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.
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The Museum of Terror books are collections of Junji Ito’s early manga stories. In 2006, English readers lucked out when Dark Horse started releasing them in English. Unfortunately, the series was cancelled at volume 3 due to lack of sales. Lesson learned: manga fans are the most dedicated and passionate fans on Earth…unless you want to earn money from them. Then you starve to death.
The first volume is all about Tomie, who is Ito’s most famous character…a girl who inspires madness and obsession in the men around her, to the point where they try to kill her. They often succeed. But it soon becomes clear that Tomie is not even close to human, and she always comes back.
Apparently she was inspired by an event from Ito’s childhood, when a classmate died in an accident and he wondered how people would react if she showed at up school the next day. The nine 30-40 page stories all hit a similar riff: Tomie appears, guys fall in love with her, guys kill her, and she is reborn.
The Tomie formula soon becomes very familiar…even overfamiliar. Honestly, these are far from Junji Ito’s best works. Tomie launched Ito’s career and paved the way for a lot of great manga, but set against his later material they seem fairly tame and unremarkable. Ito imagination is nearly limitless, and Tomie constrains him.
How so? There’s no sense of mystery about Tomie. We know what her powers are, and what her personality is like, and the effect she has on people around her. We know everything about her, and that’s boring. The crazy off-the-rails madness of Uzumaki makes Tomie look suspiciously like a Dead Teenager movie, where we know all the beats it’s going to hit, and the only question is whether Jennifer Love Hewitt or Sarah Michelle Gellar will survive for the sequel.
…But of course, another difference between Uzumaki and Tomie is that Tomie is creepy undead moe-ish girl and is thus hugely marketable With nine movie adaptations of Tomie to date, Ito’s humble creation has become a horror franchise, questions of quality aside.
Out of these nine stories “Painter” is by the far the best, mostly because of its powerful Gothic atmosphere. All of these stories are violent and intense but some of them are a bit lacklustre in execution, either because of poor art (some of these are Ito’s very first stories) or lackluster plot or execution. “Revenge” is dull, just an uninspired retread of other ideas in the manga. “Mansion” is overkill in the other direction. Ito tried way too hard with this one, it’s one unbelievable and over-the-top plot development after another until eventually I gave up caring.
Yet at the core of the Tomie mythos there is a powerful idea. The stories lean pretty heavily on gore and shocking imagery, but ultimately they’re not about that. They’re not even about Tomie! These stories are about obsession, and how quickly we can slide from being rational human beings to automatons of our primal urges. Tomie might not be interesting. But the insane, obsessed males around her are actually fairly frightening.
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McKayla Maroney is 16 years old. When she first competed as a gymnast, she was 13.
I remember when I was 13. I liked to play the Pokemon trading card game. One day, one of my friends did some shit to me (I don’t recall what happened, but it was stupid), and as punishment, his mom made him give me one of his cards.
He could have gypped me with a Magikarp or a Bellsprout, but he must have actually felt sorry, because he said “Ben, here’s a limited edition Mewtwo Promo card. It’s super rare. There’s only like 200 of them in the world. I’m sorry about what I did, and because of that I’m giving you the most valuable card in my deck. Please, don’t ever lose it.”
I took his Mewtwo Promo card like it was the Ark of the Covenant, and squirreled it away in a top secret location (aka, my bedroom). I never touched it or even looked at it. This card was limited edition shit. My peasant glance would be enough to take $200 off its resale value.
Later that year my family moved from Sydney to the Central Coast. I lost my Mewtwo promo. I was furious with myself. If I’d kept it with my other cards I’d still have it, but in my foolishness I had separated it from the rest. I looked everywhere, but it eluded me.
I wondered if this ever happened to Ash Ketchum. Like if a Pokeball rolls out of his backpack and he loses it under the couch. It would be bad news if the Indigo League title was on the line and your Charizard was under the lounge, sitting down there with all the dust bunnies and used condoms. That would ruin your day.
Let’s get back to the story. My own personal Gotta Catch ‘Em All (But One of Them in Particular) quest ended one day when I found the promo card at the bottom of a moving box. I was overjoyed. The Mewtwo-shaped hole in my heart was filled.
Then I went on eBay and saw my precious, limited edition Mewtwo promo card being sold for roughly five dollars.
Anyway, good luck to McKayla Maroney on being three years older than 13.
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