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.

Waterfall Basin (Tomie part 8) by Junji Ito

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 small briefcase, he carries a selection of small, neatly-tied packages. These packages, one of the villagers discovers, each 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 home. He is chased up to the edge of a nearby waterfall’s edge, 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 happening. The bodies of young men start being discovered in the morning, 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?

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.

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? 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 is 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 here too. She was able to essentially summon people to their deaths from afar, ultimately to feed her 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 a 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 this one. 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 finding out their answers. One of my favourite aspects of the artists I admire, is in the deep mysteries that they leave buried.

Despite my love for Waterfall Basin, 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. 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 not best for a first timer.

Revenge (Tomie part 7) by Junji Ito

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?

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) by Junji Ito

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?

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) by Junji Ito

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?

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.

Photo (Tomie part 4) by Junji Ito

What is Tomie Photo about?

Tsukiko is a girl in school, who also happens to be a member of the photography club. However, she is using her skills with the camera to turn a quick profit, whilst preying on the desires of her peers. She will take photos of certain boys in school and then sell those photos to any girls who have a crush on them.

Before I moved here, I lived in spain for a while. I was born in France, though.

Tomie offers a possible explanation as to her origin.

Tomie, meanwhile, is the head of the school’s ethics committee, and immediately sees an issue with Tsukiko’s little business venture. She hatches an elaborate plan to entrap Tsukiko, causing her to take photos of her whilst talking about the profit to be made. Just as she planned the teacher overhears this and Tsukiko is immediately suspended from school: Tomie 1 – Tsukiko 0.

However, when Tsukiko gets those photos developed, they reveal a disturbing side of Tomie that the naked eye can’t detect. Something dark hidden beneath the surface; something evil. But when she tries to use these photos to exact revenge on Tomie, things take a nasty turn for her.

As an aside, it is interesting how Tomie Photo begins. We see her in the opening pages arriving at an unknown mansion of an old man and his daughter. Once she enters, we cut forward in time to Tomie being settled into her apparently-new life. This mansion will feature in future stories too, including the chapter quite aptly titled ‘Tomie Mansion’.

Where is the moral centre?

What I found most interesting in Tomie Photo, was the placing of the moral centre in the story. Things aren’t as simple as Tsukiko good; Tomie bad. In fact, I would argue that Tomie is on the side of right for most of it – all of it perhaps, depending on how you interpret her actions. (See bottom of this post for my reasoning with some spoilers). We saw this theme a little bit in the first chapter where, although she was manipulative, didn’t deserve to be killed and cut up by her teacher. Yes I know that particular death was an accident, but the disposing of the body wasn’t very dignified, was it?

But no matter where you place Tomie, Tsukiko is a bit of a bad girl herself. Essentially using her customers’ weaknesses in order to charge large sums of money for the photos. And at no point does she display regret for this – she’s too busy trying to keep herself alive towards the end from a very pissed-off Tomie.

I mean, really. Taking advantage of those poor girls, not to mention the boys you photograph.

Tomie seems to be on the moral high ground.

This kind of exploration of character is one of the many aspects of Junji Ito’s work, specifically in this series, that make me love his stuff. Nothing is simply good and bad; black and white; light and dark. There is an unsettling shade that weaves it’s way into most things throughout these stories. But don’t get me wrong, there are some purely innocent people who get caught in Tomie’s path along the way. But we’ll come to those in due time.

In Summary

This chapter is a favourite of mine from the Tomie Collection. It has an interesting exploration of character between protagonist and antagonist. Not only that, but even a few surprise left turns that took me off guard on first reading. The world begins to open up even more with this chapter also. Not only with the introduction of new characters, but also with the mansion she arrives at in the opening pages. This mansion will be explored further later on, which helps tie these stories together even more.

Although part of a bigger story, this is actually one of the chapters that can be enjoyed completely on its own too. The last couple have been continuations of the same thread in Morita Hospital, but Tomie Photo shifts gear – opening up the world a little more for my favourite manga lady.

Interpretation of Tomie’s actions (some spoilers)

My reasoning as to why she could be considered “good” in Tomie Photo, is down to the possibility of her being possessed by an evil alternate persona. We see it time and again through this series that she has the outward appearance of a normal woman. It only tends to be once she’s triggered somehow that things turn nasty. There are moments when these triggers don’t necessarily show her to be unveiling her true self, but rather her true self revealing itself against her will.

We can see this in that final harrowing scene in Tsukiko’s home. She calls Tomie a “monster”, which triggers a reaction in her that appears to be against Tomie’s wishes. This causes another head to start growing from her body. Tomie pleads to her bodyguards / lackies to cut it off of her which, in true Ito fashion, they do.

If indeed there is a foreign body within her that causes this, as opposed to her being in control of it all, it gives Tomie an even more multi-faceted personality.

Basement (Tomie part 3) by Junji Ito

What is Basement about?

Basement follows on directly from the events of Morita Hospital. We saw how the kidney that Yukiko received had mutated and formed a complete head – the head of its donor, Tomie. Well, the doctors managed to separate the head and remove it and the donor kidney out of Yukiko. The Doctors have now stored those pieces in a secret basement area for studying. They wish to understand how these body parts are able to regenerate. And regenerate they do – and at an alarming rate.

The main character in Basement is a young, inquisitive boy named Sato who is currently admitted to the hospital. He follows his nurse into that basement for clues to the rumours he’s been hearing of a mystery in the basement. However, he will discover more than simply a mystery as he bumps into the lady on everyone’s mind – Tomie. He also befriends Yukiko and starts to fall for her own unique charms. That is until Yukiko’s charms become threatened by an unstoppable force from within. (Sato is apparently one of those rare people not to fall for Tomie’s power – strong of heart and mind, it would seem.)

As the story continues we see how the flesh spirit of Tomie fights to return – back into the beautiful woman she was before. But now her DNA has multiple pathways within the Hospital from which to emerge. But what will happen when multiple Tomies emerge together?

Changes

Basement is a story all about change and rebirth – like much of Tomie’s stories to be fair. We follow her as she fights to come back to the world of the living, becoming reborn and yet still maintaining the same consciousness as her previous incarnations. This is what I meant by the term “flesh spirit” above. She seems to be able to inherit memories from the past versions of herself, even carrying grudges along with them.

And remember Yukiko from the previous story? Her continuation in this is pretty interesting too. It seems that the use of Tomie’s kidney in her previous operation, although removed soon after, may have left some of its cells behind. And if Tomie gets her grip on you, no matter how slight, she takes a firm grasp and doesn’t let go.

What I found perhaps most interesting in this part of the Tomie series, was yet another aspect of her character that was revealed. Although all of the replicas originate from the same flesh, there seems to be some animosity between each of them. Like rival sisters each wanting to be the favourite. Except each will stop at nothing to physically rid the others from existence. Each and every Tomie wants to be the centre of attention, and will share that limelight with no-one – not even with herself.

In Summary

This third entry in the Tomie series delves a little deeper still into her character. Although not nearly my favourite of the stories, it does give a good conclusion to the events of Morita Hospital. As such, you will want to at least read that previous chapter before this one. Many of the Tomie stories are quite self-contained. However, there are a few, like Basement, which will need the previous entries in order to give some context to the events.

Morita Hospital (Tomie part 2) by Junji Ito

What is Morita Hospital about?

Yuki is a school girl who is being kept at Morita Hospital awaiting a kidney transplant. She waits patiently while her condition slowly deteriorates. Often found sitting with her is her friend – a boy named Tadashi. The pair seem close, but the boy seems slightly withdrawn from the room when we join them.

As he leaves Yuki to her hospital room, she spots him out of the window walking with another girl. She knows nothing of the other girl, except for what she can see of her. This new girl is beautiful and has a distinctive mole under her left eye. We as the reader know that this is Tomie, but these people know nothing of her or what she is capable of.

Although it isn’t explicitly stated, I believe that this is the Tomie that Reiko found growing beneath the cave at the end of Part 1. Tadashi reveals how he met Tomie at the beach, which in itself isn’t that strange. But considering the fact that Tomie is referring to herself as Reiko, my theory is that she killed the original Reiko and assumed her identity. I can’t confirm this, but I like to think that this is what would have happened.

Tomie is a spoilt brat

We start to see the spoilt brat side of Tomie in the Morita Hospital story too. When she is walking with Tadashi, she tries to get him to buy her some new earrings on a whim. Unable to afford any more financial offerings of love, Tadashi unwillingly causes her to go storming off in search of a rich man who can cater to her wants.

A common thread of her personality is the wanting to drain the men who dote after her of all of their money. She just wants to be pampered and waiting on; told she is beautiful; and never crossed or betrayed in any way. I agree with not being betrayed, but what she considers betrayal, and what normal people consider betrayal, are two completely different things.

I felt that this story went further in developing her character for us than her first outing did. Of course, that initial story we discussed last week was just the kernel of the idea. Once he had received the praise he did for Tomie part 1, I assume it gave him the conviction to go further into his imagination, leading him to really begin fleshing her story out.

The organ donor

Due to an unfortunate encounter between Tadashi and Tomie, she ends up in hospital and ultimately dying. The doctors then, under advisement of someone claiming to be Tomie’s next of kin, decide not to let her healthy body go to waste. I won’t spoil who this apparent next of kin is, but it is somebody you may know from before.

It turns out that she also happens to be a perfect match for a certain patient awaiting a certain kidney transplant. The operation goes ahead and with great success. However, the spirit of Tomie is strong and she can not be killed – not easily at least. Her darkness will always find a way back to the light, squeezing through the cracks from within any living flesh.

In summary

The second part in the Tomie series continues pretty much from where we left off. However, it does take the story into a new direction with new players. This seems to be a running theme throughout the series. Tomie will show up in new people’s lives and pretty much just put them through hell.

Although not my favourite in the series, Morita Hospital is another layer across the character of Tomie. I think Junji Ito was really starting to find his feet with his artistic style in this chapter. Especially with the final panels and seeing just how Tomie manages to keep her spirit alive.

Tomie (Tomie part 1) by Junji Ito

Tomie kicked off what was to become one of the most engrossing and enjoyable horror manga series I have ever read. Not only that but this, its first chapter, kicked off the career of perhaps the most well known and celebrated mangaka, Junji Ito.

My friend Tomie is dead. Pieces of her body were found scattered everywhere.

From Tomie (Tomie part 1)

This first entry in the Tomie series is fascinating to me for two reasons. Firstly, it is the starting point for all of the stories that follow. Perhaps not all of them are linked to this specific incarnation of her, but it is our first meeting with the young lady. And since she has gone on to have such a huge legacy within the world of Horror Manga, is worthy of discussion.

Secondly, it is the first manga story that Junji Ito completed – while he was still a dental technician. He submitted it to the Umezu Awards where he went on to earn an honourable mention for it.

The beginning of a legacy

In this first entry of the series, we are introduced to Tomie and how she has seamingly managed to rise back from the dead. Of course, we only know this at the start from the account of Tomie’s friend, Reiko. However, we come to learn that not only did she in fact die, but that the witnesses went to some very extreme lengths to hide her body.

We learn how she has most likely been sleeping with her Teacher, who himself is also married. This in itself is a light introduction to a large facet of her character – that she really has no moral boundaries. If she wants something she goes after it. And most of the time she gets what she wants.

There isn’t too much in the way of Ito’s signature “body horror” in this story, save for the very last panel. But gosh how I loved how he decided to close this first chapter. We get to glimpse the genesis of Ito’s flourishing talent in that very last scene.

The start of a great artist

Junji Ito is now regarded as a titan within the horror manga community – in all manga in general, in fact. When you look back at this chapter after seeing his more recent stories, you will notice the difference in quality immediately. The detail isn’t anywhere near where we now know his work to be. But that does not detract from the story’s impact.

What you have to remember is that this is his first published story. It feels akin to the debut albums of great bands – like Nirvana’s ‘Bleach’, or The White Stripes’ eponymous debut. Yes, it’s rough around the edges and not indicative of the quality that comes later, but it is the honest, unfiltered core from which his talent would come to grow.

In Summary

The opening chapter in the Tomie series is a staple in the chronology of the Horror Manga genre. It not only begins the life of the beloved Tomie, but also marks the beginning of one of the most exciting artist careers within this world.

While this won’t show you the wildest imaginings of Ito, or his better artistic work, it will enrich your knowledge of the genre. I’m eternally grateful to Junji Ito for keeping Tomie’s story open like he did in this one. And also for continuing this lasting saga for the years that have followed.

Welcome to the story of Tomie.

Final thoughts with slight spoilers

I can only imagine what it must have been like to read this when it came out. Without the knowledge of Ito and his now-heavy back catalogue. That moment two thirds in when the teacher stands over Tomie’s dead body with his students. All stripped down to their underwear and ready to cut her up into twenty pieces with knives and saws.

As mentioned above, the only real body horror in this story is on the closing page. And that whole regrowth from one of the parcels of Tomie’s dismembered body parts was cool as hell. This was the demonic glue that brought the whole chapter together for me. Not only did she arise from the dead in some ethereal way, but that she is physically capable of regenerating from separated pieces of her body.