Tomie Kawakami is a femme fatale with long black hair and a beauty mark just under her left eye. She can seduce nearly any man, and drive them to murder as well, even though the victim is often Tomie herself. While one lover seeks to keep her for himself, another grows terrified of the immortal succubus. But soon they realize that no matter how many times they kill her, the world will never be free of Tomie.I have a problem with this narrative of the femme fatale being portrayed as a bitch who drives men to violence; as a monster who broke their hearts.
Tomie is objectified throughout this book and there is no character development. In fact, she hardly even feels like a character. Tomie is a reflection on what the author hates in all woman and a justification for violence against them. At the end the reader knows nothing about Tomie or what motivates her. In addition, some of her cruelty doesn't make sense and is simply there to make the reader hate her leading them to believe that she deserves to be brutally murdered. In some of the stories her wrong is that she has simply rejected these men. The reality is no woman had it coming not even one as cruel as Tomie. Even today woman are being mutilated or killed for not being interested. It is within our culture that men feel entitled to the bodies of women and this thought is what puts all women in danger. Cast as the seductress she receives the hatred from men of wanting to possess her like an object rather than a person with feelings, hopes, and goals. This story perpetuates male violence and the idea that a woman must be docile willing always to be loved, and that anger, greed, and gluttony are disgusting and unfeminine. However, the artwork is incredibly detailed and it is in a way a compelling story.
Tomie is a lovecraftian monstrosity trapped in the body of a stunningly beautiful girl. She can seduce nearly any man with nothing but a single glance, driving them mad with lust and envy until eventually pushing them to commit brutal murders. Though strangely enough, the victim of the murders are almost always Tomie herself. Countless men and women have fallen victim to Tomie's supernatural charms and Tomie herself has fallen victim to hundreds of atrocities as a result, but soon the world begins to realize that no matter how many times they kill Tomie, the world will never be free of her cruelty. She keeps coming back. The story begins with Tomie seducing her teacher and a group of male students. They go insane with rage and lust, brutally dismembering her corpse, scattering her by a river all while fighting amongst each other like a flock of savages. Tomie’s streak of seducing victims with her demonic charm finally comes to an end, until she shows up to school the very next day to continue driving everyone insane. It turns out that chopping up Tomie didn’t kill her, it only allowed her to divide, spread and conquer like an army of humanoid cancer cells. The book is a series of stand-alone stories revolving around the many replicas of Tomie. Each story gives us a way of seeing different sides of the same monstrous girl. She appears as the daughter of a mourning elderly couple, the narcissistic model for a wannabe millionaire painter, a perverted child seducer, a medical experiment gone wrong, we see many faces of Tomie and we’re never truly certain on which face is the real her. She’s like every mythological seductress all rolled into one. She’s a siren, succubus, lamia, Lilith, medusa and every other deadly seductress you can possibly think of. On top of this there’s Ito’s signature grotesque body horror to go along with each version of the wicked maiden.
Tomie is an enigma. If you slice her open, she heals right back up. If you cut her into a hundred pieces, each piece will regenerate and take on its own form and personality. At first we see her as a victim because of how brutally she's murdered by a teacher and a group of students, but as we come to learn more about her, it's almost as if she wants to be killed over and over. She's intentionally cruel, manipulative and psychotic, playing the damsel in distress one moment and happily destroying the lives of innocent people the next. She intentionally pushes people beyond their limits, taking a sick pleasure in the chaos she creates as the world goes mad with lust over her beauty. And since she keeps coming back, there's no limits or consequences to the amount of chaos she can conjure up. It's a very interesting take on lovecraftian horror, interweaving folklore from mythological creatures scattered throughout history wrapped up in the body of a seemingly innocent beautiful girl. Tomie is the first manga Junji Ito ever published, so its age does show a bit at times, especially near the beginning of the story. It was also published over a very long period of time, there’s a massive difference between the first few chapters and the later chapters. If you’re not too impressed with the beginning, the art, quality and storytelling improve significantly over time, so it’s still great for a first published work and gives you a taste of the weirdness and brutality Ito is capable of. I would recommend Uzumaki first if you’re new to Ito, but Tomie is still definitely worth checking out.