruption and gradual insanity of a young boy. Junji Ito is most definitely not afraid to explore areas of his world that other people would perhaps be too afraid to conquer.

Characters who cross Tomie’s path generally have a pretty bad time with her. But when it comes to children, the horror becomes that little bit more scary. Ito has a talent for getting under my skin, and indeed many other people’s skins. However, this is where he officially got all of his claws in and asked “Are you ready to go deeper and darker?”

I remember having similar feelings from a chapter within Dissolving Classroom, where the young girl – Chizumi – has a boy her age kidnapped. But I think that Boy just pips that one to the post, as it goes pretty deep into how Satoru is changed at his very core. And how he transforms very quickly from innocent to cursed. So much so that it sets in motion the events for the rest of his tainted life. The final few panels that detail the boy’s adult life were pretty heartbreaking.

In Summary

Depending on your disposition, this could be quite a tough one to get through. This is all down to the fact that throughout the entire story, Tomie is corrupting a very young boy and moving herself into his mind as his mother. This is a big splinter that risks breaking the family right down the centre. The fact that she has no reason whatsoever to bring terror upon these people, makes it very easy to hate her completely.

I have mentioned in the past about how she had some characteristics that I enjoyed about her – even liking her at times. But in this chapter, Tomie is without redemption; without reason; and is at her most callous and destructive from start to finish.

Little Finger (Tomie part 13) by Junji Ito

What is Little finger about?

A father of four brothers brings home a new woman in his life. Her name is Tomie. As you can probably imagine, Tomie has an immediate effect on the brothers, an attraction that she returns. This chemistry between the brothers and Tomie takes its toll on the father, who soon commits suicide. She is then left alone with the four brothers.

The thing is though, not all of the brothers have desires towards Tomie. Hiroya is not conventionally attractive, often being the target of bullying from his three siblings. But he has something that his brothers do not – an immunity to Tomie’s charms. She hates the fact that he isn’t obsessed with her as the others are. And despite her best efforts, she is unable to win him over. This leads to Hiroya being locked away from everyone in the basement, away from the people who matter.

Hiroya is later released and discovers that his brothers have done something terrible to Tomie. They have killed her and cut her to pieces, which she probably expected to be honest. The weak, sickly brother is then forced to dispose of her body parts in exchange for his being let free. Hiroya makes good on his deal, but little does he know that he is forever sealing his fate. What follows is an encounter with Tomie, as she regenerates around him, tormenting him with echoes of his past. But will he survive the suffering, and will he reach the end of this path with his life intact?

A damaged man

This is the first time I have read a story from the Tomie Collection where the central character was weak and completely lacking in self-confidence. The characters in these stories are normally well-adjusted people, however, in Hiroya’s case this couldn’t be further from the truth. But with his weaknesses, comes a huge strength that many don’t possess – the power to resist Tomie’s powers.

That inner strength of his is soon put to the test though, as he is left hidden away with Tomie as she regenerates. And not one of her, but four! These four instances of her give Hiroya a glimpse at his own life from an outsider’s perspective. He is able to see these four versions of her grow up, with one of them significantly slower and weaker than the others. This echoing back to the story’s earlier theme is one of the things that makes Junji Ito the craftsman that he is.

Through the horrors of a regenerating Tomie, Hiroya is shown elements from his own life. He knows what its like to be the slowest and the most hated, which allows him to know the pains of the weakest sibling. His inner strength knows no bounds too it seems, as he is able to befriend – and give comfort to – that weaker version of her. But at what cost?

In Summary

Despite being outwardly one of the weakest characters within the Tomie Collection, I think Hiroya is inwardly one of the strongest. Not just from his ability to resist Tomie, but with his power to empathise with something so threatening and grotesque. He is truly a man who is able to not only confront the fears from his past, but is able to embrace them too.

Little finger was a very enjoyable read for me. It was great to finally see a man who was almost invincible to Tomie’s powers. Although it took him being slightly disfigured and having zero self-confidence in order to have that gift. While this wasn’t the most visually inventive chapter, it does have many aspects that are to be admired. Like how Ito is able to tie in such a strong theme, that is used so well in the story’s pay off.

It is probably not the best introduction to the character of Tomie, but it is a chapter that is definitely worthy of your time. It will do well in expanding a preexisting knowledge of this awesome, and horrific, world.

Adopted Daughter (Tomie part 12) by Junji Ito

What is Adopted Daughter about?

In the twelfth chapter from the Tomie Collection, Adopted Daughter sees the lady herself be taken in by a friendly old couple. This lovely couple have been unable to have children themselves, and so have previously adopted from a local orphanage. However, their fate seems cursed, as every one of the girls they have adopted has died mysteriously. These strange deaths, whilst under their care, have birthed some very bizarre and troubling rumours about them.

One rainy night, the unconscious body of a young woman is found just outside of their window. The couple quickly take her inside, dry her up and make her feel at home. She introduces herself – her name is Tomie. The couple see this event as a blessing and immediately offer her a home. She accepts, after explaining about how both of her parents have recently died. And it isn’t long until she finds herself right at home.

The old couple dote on her as if she were their very own. They do their very best to make her every desire come true, no matter what she asks of them. They buy her nice jewellery; dress her in beautiful gowns; make her hair up like royalty. But none of this manages to stop the inevitable effect that Tomie ends up having on those around her. Those same desires in the innocent soon reveal themselves with gusto, for the story’s climactic ending.

Twists and tragedy

Adopted daughter is definitely one of the darkest Tomie stories I have read. All of the stories within this world are pretty dark by definition, however, this one manages to go that one extra step. For me, this was down to the sub-plot that is hidden within the over-arching story. I’m not going to mention a word of its details here, for fear of spoiling it for you. Let me just say that it was a twist that I didn’t see coming, and reminded me that the scariest things in horror are those that are rooted in reality.

My heart went out to this sweet, old couple. Although I don’t want to reveal their ultimate fate, the fact that they seem to be cursed with sick daughters – and then to have Tomie turn up – is a truly upsetting situation to be in. Not only that, but the rumours that go around about them are unfair too. I know that people will talk, especially about certain unknowns in their neighbourhood, but when you add it all up, this couple just doesn’t deserve it.

The couple are without a doubt shunned from society – alone together – and unable to make a family. Mix that with the horrific events that they come to witness, and you have a very unfortunate final stage in life.

Closing thoughts

I would definitely put this chapter into my top five from the entire Tomie Collection. The sense of depth in the story’s history, which comes out from the later-revealed sub-plot, is the most rich out of all I’ve read so far. I would even go so far as to say that Adopted Daughter would make an excellent Tomie film, in the right hands.

If you haven’t read a Tomie story before, or indeed any of Junji Ito’s stories, I think that this would give you a great introduction. This chapter has one of the best written narratives from the collection in my opinion. And it gives a good level of gore without being completely in your face. Adopted daughter is a standalone story in the collection, so feel free to read this one during any stage of your exploration.

Hair (Tomie part 11) by Junji Ito

What is Hair about?

After looking around her father’s study, Chie discovers a very weird trinket hidden in secret. That trinket is a wooden box, within which is a large collection of long black hair. Although the contents of the box are strange, the hair’s unique properties are stranger still.

Once the box has been opened, the hair seems to start growing of its own accord. To share in her weird discovery, Chie confides in her best friend Miki and tells her all about her find. Playing around as children do, each of them get a strand of the hair attached to their heads. It just sticks into their scalp and makes a permanent home there.

As time goes on, they both start having strange dreams – dreams of a beautiful young woman who introduces herself as Tomie. But those dreams become increasingly real for one of the girls as she starts attaching more strands of hair to herself. But how much is too much? And what effect will Tomie’s hair ultimately have on these innocent girls?

Body horror

When I think of the body horror sub-genre within horror manga, I imagine the contorted faces from some stories. Or even the devastated bodies from viruses and curses such as in Emerging or Manhole. What I never even considered was how hair could be used in just as an effective way. It just took someone like Junji Ito to see what I could not, and bring it to my eyes in as demented a form as possible.

What Ito has managed to do, yet again, is go to a place that I could never have even dreamt of. We all know that increased hair is a universal sign of maturing within us humans. So to have that taken and used as a catalyst for the changes that these girls start going through was a stroke of genius.

The conclusion to this chapter gave me some remembered feelings from another story of his called Greased. Although not anywhere quite as vulgar as Greased in what it shows, Hair does a great job at ticking some of those same boxes. It too uses parts of the body’s natural processes to try and completely unnerve you. And for me it completely succeeded.

Transformations

Hair is a chapter that focuses solely on Tomie’s ability to take over an unknowing host. We saw a similar case to this in the Basement chapter through the infection of Yukiko’s blood. However, here Tomie is doing the same thing through the DNA of the hair that Chie’s father had been keeping. As soon as it latches on to them, it works its way into their mind and begins to take them over.

The more I think about it too, the more I can’t necessarily blame Tomie for what she is doing. I mean, of course she is the enemy here, but is she not simply clinging on to her life like any self-aware being would? Of course it is to the detriment of the girls she is affecting, but I find Tomie’s motives here somewhat pure. It is the father who kept the hair hidden for himself for so long that I blame. He would have known the powers that Tomie had, yet still he kept that hair in the same house as his wife and daughter.

What I found interesting, and even refreshing, with this chapter, was how Tomie herself doesn’t actually appear in the story in physical form. Instead, it is only through the hallucinations that both girls witness that she appears.

In summary

I found Hair to be a calmer chapter in the Tomie Collection, but with one of the more visually disturbing endings in my opinion. I think that any dark ending to a story that affects children is by default more disturbing. But in how Ito chooses to essentially teach these girls a lesson really touched a nerve in me when I saw its conclusion.

I guess that those are the buttons that horror manga should press. If you’re not left feeling at least partially disturbed after reading one, then the author hasn’t taken full advantage of the genre.

Assassins (Tomie part 10) by Junji Ito

What is Assassins about?

Assassins is a story that starts off at full speed and really doesn’t slow down too much. A man named Tetsuo stumbles upon the violent attack against a young woman who we as the reader know as Tomie. The rescuer gets her back to his apartment and tries to nurse her back to health. However, it is in vain as she dies in front of him, but not before she makes a final wish. Tetsuo carries out her wish, which is to have her buried out of the way in some secluded place. But as he’s about to leave the buried corpse, a very strange thing happens.

He hears a voice from beneath the ground he had just dug. After re-uncovering the body he finds a second head, identical to the body’s regular head, growing from the chest area. This new head is the only part of the body left alive and demands itself to be cut out. He does so and takes the living head back to his apartment in secret. As the head slowly regenerates, it makes demands on Tetsuo for fine foods and expensive jewellery. It seems that this head is closer in nature to the Tomie that we know and love than the one attacked at the beginning of the story.

As the story moves forward we find that more would-be assassins lurk around the corner. But which version of Tomie will live on to tell her story? Will Tetsuo live out this crazy situation? Whatever ends up happening, I’m willing to bet that he regrets helping that initial Tomie from certain doom in those opening pages.

A great sense of humour

It’s all too easy within horror manga for the humour to be completely overshadowed by the violence on the page. But what Junji Ito manages to do, perhaps most obviously in this chapter, is display such a great sense of humour within his stories. I think he would be the first to admit just how absurd the idea of a talking face on a pillow would be, but it’s no less effective for the story. He manages to let the audience know that he’s in on the joke too.

The idea of feeding a face on a pillow is so outrageous. Then her spitting it out to yell “Where’s your Caviar? Your Foie Gras?”. The idea that this girl is so in demand of fine things that she would still demand such fancy foods. And when she demands an expensive necklace and Tetsuo says the thing that we are all thinking – “You don’t even have a neck. What would you do with it, anyway?”.

I just love the humour to bits. It doesn’t make a mockery of the story; it simply pokes fun at itself just a little bit.

Wrong place, wrong time

Normally, the people who become entangled in Tomie’s mind games do so in their places of work or home. She would enter their lives and basically drive them to madness. But in Assassins, it is those unfortunate to cross paths with her who end up suffering. Such as Tetsuo who only wanted to help a woman in need, or the young man we see later who discovered her in the mountain woodlands.

We are again subjected to Tomie’s complete disregard of other people’s thoughts, feelings or even lives. She is a user who will make her victims do absolutely anything to help her achieve her end goal. I think my original theory of her having a hive mind stands up here too. The original Tomie from the opening speaks of events that happened between Tetsuo and the head that was cut from her body. As though there were a psychic link between the two. But of course she uses this knowledge solely for Tetsuo’s manipulation.

It is chapters such as this one that make it hard to like Tomie. I mean, I always enjoy her for the character that she is; there have been moments in the past where I couldn’t help but like her a little bit. However, this chapter was not one of those moments for me.

Closing Thoughts

I love Assassins for how breakneck the pace is. It never really lets up from that opening attack on Tomie to the closing actions of the hero-of-the-hour, Tetsuo.

This idea of each of the Tomie’s trying to kill each other off was first seen in the Basement chapter, but wasn’t really investigated after this. Even in the closing panels of Waterfall Basin, the numerous versions of her that arise, do so in unison, not against one another. So it was great to see this internal conflict between Tomie and her “siblings” – for want of a better term – explored further here.

Painter (Tomie part 9) by Junji Ito

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?

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.