Junji Ito’s Tomie has been one of mangaka’s finest works. The eerie happenings leave a shuddering impact on its readers again and again. Tomie, the antagonist, and protagonist of the story are shrouded with mystery. Despite her being the center of all the stories, little is known about her origin. Every reader has been mesmerized by her only for her to leave a bitter aftertaste after the end of every event.
Yet one cannot help but wonder about her: who is Tomie? Where did she come from? What was her motive? Tomie is the titular protagonist of Junji Ito’s work but she represents so much more than just a bratty young girl with no regard for anyone’s emotions.
Tomie is a three-part manga series written by Junji Ito that was serialized in the Monthly Halloween, Nemuki from 1987 to 2000. It was later launched in English by ComicsOne and Viz Media. The popular horror manga-inspired several television dramas where the main character (Tomie) was portrayed by a variety of beautiful actresses. The character’s major feature was her beautiful face which attracted people of all age groups and gender. However, wherever she went, she brought a plethora of omen with her.
Who is Tomie? What did she want? She has been described as many things. A quick analysis of her character might make it easier for us to conclude her significance.
Who is Tomie?
Tomie’s full name is Tomie Kawakumi. She makes repeated appearances throughout the three volumes of Junji Ito’s Tomie. She is described as a young woman with beautiful hair and having a mole underneath her eye. Her beauty has an especial charm that seems to leave almost everyone obsessed with her. For those who do not fall for her, she leaves a long-lasting impact on them that gives them nightmares and a life without peace.
Personality-wise, Tomie would come off as playful in the beginning. However, only gradually it is noticeable that she is actually a selfish person who feeds on the obsession that people have for her. Instead of being loved, she sought to be worshipped. Once she has a target, she becomes very manipulative and enjoys making them hurt others for her sake.
Tomie does not only hunt men but also women. While at times she used men to do her bidding, she also attracted women by flaunting her beauty. As these women tried to become more like her, she would feed on their vulnerability. She shows no mercy. At the same time, the thought of anyone being more beautiful or more loved than her does not suit her well. Later in the story, she doesn’t even spare her own clones.
The origin of Tomie is never revealed throughout the three volumes of the manga. In the very first story, Tomie appears as a young teenager who was having an affair with her teacher. However, after an accident during a field trip, the entire class kills her and mutilates her corpse. Each member of the crime grabs hold of a piece of her and disposes it off in different locations. However, a few days after her death, Tomie mysteriously reappears without a scratch on her body. While one may think that this might have been the beginning of Tomie’s horror, it is hugely implied that Tomie had existed before this incident. The teacher of the classroom admits to having met Tomie when he was young.
Following this, Tomie appears again and again in different places, as part of different people’s lives. At the end of every story, she dies only to return alive in another place. Later it is revealed that Tomie can regenerate from any part of her flesh and form a new body. This is how despite dying, she keeps coming back to ruin more lives.
Junji Ito’s inspiration behind Tomie
Tomie being one of Junji Ito’s most popular works, is often brought up in his interviews. In a certain interview, he is asked what his inspiration behind the character was. Junji Ito clarifies that he was never inspired to create Tomie due to a real beautiful woman. His inspiration comes from an incident in Junior High School when a classmate died in an accident. The incident made him wonder how weird it would be if the boy came back as if nothing happened. Thus Tomie was created; a girl who would come back innocent despite dying again and again. He added his own touch to the character by giving her an unlikeable personality.
Junji Ito has openly admitted to having a fear of women. Although exaggerated, his fear is expressed quite clearly through Tomie. Her words are terribly mean which can attack anyone on a personal level.
What Was Tomie?
Tomie keeps coming back at different time zones and also appears at different ages to meet her target. What exactly is Tomie supposed to be? Junji Ito describes her as neither a ghost nor a Zombie. However, she is definitely dead. So what exactly is Tomie?
Tomie’s actuality is never discussed in any of the stories. However, she displays many qualities similar to a succubus. She begins by seducing her targets. Anyone who is under her influence seems to be drained out of energy, both emotionally and physically. They slowly succumb to their worst. Eventually, they start being obsessed with her to an extent that they are prepared to do anything for her and even worse, with her. Tomie, like a demon, wishes to be worshipped. The more they worship, the more she is enthusiastic. She is also devoid of feeling anything for anyone beyond herself. Yet, she has never killed anyone herself and always used others to do her dirty work.
Tomie is also much like a curse or a disease. Whenever she arrives at a new place, she is followed by death and destruction. Despite having such an ominous aura, Tomie does not display any supernatural powers. In one of the stories, when infants are injected with her DNA, they turn into Tomie.
In a certain story, Tomie is also compared to a planaria, a certain type of flatworm that can grow from every part. Much like a planaria, new Tomie can grow from a mutilated part of her body. Although initially, it all begins with Tomie making sudden appearances, it slowly changes to a full-fledged Tomie invasion in the end. This could also mean that Tomie was an alien being with alarmingly dangerous charms.
The Significance of Tomie
Tomie was many things, although mostly evil. As mentioned several times, people tend to get obsessed with her. However, the victims always claimed to be in love with her. This overwhelming feeling of love eventually increased to a point where they wanted to cut her up to pieces and keep Tomie to themselves. This is how most stories ended for Tomie- in her complete disintegration.
Tomie’s very presence signifies different negative energies in a person. She brings out the worst in people by luring them in. Over and over again she proves how fatally brittle a person’s mental stability can be. Tomie encounters men initially– cheating, lying, and disloyal men. She turned them into murderers by letting them devour her. However, justice in her eyes is different as she would punish them with the darkness of nightmares pushing them to insanity.
Tomie also depicts ‘ego’. She is a prideful beast who takes advantage of her beauty. Once her prey falls for her, she dismisses their feelings like trash. On the other hand, if a person does not worship her like the others, she gets infuriated and crosses all limits to make them like her. Tomie wishes to be the most desirable to an extent that she would even eliminate her other selves to stand on top. This also stands as a metaphor for how people often lose themselves amidst vanity. The real Tomie has disappeared among all the clones like innocence vanishes as a person ascends to adulthood.
Through the other characters, Tomie also explores other sensitive topics like deception, abuse, and the unending need of a human mind to seek physical beauty.
Where to Read Tomie?
Tomie is currently available on multiple manga reading sites and also for purchasing in several authentic manga selling platforms. A deluxe version is also available on Viz Media. Alternatively one can also purchase the hardcopy from Amazon. The digital versions are available on Google Play, iBooks, Kindle, and Nook. A two-episode special anime titled ‘Ito Junji: Collection Specials; Ito Junji Episodes 13 and 14’ based on Tomie was also released in 2018.
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