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Saturday, 30 October 2010

Museum of Terror: Tomie Vol 1

Writer and artist: Junji Ito
Publisher: Dark Horse

What's it about?
We meet Tomie as a beautiful teenage schoolgirl, she has a boyfriend and many other admirers.   She is brutally murdered, cut up, and her body parts redistribute around the town.

Then Tomie returns.  Like she'd never been away.  Driven to a frenzy, her killer attacks again.  Then more Tomies show up.  You see, every time she is killed, she is cut up and her pieces scattered.  Each piece regenerates into a fresh Tomie.  She provokes bloodlust in others, she teases and aggravates those she meets until all around her are haunted and driven mad.  You cannot get away from her.

What's good about it?
It's shit scary.  It's disturbing, it's creepy, it's unrelenting, the pressure doesn't stop.  You sympathise with Tomie's victims, you sympathise with Tomie herself.  Like the best horror there are graphic parts which revulse you, there are subtle parts that rely on imagination and hints to scare.

On the surface, a story about a teenage girl who drives others to murder her and cut her up sounds pretty misogynistic, but this book is far more complicated than that.  Tomie herself is a complex character.  It isn't clear whether she's out and out evil or whether she wants to be good but cannot overcome her internal programming.  Is she a monster or is she subject to outside forces?

What makes the book really interesting is the way in which the author explores other character's reactions to Tomie.  Parts of Tomie end up in hugely different places and each person seems to seek something different from her and to relate to her in a different way.

What's bad about it?
Well, unless you've got a strong stomach you may not want to read it when you're eating your dinner.  It's a grown up horror, so (if this hasn't been made clear already) it's not suitable for small children.

What's the art like?
It's all in black and white, it's sometimes graphic and it's always demonstrates attention to detail.  A fair amount of the panels have no dialogue and so the story is moved on by the art alone, which is an effective technique that increases the tension.  The other great thing about the art is that no one is sexualised.

There are 2 more volumes of Museum of Terror, Amazon UK has a 'look inside' feature for volume 3.   Amazon also sells a lot of other of Ito's book, see here for the search.

(Apologies for the poor quality of the scans)

Other information
As is common with a lot of manga, this is printed in the original Japanese format, so you read it right to left.  For more guidance see this post.

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