This second volume of the MoT series contains another set of Tomie stories, mostly from the later part of Junji Ito’s career. They’re consistently better than the ones from volume 1. A lot of the early Tomie stories suffered a bit from Ito’s inexperience. These stories (especially the later ones) are more like what Tomie should have been from the start: short, punchy horror stories full of imagination and atmosphere.
“Little Finger” strikes a graceful trifecta of funny, scary, and sad. An orphan chops off the fingers from one of Tomie’s hands…and they grow into four separate Tomies! Pinky Tomie is badly scarred and gets bullied by the other three fingers. The orphan (who is very ugly himself) takes care of her and nurses her back to health, only to be repaid in a typical Tomie-esque fashion.
“Boy” is very unpleasant, and touches upon a theme of youth delinquency. A young boy meets Tomie, and in time is destroyed by her. It reminds me of Ito’s classic tale “The Bully”, in that it’s an almost archetypical story of innocence corrupted.
“Moromi” is 34 pages of sicko shit that makes me feel like I need a shower. Someone murders Tomie, minces her body down to a pulp, and attempts to dispose of her remains by mixing them into a sake brewery. What happens next is implausible and revolting, like all the best Ito stories. The final page is one of those brilliant artistic flourishes that only Ito knows how to do.
“Babysitter” is barely even a Tomie story. A young woman finds herself babysitting a very unusual baby who screams continuously except when she sees fire. Ito is consistently good at making odd premises work, and he more or less delivers the goods here. I wish it had a stronger ending.
“Gathering” is the worst story on here. It’s forty pages of Tomie being an insufferable bitch, and Ito couldn’t figure out how to end this one either, so he just has all the characters kill each other for no reason. Oh well. Can’t win them all.
The final three stories comprise a thrilling three-part tale that is staged the way the Wachowski’s originally planned the Matrix (that is, movie, prequel, sequel). Tomie meets a male model who is as stuck up and vain as her. Their relationship immediately turns sour, and they end up mutilating each other. The male model lacks Tomie’s powers of regeneration, but he is nevertheless a worthy adversary, and faces down against her in many violent escapades. Finally, he realises that Tomie can never be killed, he so attempts to take away the thing she values most: her beauty. His eventual plan is unbelievable in its cruelty. What can I say about the ending to “Old and Ugly”. Is it…good? Bad? I don’t know. My feelings on it keep changing. It certainly made an impression on me that none of the other Tomie stories did.
These are Tomie’s final set of adventures as of this writing, and it’s really interest where Ito took the character. She’s completely evil, but she has a lot of charm…as the men in her stories would agree, I’m sure.
Still, don’t let Tomie be all you read by Junji Ito. As good as they are, these stories are merely the beginning of his catalog.