Museum of Terror Vol. #01 (Mania.com)

By:Josephine Fortune
Review Date: Tuesday, December 19, 2006
Release Date: Tuesday, July 04, 2006



Creative Talent
Writer/Artist:Junji Ito
Translated by:Naomi Kokubo
Adapted by:Naomi Kokubo

What They Say
Dark Horse Comics is Proud to present Museum of Terror, a series of horror stories by Japan's foremost creator of horror manga - Junji Ito. Full of compelling and charming characters and replationships, and featuring some of the finest comic art available, Ito's work has been translated into several successful films in Japan.

Ito's Uzumaki, the thrilling and grotesque manga and film, have already found success in America, and now we present "Tomie," the first story in this fantastic series. "Tomie" is the story of an eternally youthful and beautiful high school girl, with whom her admirers are obsessed to the point of murdering her. But to their horror, she is reincarnated over and over. "Tomie" also became a popular film in Japan, and now it launches Dark Horse's series of Ito's horrific works, Museum of Terror.

The Review
If I was only allowed to buy one series this year, this would be it.

Packaging:
The cover art used for the Dark Horse edition is the same one used on the Japanese edition, and it's quite tasteful in this case. I know the other horror manga covers from Dark Horse have been on the low side of quality, with their Japanese counterparts being just plain bad, but this series is actually treated quite well. The mostly black cover with a greenish image of Tomie's face faded in looks quite well, and I actually like the contrast from the orange/red and yellow text that makes up the title and author's name. The image used on the back cover is kind of gross, but a good contrast to the beautiful Tomie on the front cover, and I love the way the spine was treated with the huge bold block letters with stacked lines. The book is extremely thick (370+ pages), so they used the spine's shelf presence quite well.

You get very little in the form of extras here, with the bare bones minimum of a text title page featuring a b/w image from the comic, a plain table of contents, and the publication data being the only extra pages included. Well, that's not entirely true, as we also get a nice paragraph about the compilation in the back from Junji Ito. Each chapter also features an illustration at the chapter title page. The packaging is a bit minimal, but it seems like this reflects what was included in the volume in Japan. Plus it's a horror manga with a ton of pages, so I'm not looking for a ton of extras.

Text/Translation:
I thought the translation was handled well, there were no grammar or spelling errors and everything was handled good in English. It reads very straightforward, but there's also something that seems to lend itself to the ominous mood of the series as well. The sound effects were left intact, with a translation that matches their style nearby, which is one of my favorite approaches.

Artwork:
Now, I love Junji Ito's artwork. Anyone who's read Uzumaki or Gyo knows the man can draw. He draws some of the most detailed backgrounds and grotesque imagery I've ever seen. His characters all look distinct from one another, and there's never any question about actions or setting, and it's otherwise very easy to read. However, this series, a compilation of all of his stories, begins at the beginning. The stories in this volume first appeared as early as 1987, most appearing between then and 1990. The art is extremely primitive when compared to his later works. Many of his backgrounds in the earlier stories are blank and there is a lot more white space, which runs contrary to his usual work which sets the mood and place beautifully. The character designs are also not that unique or attractive, especially earlier on. The gore is also light early on as well. But it's also interesting to compare it to later work. The last story in the volume appeared in 1995, and even compared to the first story, you can tell there's a huge jump where the characters began looking better, there's a lot more detail, and the backgrounds get much better. The artwork isn't anything but functional here, but I do look forward to seeing it change and grow better as this series progresses.

Content:
The Museum of Terror is a series which collects all of Junji Ito's short works. It first appeared as (and can probably be considered a wideban edition of) "The Junji Ito Horror Comic Collection," which was released in English from Comics One. They only released the first three volumes, though, which makes this a blessing for anyone who was following it and even for anyone who never heard of it. I was really, really fired up about this one. I was a bit disappointed that the first volume was just stories that were already published in English, and Tomie stories at that, but the fact that these volumes are just so HUGE, plus the fact I haven't read Tomie in awhile, makes me forget about those grievances.

Tomie is a girl who is so beautiful that men who lay eyes on her cannot resist her. They grow obsessed, become her slaves, and are even driven to kill her in the most brutal ways possible. Lucky for them, Tomie cannot die. She always comes back, and she always comes back just as beautiful as the first time they killed her. Sometimes, there's even more than one of her. In the first story, "Tomie," a class grieves for the passing of their fellow student Tomie, who was found chopped to bits and scattered everywhere. The police are baffled about who the murderer may be. Later, on the same day as the funeral, Tomie shows up, apologizing for being late for class. This spooks the class far more than it should for a few reasons. In "Tomie 2," Tomie harasses a girl in the hospital waiting for a kidney transplant both directly and indirectly by stealing her boyfriend. She does help the girl out in the end, though. "Basement" is a continuation of this story, with two or three Tomie copies running around by the end. "Photo" is a longer story that spans across "Kiss" and "Mansion." All are roughly about a girl who goes to school with Tomie who makes some money on the side by snapping pictures of popular students and selling them to classmates. Tomie's photos, of course, don't come out properly, as Tomie always looks like a monster in them. To keep this a secret, Tomie begins sending out her thugs after the girl, then things start to get weird when Tomie transforms into an actual monster. "Mansion" is less related, and is about the same girl from the first two stories stumbling into a scene in a mansion where Tomie has taken over and has begun to experiment. "Revenge" is about a couple mountaineers stumbling across a naked girl in the middle of a raging blizzard. Tomie gets control of one of them as he goes a little crazy, and the two are led off track and forced to stay in a cabin they find. The one who stays sane is actually looking for his brother who got lost in the mountains some time ago, and Tomie may know something about that, too. "Waterfall Basin" is about a man who throws some "Daughter Seeds" into a waterfall basin in a small town that seems to start a strange string of suicides in the town's male youth. "Painter" is about a man who becomes obsessed with capturing Tomie's perfect beauty.

Again, I'm not a big fan of the Tomie stories, particularly the earlier ones. A lot of the stories in this volume, though they are unique enough from one another and contain different varieties of Tomie transformations, deaths, and whatever else you're looking for, tend to repeat themselves in that Tomie always goes after high school students, hypnotizing the men and making the women jealous, eventually someone killing her, and then she comes back to live and does whatever she does afterwards. The formula is always the same, so reading this volume straight through is a bit difficult. The stories actually improve towards the end, as "Waterfall Basin," "Revenge," and "Painter" are all rather unique scenarios, so the quality of story does get better as he writes more and more. "Waterfall Basin" was probably my favorite story because of how different it was from the other ones. Tomie herself didn't actually appear until the end, and even then she played no semblance of the role she did in the other stories. I think I liked "Revenge" because it dealt with a smaller scale, where there were only two other people in an isolated setting. Same thing with "Painter," which I liked less because the actual main character fell for Tomie that time, but the scale was once again small. Though it did take place in society this time, and there were lots of other people, there was really only ever the artist, the rival artist, his model, and Tomie. With that being my only criticism of this volume, if you're looking for some bizarre violence and gore, you've come to the right place. EVERYTHING happens to Tomie. Maybe not in this volume, but eventually. Tomie is typically decapitated, but she often sprouts another head (sometimes she's not even decapitated when she does this), and the second head goes through a rather bizarre period of deformity as its growing. Tomie is hacked to bits and grows back from nearly any part, Tomie's face appears from a carpet along with buckets of blood, Tomie torsos chew on people, and sometimes chunks of Tomie just sprout little appendages. While the stories can sometimes get boring through repetition, the violence in each is always unique. Also, the stories will often read kind of like mysteries, where the characters try and find out what Tomie is up to (usually different in each story), and that can be fun to follow each time.

As far as character development goes, the characters are generally pretty shallow and change from story to story, so you don't get to know a lot about them past whatever characteristics drive them in the story. Even the two girls that star in more than one chapter don't really develop that much, they stay the same, and I think that's a plus in this type of story, because I'd hate to have morals at the end of all these things. Tomie doesn't really get any development either, but we don't ever find out much about her other than her cruelty, so seeing her adapt to each situation and act along until her true personality comes out is also quite entertaining, though it gets more entertaining the newer the stories get.

Comments
I did criticize this volume quite a bit, and it's true that it ranks low on the list of my favorite Junji Ito stories, but Junji Ito is probably my favorite manga creator, so even the least preferred of his work is quite a treat for me. If you're looking for some classic horror stories, this volume is by far the most recommended in the Dark Horse lineup, and even amid any of the comics released this year. You may not want to read it in one sitting (not only because of the story repetition, but also because it's huge), but it's still a truly awesome volume of manga. I cannot wait for the new ones to come out.



Mania Grade: A+
Art Rating: C
Packaging Rating: A
Text/Translatin Rating: A+
Age Rating: 16 & Up
Released By: Dark Horse
MSRP: 13.95
Pages: 370
ISBN: 1-59307-542-1
Size: B6
Orientation: Right to Left