Beauty. Spellbinding beauty. Men can become total idiots when it comes down to trying to win the heart of a beautiful woman. Most of the time they are deluding themselves as well, as the the object of their affections is often way out of their league. And sometimes they even get taken advantage of. Serves them right I guess. Let’s all be honest here, we live in a world where looks are, at least most of the time anyway, everything. I’m not trying to be cruel here, or make some kind of political statement, but just stating a fact. It’s a sad state of affairs not denying that, but all those sayings about how true beauty comes from the inside is a fairy tale. Not for me though, I firmly believe in that statement. It’s just that it unfortunately doesn’t always work that way and people in general are just more attracted to what’s on the outside, than what’s on the inside. Raist, what the heck are you doing here? Are you trying to make people feel uncomfortable? Are you trying to start a fight? Naw…no worries, this intro served a purpose. You see I just finished the manga Tomie by Junji Ito. Having thoroughly enjoyed Uzumaki by the same author, I just became interested in more of his work. So I thought I would check out another one of his tomes. This one though, gave me quite a different feeling then the aforementioned title. It made me very, very uncomfortable, and not in a good way.
The story of Tomie begins at a funeral. A young highschool student called Reiko mourns the loss of her good friend, a girl named Tomie. What makes the funeral even worse, is the fact that she was brutally murdered. And that’s probably an understatement. The poor girl was cut up, and parts of her body were found everywhere. There are as yet no leads as to who killed her, only that it must be a psychopath in order to do something as cruel and horrible such as this. When Reiko and her classmates return to school they are in for an even bigger shock. Tomie appears suddenly in class as if nothing has happened. At first people think that she must be a twin sister. Or that maybe the horrible mutilated bodyparts that were found, were from some other unlucky girl. Whatever the truth is, the school is an uproar and everyone is talking about Tomie. Especially the boys, because the girl is a knockout. With long dark hair, and a beauty mark just under her left eye, she is able to seduce any man. And that she does. Men are lining up for her, in order to win her affection. But men are also driven insane by her, literally. Soon things begin to spiral out of control, and weird things begin to happen. Horrible things. Awful things. Like murder. And the ones that are under the influence of Tomie want to kill her most of all. But no matter what they do to her, Tomie always comes back…….
When it comes to horror there is a lot I can take. I’m not one who scares easily, or becomes squeamish at the sight of blood. Hell even torture I can take to some degree like for instance in my guilty pleasure movie franchise Saw. What I don’t particularly enjoy is violence against women just for the sake of creating a shock effect. And well, I couldn’t shake the feeling that’s what was happening in this horror tale spun by author Junji Ito. In the beginning stages of this manga, I was drawn into the story and was even enjoying it. Just like in Uzumaki, we have exceptional and often quite disturbing imagery to enhance the tale. When we are talking about evil protagonists Tomie certainly ticks all the right boxes if there would be an application form for something like that. Because she is a seriously disturbing, utterly despicable and loathsome….well, that just it….what is she exactly? A monster? Yeah, most assuredly. Men are nothing to her, just playthings, to seduce and cast away when she is done with them. She manages to wrap them around her fingers, and can pretty much make them do anything. They are driven to total madness because of her unnatural beauty, and that’s usually what eventually becomes her own undoing. You see, men fall in love with her so badly, that they end up killing and maiming her in horrific ways.
No worries though, she always comes back, and is even able to multiply. Yes, you read that right multiply. As the manga progresses, we learn that Tomie can’t die, and when she gets chopped up, usually that results in multiple copies of her getting reborn. The thing is though, as interesting as this might sound, we never really get to know what she is exactly. Nor what drives her. Some might say that only adds to the mystery, and well to some degree I guess I could agree with that. But eventually it just makes Tomie a character that you don’t exactly can grow attached to in any way. I know right? It’s hard to grow attached to a villain in any case, but I beg to differ. There have certainly been movies or shows where you absolutely despise the main baddy, but you still want to see more of them because they are devilishly good. That might be the case for instance when they have an interesting arc, or a good motivation as to why they are evil. In Tomie you simply get a girl who is evil for the sake of, well evil. And that to me at least made her far less interesting. Another thing that really bothered me, and hence the uncomfortable part, was the brutal acts the men who fell in love with her performed. In 740 pages, Tomie gets killed a lot of times, and most often by cutting her up.
The first time this happened you are shocked, but well seeing her come back to life, you kind of shrug it of. But then it happened again, and again, and again. Eventually I really began to wonder if something happened in this manga author’s past that caused him to despise women or something like that. Because really, it became honestly quite disturbing as to how many times he showed Tomie getting cut up in ever more creative ways. And quite frankly, it also became a bit boring as well. As good as Uzumaki was, I just couldn’t really get into this one. It was not a total loss though. Most of the manga consisted of stand alone stories, with some of them loosely connected to earlier ones. And not all of these were bad. There were certainly a few interesting tales, that were different and where he tried to experiment with some other ideas and directions. The art is also exceptionally good, and while it of course contains some disturbing imagery, it does a great job of enhancing the horror experience. Overall though, I just can’t in good conscience recommend this one. I love horror, I really do, but for me this was a different and totally uncomfortable kind of horror. But well, maybe that’s just me as this manga overall has gotten very positive reviews. I guess beauty really is in the eye of the Beholder.
I give Tomie a 5 out of 10 score.