Tomie Vol. #01 -

Anime/Manga Reviews

Mania Grade: B-

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  • Art Rating: B-
  • Packaging Rating: C-
  • Text/Translatin Rating: B
  • Age Rating: 18 & Up
  • Released By: DrMaster
  • MSRP: 9.95
  • Pages: 254
  • ISBN: 1-58899-084-2
  • Size: B6
  • Orientation: Right to Left

Tomie Vol. #01

By Josephine Fortune     February 16, 2006
Release Date: March 01, 2001

Tomie Vol.#01
© DrMaster

Creative Talent
Writer/Artist:Junji Ito
Translated by:Alex Mizuno
Adapted by:

What They Say
Tomie is the girl you wish you could forget. She’s the one you shouldn’t have touched, shouldn’t have smiled at, shouldn’t have made mad. She’s oh so lovely – but you just might lover her to death…

The Review
The first in a truncated series of Junji Ito short story compilations from Comics One.

The Junji Ito collections were the only Comics One titles I bought before they became DrMaster, so I have no idea how they compare to other volumes they did. It is a slightly older release, and it is flipped which is a little weird, but it does have the $9.95 price that most other volumes of manga have, so it’s not too old. I think it may also be out of print, but if you wanted to read it and have trouble finding it, the “Museum of Terror” that Dark Horse is getting ready to release is something like this series, and the first volume should have all these stories plus some in it if I’m not mistaken.

The cover is by far the ugliest cover I have ever seen on any volume of manga. To the credit of Comics One, it is exactly the same cover that appears on the Japanese edition, with type treated in the same way and everything (except that the red “Tomie” appears prominently above the Horror Comics Collection instead of smaller below it… and the image is also flipped). The image is a collage of scenes from within the manga tinted various colors (including green and blue) and embossed, with a violet image of Tomie’s face dominating the others… enough said. That alone probably hurt sales, and this is definitely an instance of where the cover should have been altered for the English language edition. The back cover is also styled much like a Japanese edition, with a white bar appearing on top that has the EAN barcode and the sales information in it. Most of the back cover is dominated by a blue-grey color. There is a color image, but it is small and blurry (only about an inch by maybe two and a half inches). On the back cover is an extremely brief summary that doesn’t do the story any justice. There is also a very small Comics One logo on the bottom center of the comic. Topping off the lovely design is “THE HORROR WORLD OF JUNJI” in black and red sanserif font going sideways up the left hand side of the cover. Underneath the dust jacket, the front cover is a very dark black and white version of the front of the dust jacket, and the back cover just has the words “The Horror World of Junji” and the Comics One logo.

The interior presentation is also only so-so. There is a title page with the image from the back cover reproduced, a plain table of contents, images for every chapter title page, the copyright/credits page which features an image from one of the stories, and five pages featuring one panel each of interior artwork at the end. The flaps of the dust jacket feature the other three volumes of the Ito series in the front and a short artist bio in the back. They do an okay job with the SFX overlays, but there aren’t many effects to speak of. The one thing that did bother me was the sloppy job they did with the text where it frequently is either not centered in the speech bubble, overlaps with the edges of it, or misses the bubble entirely. The paper is also of a poorer quality than most volumes, and while I like the pulpier stuff sometimes, I do have problems with it yellowing.

The translation was fair. There may have been one or two errors, and it read fairly well in English, if a bit stiffly. As I mentioned earlier, the minimal SFX have been translated and the artwork retouched. Though I don’t think they’re really trying to mimic the Japanese style of the sounds, the SFX are still pretty good.

One of the weaker points of this volume was definitely the artwork. People who have read Ito’s later works Uzumaki and Gyo will be rather let down by the artwork in Tomie, which is a much older series. A lot of the detail and beautiful grotesque imagery that can be found in those later series is absent here, and even aside from that, the artwork is just sort of ugly in general and not that good. The character designs are not appealing and they’re difficult to tell apart, especially since many of the stories take place at schools and we often see the characters in their uniforms. I had a bit of trouble telling Tomie apart from other girls sometimes, but I eventually figured out she is differentiated by the mole beside her mouth and not much else in many cases. The backgrounds, though sometimes a bit detailed, are absent a lot more frequently than in his later work and are also far more plain. To be fair, he still does do grotesque imagery, and it’s still pretty good. There are some scenes that get pretty violent and disgusting, and there is some body morphing that occurs (if that’s the right terminology), but it’s nothing like the stuff that you’ll find in his later work. The art isn’t so offensively bad that it detracts from the story (except in the instance of the character designs). It’s mostly utilitarian and not much to look at, though. I was sort of shocked when I saw this, as I didn’t realize his work had evolved so much over the years.

This volume is a collection of six short stories that rotate around different people and their encounters with a girl named Tomie… or rather, Tomie's encounters with them. "Photograph", "Kiss", and "Mansion" all have the same main character, Tsukiko Izumisawa, who had a run-in with Tomie of the Student Morality Committee and was suspended from school, and her life goes downhill from there. The first story is about a group of students trying to deal with Tomie's death, when suddenly Tomie rushes in and apologizes for being late. The students are quite disturbed by her coming back to life as well as some questionable behavior on her part, and their fears peak on a class field trip. "Revenge" is about a group of three men who find the body of a woman shoved into a mountainside, and they one by one begin to die and go insane after they rescue her. The final story, "The Basin of the Waterfall," opens with a salesman trying to sell the "seeds" of his last girlfriend to the residents of a small town. When the townspeople drive him out and cause him to dump his "seeds" into the nearby waterfall basin, the young men of the town begin inexplicably committing suicide by jumping off the cliff and plunging into the water.

A rather obscure Comics One title, Tomie is the sort of series that can easily pass under the radar. The reason I picked it up is because it is a Junji Ito series, and Uzumaki and Flesh-Colored Horror had done a good job of convincing me that any Junji Ito series would be worth my while. While not nearly as good as Uzumaki, and not quite as good as Flesh-Colored Horror, these stories were still quite excellent examples of the horror manga genre. This anthology was first published in 1997 in Japan, but the Tomie stories are much older than that, and I believe “Tomie,” the first story, was originally published in 1987 and was Ito’s debut. Other than that, I have no idea when these were written, but they’re all probably well over ten years old. "Tomie," though it won the top horror manga award, is the weakest story in the volume in my opinion. It's difficult to pinpoint why, but it just didn't sit right with me. It's told mostly from the perspective of Reiko, one of Tomie's friends before she dies, but it moves in and out of this perspective. Within the first four or so pages of the story, we have to accept the gravity of the situation that someone in this class has died, then shows up again and inexplicably begins hitting on the teacher and a boy who presumably liked her. It's often difficult to follow the dialogue or who's speaking, the volume of the voices (ie whispers, etc), and things like that. It also jumps around from scene to scene quite a bit, and events happen too fast. After that, the stories are improved a great deal. The next couple might suffer some of the same problems, but the fact that the main character and story stay the same help the coherency out a great deal. The first two stories are simply a continuation of one another, while the third picks up where they left off and involves different characters but is still a struggle between Izumisawa and Tomie. The third of that set is probably my favorite in the volume, mostly because it does unexpected things with the already bizarre subject matter. The next story, "Revenge", is pretty short and does well with the story it tells. It's nothing that will surprise you after reading the first two stories, but I thought the ending was appropriately gruesome. The last story in the volume, "The Basin of the Waterfall," is the only one that doesn't involve Tomie and social interaction. Instead, it takes some of her "powers" (attraction and multiplying herself) and turns it into a story where Tomie is an entity instead of a person, which is a nice change and a great way to end the volume.

Since this is a set of short stories, there's really not much to say about Tomie's characters except about Tomie herself and Izumisawa from the story trilogy. I was surprised that Tomie's character remained pretty consistent throughout the stories. It seems to me that she could change her face depending on the situation she's in... but she doesn't. She always manages to be the most unpleasant, spoiled, mean, rude, vindictive, and manipulative person you can imagine from situation from situation. She wins men over through her beauty and definitely not with personality. In retrospect, she seems like a fairly one-dimensional character. But the multiple abilities and things she does from story to story (the variants on her ability to multiply, how she comes back to life, etc) give her an air of mystery and something of a distance from the reader, so the one-dimensionality is not only imperceptible but also seems quite fitting for what a rotten person she comes off as. I felt that Izumisawa was a great character as well. When you're introduced to her, she's cheating people at school out of large sums of money for photos of their crushes, and thus doesn't come off as an entirely honest student. Tomie, a member of the student morality committee, gets her suspended for this, and after that the stories sort of boil down to a cat-and-mouse chase between Tomie, her minions, and Izumisawa. Izumisawa tends to be pretty resourceful to avoid getting caught and killed time and time again. The third story in particular takes advantage of that resourcefulness. She's portrayed as extremely human, for instance she must move away and transfer out of school after the business with Tomie. She has a romantic interest that Tomie possesses, but her relationship with the boy always seems a little awkward and not explained or fleshed out enough to make a difference in either of their personalities. The rest of the characters worked pretty well for what they were and what they had to do. They weren't interesting in themselves or dimensional in any way, but they did have interesting stories, such as the boy in "Revenge" who was out in the mountains looking for his brother. Tomie's a great character, and overall I like how the rest of the characters play off her and react in different (or similar) ways.

If you're looking for horror comics, Junji Ito's your man, and you really can't go wrong with anything by him. Tomie's no exception. Tomie's a great character, and the events that unfold around her make for great stories with the right balance of action and gore. There are some flaws in the stories, particularly in the first, but they improve as the volume goes on, and I think it winds up being a pretty nice collection. It's not really aimed at either the shoujo or shounen crowd (though you'll be hard pressed to find any shoujo qualities at all in it), so there’s nothing too offensive to lovers of either genre. It's worth picking up if you're looking for a decent volume of manga and aren't put off by extreme violence/gore or lots of action. If you want to sample the volume in stores, just remember that the first story isn’t the best in the volume.


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jnager 3/13/2012 1:03:24 PM

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