Frankenstein by Junji Ito

Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein is perhaps one of the most well-known horror novels ever written, if only by name. In his horror manga of the same name, Junji Ito tackles the mammoth task of bringing this novel into his disturbingly visual world.

Frankenstein is such a huge part of popular culture, however, I have to be honest and say that I have never read Frankenstein the novel; Ito’s version is my first time experiencing the story itself. I knew the rough story – the Doctor creating the monster, but I needed to check the major plot points on the novel’s Wikipedia page after reading this manga, just to see how close it was. 

The Eyes of Frankenstein

I am happy to report that Junji Ito’s version of Frankenstein stays very true to Mary Shelley’s novel. Even the narrative structure of telling the story from the perspective of the ship’s captain is maintained. But I can’t give a full comparison as I am not familiar with the source material.

What is Frankenstein about?

During an expedition to the North Pole, in the pursuit of fame, the captain and his crew see the towering figure of a stranger in the distance. This is followed by them finding a man out in the freezing cold all alone and in need of shelter — a man by the name of Victor Frankenstein. Victor is in pursuit also, only his pursuit is of something far more tangiable than fame. His pursuit is of a creature he decsribes — the figure that the crew saw previously.

Suffering from exhaustion and cold, Victor tells the captain his story and how he came to be out here in the wilds of the North Pole. We learn of Victor’s childhood and family, and his growth into the scientist he became. He also recounts the terrible deeds he performed in the pursuit of greatness in his unique field of study.

Complete at last… The Perfect Human

He goes on to tell the Captain of his creation, the Frankenstein’s Monster, and how it came to escape and ultimately wreak havoc on his family. We bear witness to the awful deeds that the monster does, and Victor’s seemingly never-ending pursuit of it. Victor’s story ultimately brings us back to the current time on board the trapped ship and to the final moments of realisation of both the monster and the creator alike.

My thoughts

As I said before, this was the first time experiencing the full story of Frankenstein. I mean, I’ve always known about the characters and the creation of the monster through parodies and tv series tie-ins like Penny Dreadful and Carry On Screaming, but never the original story.

I am glad, in a way, that reading Junji Ito’s interpretation of it was my first taste. It meant that I got to experience all of the story’s twists, turns and moments of horror, only via the expert artistry of the horror mangaka himself. That’s not to discount Mary Shelley’s talents; I’m just saying that this was a very different way to be subjected to it for the first time.

I’ll just leave this here…

I thought that the intricacies of the monster himself were put across very well too. It’s moments of horrific brutality; it’s moments of love towards the family whose home he hides in; and the moments of vulnerability where he pleads for his creator to build him a mate – a mate who won’t cower and scream at the mere sight of his face. Someone he can love — and receive love in return.

I can’t say that this is my favourite Junji Ito story, but nonetheless I thought he did a great job working within another writer’s world and the limitations that it can bring. His artwork is on point as always, with the depiction of both innocence and horror so expertly portayed, sometimes through the same character.

I’ve heard said before that if you are going to remake or cover someone else’s creation, whether a film, song or whatever, you should either strive to improve on the original or at least make it different. Whilst I can’t say whether or not he improved it, I do think he brought something completely different. Perhaps even bringing this classic horror story to the eyes of people who may never have ended up reading it — like me.

In Summary

Whilst I can’t recommend reading this version of Frankenstein before the original, nor should I, I do feel that it is definitely a Manga worth reading at some point. I’m not sure about any different experiences I may have had, had I have read the novel first. The big difference that does spring to mind is that all of the visuals would have been created in my imagination – making it even more scary perhaps?

But as a standalone horror manga, regardless of the source material, Junji Ito’s Frankenstein is a great read in my opinion and worthy of your time.

The Silent Scream (Hammer House of Horror episode 7)

The Silent Scream may be one of my favourite episodes from the Hammer House of Horror series. It doesn’t contain any deaths – not of people anyway – and doesn’t really have much in the way of gore. But where this episode excelled for me was on the psychological level.

Plus, escaped nazi war scientists always bring with them a particular brand of horror for me. Memories of American Horror Story‘s Dr. Hans Grüper.

Lay the right bait, and almost any creature will walk in of its own accord.

Martin Blueck to Chuck Spillers

Main Characters

What is The Silent Scream about?

Chuck Spillers, played by the excellent Brian Cox, is fresh out of jail and back into the loving arms of his wife, Annie – played by TV actress Elaine Donnelly. Whilst in prison he was visited regularly by an older man, Martin Blueck – played by the ever-charming Peter Cushing. Blueck would talk with him and give him money for his time. Although this initially seemed very generous, it is soon apparent that this was just bait; grooming him for what was to come later.

True to his word, the day after his release Chuck goes to visit Blueck at his place of work – a pet shop in the centre of town. He goes to say thank you to this old man whom he now considers a friend. Blueck then offers Chuck a job, only in a secret back area of the shop.

Re-united

In the back is a large warehouse where Blueck keeps all manner of dangerous and exotic animals in cages. These include Lions, Tigers, Panthers and Baboons. What is perhaps more surprising for Chuck, is the fact that the cages all have their doors open.

Blueck explains his ambitions to create zoos without bars, where animals can walk freely and still be of no danger – something that Chuck sees the benefit in having just been released from jail. These animals have been conditioned to know that the open doors do in fact contain an electrical field that will instantly kill any who attempt to pass through. Only after the power is turned off, and the loud buzzer is rang, is it safe to briefly step out to get their prepared food.

Chuck dutifully tends to the animals each day whilst Blueck is away, as he is paid to do. However, Chuck’s attention is continually drawn to a safe housed in the wall on the second floor of the warehouse. He knows he has the skills necessary to open such a safe and obtain the potential fortune within. But his greed may well be his undoing.

Prisons without bars — my thoughts

Imprisonment is a big theme in this episode: Chuck has just been released from jail, where he found the confinement particularly hard to cope with; the animals being housed in their open cages with fear of death on exit in Blueck’s warehouse; and even the limitation of locations in the episode. For the most part we are either in the Spillers’ kitchen or Blueck’s shop.

On writing this it even occured to me that perhaps the prisons that these character’s carry within them are of importance too. The way that Chuck’s desire for more leads him to crack open the warehouse safe, causing his own imprisonment by Blueck.

A Leopard sits in its cage

Or even the way that Annie is still bound to Chuck with love, even after his greed and criminal actions lead directly to his being imprisoned. And her being bound to him, attempting his rescue, leads to her own capture by Blueck.

And finally Blueck himself. His desire to experiment on Chuck and Annie, to create a prison without bars, ultimately leads to the overlooking of his most dangerous captive animals – sealing his own fate

I found this episode to have a good amount of tension — the most poignant moment just has to be that scene with the puppy. Although not gory, it still manages to leave it’s trace across the rest of the episode. I didn’t find the lack of blood and conventional Hammer Horror deaths to be a thing I particularly missed either. I mean, a bit of gore can be fun alot of the time, but in this story the suspense and tension were balanced enough to carry it on their own.

The ending was suitably nightmarish for me, although I could see it coming a mile off. This was simply due to a previous scene with Blueck driving away from a location in his car. It was a shame, because had it have been edited in a slightly different way, I believe that the closing scene could have been much more of a surprise twist.

Summary

I loved this episode. The over-arching theme of imprisonment and being beholden to the desires we carry within us was an interesting one. Some of these episodes can be a bit hit and miss for me, but there are enough good quality episodes, like The Silent Scream, that really hit the mark.

I enjoyed seeing the legendary Peter Cushing in the role of Blueck. I was so used to him portraying the side of good, like as Van Hellsing in the Dracula films and Sherlock Holmes in The Hound of the Baskervilles. So it was a real treat to see him in such a dark role.

(I know he played Grand Moff Tarkin in Star Wars too, but I’m only thinking of the more horror-themed films here)

Also Brian Cox playing Chuck Spillers. He has one of those faces that I knew I recognised – I just couldn’t remember from where. Then I read his filmography and saw, amongst many other entries :

1995BraveheartArgyle Wallace

Instant recollections of the opening scenes from Braveheart hit me. That’s where I know him from!

What Is the Fediverse?

The word Fediverse comes from the joining of the words “Federated” and “Universe”. It encompasses web-based social software that is inter-operable through open protocols1 and gives each person full control over their own website and data.

(of a country or organization) set up as a single centralized unit within which each state or division keeps some internal autonomy.

federated, from Oxford living Dictionaries

Where are we now?

Modern social technology, for the most part, revolves around huge central areas of power. Places like Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Google have become household names. But these sorts of companies are not conducive to a free and open world.

These central powers monopolise much of the communication between people and fully own and control the data that they collect from said communications.

Not only do they own that data, but it is their core business models to learn as much as possible about us and monetise that data for their actual customers – their investors2.

Not only is this dangerous to a free and open world, and along with it freedom of speech, but it also strips people of their control over a huge portion of what it means to be a human being on the planet Earth today – their personal data.

Data about people, is people.

Aral Balkan, Cyborg Rights Activist

Huge leaps in the right direction

The Fediverse tips the current digital social system on its head, by enabling people to take back ownership over their digital selves. With certain services that are available, you3 have the ability to choose alternatives to mainstream technology – you have the ability to take back control, as these federated services have decentralisation built into their core.

This decentralisation removes the giant centres we’re used to seeing, leveling the playing field and giving each person an equal place from which to speak.

Yes, you would need to set up your own installation, or have somebody with the know-how you trust do it for you. But once you have that freedom with your very own digital home – that you truly own and control – it’s very liberating.

Let’s use a service called “Mastodon” as an example here. Mastodon is often described as being a federated Twitter, which it is, but I think it’s important to really hammer home what that actually means. And the principles I will describe here apply to many other types of federated social sites. For example: Peertube – a federated youtube contender; and Pixelfed – a federated Instagram clone.

It’s also worth saying that when we say something is a federated version of a current site, that current site has zero to do with them – it is just a way for people to grasp what the given federated site offers by way of general features.

Mastodon, for example

Mastodon is not just a single website. It is an open source project that can power anybody’s website.

Me trying to explain mastodon in a single line.

If I have my own installation of Mastodon (each installation is known as an Instance, by the way), then I have my very own Twitter-like website where I can share my thoughts and images with anybody who would care to read them. And if you had your own instance of it, you could do the same.

For example, if:

We would be at completely different web addresses. However, we would still be able to communicate with one another, thanks to the way that mastodon works. (In comparision, everyone who uses Twitter goes through https://twitter.com. So talking to one another there takes place in Twitter’s house, as it were). With federation, the communication is done so between the people involved; from their own homes.

What makes the Fediverse federated, is its ability to enable people to have their own self-controlled instance of a service and still be able to connect with other people as we have come to love4 about Twitter et al. And imagine that, but with thousands and thousands of instances – all able to talk to one another.

It’s going to be a long hard road out of our current situation, but it all starts here – in the Fediverse.

And it doesn’t stop there.

Cross-service communication

A big tennet of federated services, is that there are no lock-ins to any particular one.

Earlier on I mentioned some other federated services – Peertube (for video sharing) and Pixelfed (a federated version of Instagram). Let’s suppose that I have a friend who has an instance of Peertube, where they share video reviews on, let’s say the Australian soap “Neighbours”. And let’s suppose I wanted to get updates from that friend, but I only have my own Mastodon site. Wouldn’t it be cool if I could follow his Peertube site, but from my Mastodon?

You already know what’s coming doing you? 😀

You can!

For example, I can follow a content creator from their own instance of Peertube, and have their messages come through in my mastodon feed. This is the exact opposite of how we are currently used to seeing online services. The big social networks have lock-ins to their own walled gardens – the Fediverse is a huge open park where people can choose to travel through it any way they wish.

The beauty, and extra special powers, of the fediverse is that it isn’t limited to a single service. The underlying protocols (ways that the sites communicate) are designed in such a way that they can be used by any service that wishes to implement them. And those messages still go from person to person – there is no central authority to trust and / or fear.

Joining the Fediverse

Right now, it is hard for none-tech people to get up and running with their very own instance of a chosen service. This is the fediverse’s biggest hurdle right now in my opinion, but it is still early days and hopefully things will get easier with time.

That being said, there are numerous community-driven instances of services that allow you to register on. This does go against that idea of self-control and ownership that I have been talking about somewhat. However, we all have to start somewhere and joining a popular community instance is a great way to try it out and even discover new friends. Plus, once you are comfortable in the Fediverse, there is nothing stopping you from starting your own instance later on down the road, should you have the technical knowledge or someone to help you do so.

If you would like advice, I’d be happy to help where I can. Email me at mail@davidpeach.co.uk.

I hope you, after reading this, will give the fediverse a try for yourself. This is freedom of speech at its best on the web right now, and I encourage you to give it a go for yourself. And if / when you do, come and say hello: https://mastodon.davidpeach.co.uk

In Closing

The fediverse is an agreement that the people who use social services online, indeed the entire web, should be in full control and ownership of 100% of their data. They should be free to be who they want to be, without being beholden to huge conglomerates whose only bar for success is profit for renting access to peoples private data.

Come on over and say hello.

The Sad Tale of the Principal Post by Junji Ito

Nestled at the end of Junji Ito’s story `Gyo`, is a four page one-shot story about a man found trapped underneath the main supporting post of his family’s home. As the mother and children are busy entertaining visitors to their new home, screams are heard from beneath them. And there inside the house’s crawl space, tightly held beneath the Principal Post, is the father of the family.

The metaphor for this short story seemed so obvious to me, but I wanted to share my thoughts on it nonetheless.

For me, it seems that the father is literally holding the weight of the house on his back – supporting it for his wife and children. And instead of begging for help, he instead pleads for them not to move him – for doing so would risk bringing the whole building down. So for his family, he is willing to die in order to keep them warm and safe in their home.

Trapped!

I’m not sure if this was perhaps Junji Ito expressing feelings of his own regarding his family and his willingness to do whatever he can to help and support them. But I do like to think so.

This story does have a pretty ridiculous narrative when you think about it – the man being spontaneously trapped and the reason for it never being revealed – but I do think that this holds a nice message of family loyalty. Out of all of Ito’s one-shot stories I have read so far, The Sad Tale of the Principal Post is one of my favourites.

Setting up my own Nextcloud (Version 15)

Set up a new server (with Digital Ocean)

If you don’t have an account already, head to Digital Ocean and create a new account. Of course, you can use any provider that you want to – I just happen to use them and so can only give experience from that.

Login to your account.

Setup your SSH key

In the next step we will be creating your new droplet (server), and you will need an SSH Key to add to it. This allows for easy and secure access to your new droplet from your local computer, via your terminal1.

If you are going to use the Digital Ocean console terminal, skip down to ‘Create the new “Droplet”‘, as you wont need an ssh key.

Creating the key (if you haven’t already)

If you haven’t generated an SSH key pair before, open a fresh terminal window and enter the following:

ssh-keygen -t rsa

Press enter through all of the defaults to complete the creation.

Getting the contents of the public key

Type this to display your new public key:

cat ~/.ssh/id_rsa.pub

This will give you a long string of text starting with ssh-rsa and ending with something like yourname@your-computer.

Highlight the whole selection, including the start and end points mentioned, and right click and copy.

When you are creating your droplet below, you can select the New SSH Key button and paste your public key into the box it gives you. You will also need to give the key a name when you add it in Digital Ocean, but you can name it anything.

Then click the Add SSH Key and you’re done.

Create the new “Droplet”

Digital Ocean refers to each server as a droplet, going with the whole digital “ocean” theme.

Head to Create > Droplets and click the “One-click apps” tab. Then choose the following options in the selection (Or your own custom selection – just take into account the monthly cost of each option):

  • LAMP on 18.04
  • $15/Month (2GB / 60GB / 3TB Transfer)
  • Enable backups (not necessary but recommended)
  • London (Choose your closest / preferred location)
  • Add your SSH key (see above)
  • Optionally rename the hostname to something more readable

Once you have selected the above (or your own custom options) click create. After a few moments, your droplet will be ready to use.

Set your DNS

Got to your domain name provider, Hover in my case, and set up the subdomain for your nextcloud installation, using the I.P. address for your new droplet.

I’m assuming that you already have your own domain name, perhaps for your personal website / blog. In which case we are adding a subdomain to that (so https://nextcloud.yourdomain.co.uk, for example).

But there is nothing stopping you from buying a fresh domain and using it exclusively for your new Nextcloud (https://my-awesome-nextcloud.co.uk).

I will be continuing this guide, assuming that you are using a subdomain.

You will add it in the form of an A record. This is how I would add it in Hover:

  1. Select your own domain
  2. Choose edit > edit DNS
  3. Click Add A record on the DNS edit page
  4. Fill in the hostname as your desired subdomain for your Nextcloud. For example if you were having nextcloud.mydomain.co.uk, you would just enter nextcloud.
  5. Fill in the I.P. address as the I.P. address of your new Droplet in Digital Ocean.
  6. Click Add Record

Configuring the server

Install all the required programs for Nextcloud

First ssh into your new server:

ssh root@YOUR.IP.ADDRESS.HERE

When we chose to install the LAMP option when setting up the droplet, it installed Linux, Apache2, MySQL and PHP. However, there are still some extra dependencies that Nextcloud needs to run.
Let’s install those next:

apt-get update

apt-get install libapache2-mod-php7.2 php7.2-gd php7.2-json &&
apt-get install php7.2-mysql php7.2-curl php7.2-mbstring &&
apt-get install php7.2-common php7.2-intl php-imagick php7.2-xml &&
apt-get install php7.2-zip php7.2-ldap php7.2-imap  php7.2-gmp &&
apt-get install php7.2-apcu php7.2-redis php7.2-imagick ffmpeg unzip

Download and install the Nextcloud codebase

Please note that I am using version 15.0.0 in this example. However, when you read this you may have a new version available to you. I will try and keep this guide as up to date as possible.

# Download the codebase and the "checksum" file.
wget https://download.nextcloud.com/server/releases/nextcloud-15.0.0.zip
wget https://download.nextcloud.com/server/releases/nextcloud-15.0.0.zip.sha256

# Make sure that the codebase is genuine and hasn't been altered.
sha256sum  -c nextcloud-15.0.0.zip.sha256 < nextcloud-15.0.0.zip

# Move the unzipped codebase into the webserver directory.
unzip nextcloud-15.0.0.zip
cp -r nextcloud /var/www
chown -R www-data:www-data /var/www/nextcloud

Apache config example

nano /etc/apache2/sites-available/000-default.conf

An example apache config:

<VirtualHost *:80>
        ServerAdmin mail@yourdomain.co.uk
        DocumentRoot /var/www/nextcloud

        <Directory /var/www/nextcloud/>
            Options Indexes FollowSymLinks
            AllowOverride All
            Require all granted
        </Directory>

        ErrorLog ${APACHE_LOG_DIR}/error.log
        CustomLog ${APACHE_LOG_DIR}/access.log combined

        <IfModule mod_dir.c>
            DirectoryIndex index.php index.pl index.cgi index.html index.xhtml index.htm
        </IfModule>

RewriteEngine on
RewriteCond %{SERVER_NAME} =nextcloud.yourdomain.co.uk
RewriteRule ^ https://%{SERVER_NAME}%{REQUEST_URI} [END,NE,R=permanent]
</VirtualHost>
a2enmod rewrite && a2enmod headers && a2enmod env && 
a2enmod dir && a2enmod mime && systemctl restart apache2

A quick mysql fix

In recent versions of MySQL, the way that the mysql root user connects to the database means that password authentication wont work. So firstly we need to alter that user to use password authentication.

mysql

# In the mysql mode
ALTER USER 'root'@'localhost' IDENTIFIED WITH mysql_native_password BY 'your_secret_password';
FLUSH PRIVILEGES;
quit

SSL with Let’s Encrypt

certbot --apache -d nextcloud.yourdomain.co.uk

You will then be asked some questions about your installation:

  • Email address (your… umm… email address :D)
  • Whether you agree to Lets Encrypt Terms of Service (Agree)
  • Whether to redirect HTTP traffic to HTTPS (choose Yes)

Let’s Encrypt will handle the registering of the apache settings for you new ssl to work. It uses the server name you entered in the 000-default.conf file earlier.

It will also create a new file that is used by Apache for the SSL. For me, this file was at /etc/apache2/sites-available/000-default-le-ssl.conf.

First Login!

Now go to https://nextcloud.yourdomain.co.uk and you should see your nice new shiny Nextcloud installation.

Creating the admin account

Fill in the fields for your desired name and password for the admin account. You can just use the admin account as your main account if you will be the only one using this Nextcloud. But you can give others access to this site with their own login details, if you wanted. But without the admin-level priviledges.

For the database fields, enter root as the username. Then for the password, use the one that you set in the previous mysql command above. For the database name choose whatever name you wish, as the installation will create it for you.

Click finish.

After a few moments time, your nextcloud instance should present you with the landing screen along with the welcome popup. Go ahead and read it and you could even install the app for your devices as it will suggest.

Finishing touches

If you click the cog icon in the top right of your screen, followed by settings in its dropdown, you will come to the main settings area. In the left-hand column, beneath the heading “Administration”, you should see the link for “Overview”. Click it.

Now you should see a bunch of security and setup warnings at the top of the page. This is nothing to worry about, it is simply telling you about some actions that are highly recommended to setup.

We will do that now. 🙂

The “Strict-Transport-Security” HTTP header is not set to at least “15552000” seconds. For enhanced security, it is recommended to enable HSTS as described in the security tips.

All that is needed to fix this first one, is a quick edit to the apache config file that Let’s Encrypt created for the installation.

nano /etc/apache2/sites-available/000-default-le-ssl.conf

And then add this following three lines within the <VirtualHost *:443> tag.

<IfModule mod_headers.c>
    Header always add Strict-Transport-Security "max-age=15768000; includeSubDomains; preload"
</IfModule>

And then reload apache:

systemctl reload apache2

Refreshing the settings page should see that warning disappear.

No memory cache has been configured. To enhance performance, please configure a memcache, if available.

Open up you Nextcloud config file:

nano /var/www/nextcloud/config/config.php

At the bottom of the config array, add the following line:

'memcache.local' => '\OC\Memcache\APCu',

Refresh your browser and that next warning should now vanish.

For future reference, you can always take a look in the sample Nextcloud config file at /var/www/nextcloud/config/config.sample.php. It will show you all available config options.

The PHP OPcache is not properly configured.

With this warning, Nextcloud should display some sample opcache code to paste over. This one caught me out as I couldn’t work out which ini file this example code should go.

After some trial and error, I discovered that for me, it was located in an opcache.ini file:

nano /etc/php/7.2/mods-available/opcache.ini

Then at the bottom of the file, I pasted the following:

opcache.enable=1
opcache.enable_cli=1
opcache.interned_strings_buffer=8
opcache.max_accelerated_files=10000
opcache.memory_consumption=128
opcache.save_comments=1
opcache.revalidate_freq=1

Reload apache:

systemctl reload apache2

Some columns in the database are missing a conversion to big int.

I only actually came across this warning when I was creating a dummy Nextcloud installation for helping with writing this guide. You may not actually get it. But if you do, here’s the fix2:

sudo -u www-data php /var/www/nextcloud/occ db:convert-filecache-bigint

This will warn you that it could take hours to do its thing, depending on the number of files. However, due to us running it right after the installation, will not even take a second.

Once you refresh the settings page once more, you should see a beautiful green tick with the message “All checks passed”.

Good feeling, isn’t it?

If for any reason you are still getting warnings, please dont hesitate to contact me. I’ll do my best to help. Email: mail@davidpeach.co.uk. Alternatively you can head to the Nextcloud Documentation.

Old and ugly (Tomie part 20) by Junji Ito

What is Old and Ugly about?

In Old and Ugly, we not only close off a trilogy of stories, but the entire Tomie Collection too. We pick up where we left the story at the end of Passing Demon. The strange figure, who we now know as being the “Top Model” Ryo, has approached Ayaka’s sister – Yasuko. Oh, and the three Tomie girls are each still trying to kill one another by possessing local boys to carry out their attacks. Ryo is doing his best to protect them all, but that does prove to be quite difficult.

After Ryo and Yasuko have joined forces, they decide to take Ayaka away to safety. If he can’t save them all, at least he has a chance of saving one of the Tomie girls. And by “saving” I really mean preserving. For, as long as she doesn’t multiply she will retain her human characteristics and age as any normal person would. This is Ryo’s, and later also Yasuko’s, end goal – they wish to see their Tomie contend with the frailty of human life; to see herself as old and ugly before her life ends.

Ryo and Yasuko essentially give up their lives to focus solely on the preservation of Ayaka. Their revenge is so focused and so tunnel-visioned, that they literally want nothing else in the world but to see her suffer. As their own lives pass them by they let their thirst for revenge drain them of all that is good. But will Tomie be contained in her human shell? Will she succumb to weakness and old age? Or will she break free from her shackles and have the last laugh once and for all?

The end of the journey

We have finally reached the end of our journey through the entire Tomie Collection. Through twenty stories we have followed the lady in many of her incarnations. With this final chapter, it really felt like the end of the line. And I don’t just say that because it’s the last chapter, but the theme of this one really felt like a close for me. Of course Tomie as a force of nature could literally go on forever.

Throughout these chapters we have only seen a small percentage of all of the Tomies that would now exist in the world. Remember all of those bodies that walked out of the “Waterfall Basin”? Or the five that walked out of the cave at the end of “Little Finger”? And what about that original first chapter where many parts were scattered all over the town?

I love how this is a world that would never be rid of Tomie. She truly is a force of nature that just can not be stopped. If there ever was a final chapter after this one it would have to be something like Tomie: World Order.

The real evil

In “Old and Ugly”, Tomie is essentially kept prisoner, initially under a sort of mild house arrest, but soon in a very solid manner. This whole story is about Ayaka’s sister and, more crucially, Ryo’s revenge against her. Of course this isn’t the same Tomie as he had dealt with all those years before. But since all versions of her originate from the same dark place, I guess any suffering Tomie is better than none.

It was interesting to finally see somebody using Tomie’s powers against her. By harnessing her blood and injecting it into three (or possibly more?) innocent children, he was able to harvest his very own Tomie clones. Clones whose sole purpose was for him to have his revenge. I believe Ryo to be the real enemy here in this final story. Tomie is simply doing what it is in her nature to do – survive. However, by corrupting the futures of these innocent girls, Ryo firmly placed himself on the side of true evil.

As the pages of their lives move towards their conclusion, so too do we reach the final pages of this collection. And surprising to me, Ito didn’t decide to go out with a bang in a huge gory mess. He stayed true to the story at hand and followed it through to its natural, strange conclusion. I have grown to have a special fondness for this collection, through my exploration of its details, and am glad that Ito ended it in the way that he did.

In Summary

An interesting closing chapter that truly did feel like a bookend to the whole collection for me. I often think about how it may have been good to bring back some past characters from other chapters for a huge finale. Like Tsukiko from “Photo” or Mitsuo from “Painter”. But perhaps that would have been just a little bit too cheesy.

You will need to have read at least the previous two chapters for this one to really make full sense. In fact, I feel that this whole closing trilogy of “Passing Demon”, “Top Model” and “Old and Ugly” are best experienced at the end of the collection as intended.

Top Model (Tomie part 19) by Junji Ito

What is Top Model about?

Ryo is the titular “Top model”, who recounts his days as a successful catwalk model. Not only that, but he goes into the reason for his downfall – the young woman called Tomie.

During a photo shoot, Ryo asks his photographer if he knows any new girls on the scene. Apparently he is bored with his current partner. The photographer points him in the direction of a girl that he himself has been trying to get with. On meeting her, Ryo is immediately taken with Tomie. And going from his past romantic experiences, he expects her to fall for him straight away too. However, he gets a nasty surprise when she laughs in his face, telling him just how plain he is to her.

Ryo is at a loss as to why Tomie doesn’t like him, but he wont give up that easily. After another meeting, which falls flat on its face also, he manages to offend her during an outburst he ends up having. This is the moment where he seals his doom forever. Whilst walking down the street the next day or so, a stranger asks him if he is indeed the top model Ryo. He replies “yes”, and is immediately met with a deep slash across his face.

Tomie, in all of her most devious and vengeful, has arranged a guy to disfigure this cock-sure model. She essentially ends his modelling career right there on the spot. But the real horror comes when Ryo tries to enact the same revenge back at her. Ryo doesn’t have a clue as to who, or what, he is dealing with. His own vengeful actions may just overstep the line and manage to send him down a path from which he may truly never escape.

Getting their just desserts

Ryo is a complete pompous idiot in this story. He is the kind of person you just love to hate. He is so arrogant and sure of his good looks and charms, that he believes all women he desires are for the taking. At least this is the impression that I got from him and his interactions with his photographer. So to have Tomie reject him and show him up did make me smile – he deserved it after all. But did he deserve to be disfigured for simply upsetting her? Proabably not, but a small part of me thinks that he deserved that too.

This whole story is escalated by the smug nature of both of these leading characters. Perhaps Tomie felt she’d met her match with just how full of himself Ryo was at the start. Or perhaps it was simply that Ryo had already fallen for her, which is simply no fun for her. One thing is definitely for sure though – that girl sure knows how to hold a grudge.

It all comes back around

I absolutely loved the closing pages in this chapter and how it comes back to the previous chapter “Passing Demon”. We have gotten to learn how that demon came to be as such, and that snuffing out the futures of those poor babies wasn’t much of a change in character for him. He’s always been willing to get his own way at the expense of others after all.

The approach to the structure in this final trilogy that Junji Ito took, was a stroke of genius in my opinion. Without realising where we were towards the end of this chapter, the whole thing was revealed and it all just felt so right to me. He has developed so much since that first Tomie chapter.

In Summary

Tomie is an absolute bitch in this story. Not that she is a golden girl at all other times, but here she really surpasses herself. Yes, Ryo had some kind of retribution owed to him from his attitude and life style, but I think she maybe just took it a little too far – even by her standards.

Although this is the second part in the Tomie Collection’s final story arc, I think that Top Model could still be enjoyed on its own. It has some interesting dialogue between the two leads and some suitably grotesque imagery. However, I would strongly recommend reading these final three stories in order, in order to get the full effect that Ito intended.

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.