Sunday, February 26, 2017

Women in Horror: Tomie

This volume is the complete collection of Tomie manga. Tomie starts out life as normal teenage girl who became pregnant in an affair with her teacher. When she tells him in a private moment during a class field trip, he starts to argue with her and another boy who had a crush on Tomie and overheard, causing Tomie to fall off the hill to her death. The class decides to cut up Tomie's body and drop the pieces around the city to save their beloved teacher from being blamed for murder. The girls keep watch while the boys strip to cut her up, but find that Tomie is still alive. The teacher murders her without hesitation and they go along with their plan, having each of the 42 students scatter pieces of her body. After the pieces were discovered and a funeral took place, Tomie returned to school as if nothing had happened. I thought this was her origin story, but she may be much older than this.

Tomie is an interesting supernatural figure that's hard to define. She's basically a succubus with incredible regenerative powers. Her attitude is aloof, vain, and jealous. She goes after men with her charm and her supernatural thrall until they fall in love with her and shower her with gifts and rich foods. Then she ridicules them and rejects them for someone else. Alternatively, men can become obsessed with her and she uses them as her puppets to do her bidding. When under her thrall, men have the urge to cut her into pieces either because of their great love or hatred of her. Only two men in the entire anthology resist her, but they eventually succumb in the end. Even women can be driven crazy by her either to become her or to commit acts of murder in jealousy. Every piece of her can regenerate into a new Tomie or infect someone to become another Tomie. Her regenerative powers accelerate when someone adores her, even if her body is cut up or charred. As a result, Tomie is basically immortal and it's hard to say how many Tomie's are running around.

Each chapter is usually a stand alone story, but near the end there are a couple of extended story arcs. The story that showed that Tomie was much more than a ghost was the second one, where her mutilated body is brought into the hospital and harvested for a kidney. The kidney in the girl's body grows Tomie's fully formed adult head first and then starts to grow the rest of her body. The girl gains Tomie's regenerative power and beauty, but also slowly turns into her by the end of the story. Most of the stories are about men or boys that fall in love with her and murder her, but there are some interesting variations. One has a little boy love her as a mother, lose his mind, and kill for her, denying his real family. Another has an elderly couple desperate for a daughter shower her with love and everything she could every want, but she still tears their relationship apart and she ends up in pieces. Another has a cult dedicated to her to give her everything she wants until they annihilate her and each other. Other stories involve multiple Tomie's trying to kill each other, her meat being mixed into sake to sell all over, and a couple raising her as a grotesque baby that set fires around the city to make her happy. No one escapes Tomie's curse completely. If by chance they survive, their lives and/or their sanity are ruined.

The story of Tomie brings to mind many stories of women being killed due to rejecting a man's romantic advances. These crimes are still commonplace. Tomie is the kind of woman men hate: one who is using them for financial gain and then rejects them after all of their efforts to woo her. They view Tomie as an easy target for rape or murder, but she almost always comes back for her revenge. One of the Tomie's line the struck me was "I have the right to choose you know." This is the root of why so many men hate her. She isn't a puppet to be controlled or a dispenser that gives out love or sex whenever they want. These men don't like that she's a person with her own will, even though she's so much more. This horrific anthology was a blast to read because I never knew what insanity was coming up next. In the horror genre, tropes are hard to escape, but Tomie is always surprising. At least once a chapter, a huge, detailed panel shows some horrific tableau like tiny Tomie's eating men underwater or the eldritch horror of Tomie's gigantic true form. I highly recommend this series if you aren't too squeamish plus the new hardback anthology is gorgeous and well made.

My rating: 5/5 fishmuffins

1 comment:

Kathryn Troy said...

Tomie....I haven't thought about her in a long long time. She creeps me out man, her head in a box?? Ugh! Good call talking about her here.