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.