Monday, September 25, 2006

Museum of Terror: Tomie 1

by Junji Ito

It is difficult to discuss horror manga without discussing the work of Junji Ito. Museum of Terror: Tomie 1 is the first in a series of Ito’s work brought to us by Dark Horse.

"Tomie" tells the story of a beautiful schoolgirl whose only fatal flaw is her vanity. This leads to her accidental murder and viscous dismemberment by her suitors, and just as the school is in the middle of grieving for its lost classmate, Tomie suddenly shows up again, wondering what everyone is so upset about. How could this be? We discover throughout the separate stories that keeping Tomie from what she wants can be a very difficult thing to do, and this horrible beauty has a hard time staying dead.

Museum of Terror is made up of nine stories, all chapters in the "Tomie" saga. Stretching over eight years of story writing, we can see not only the enrichments in the story and character, but also a steady growth in the drawing style of the manga. The first chapter has little shading, and has a sketchbook feel to it, which creates a creepy atmosphere all it’s own. The first story almost feels like you are peeking into someone’s morbid diary. As the drawing style develops and becomes more detailed in later chapters, Ito's true horrific genius can be seen, crystal clear.

Each chapter is a stand-alone story, but gives us a few more pieces of the puzzles to what Tomie truly is. For some reason, Tomie’s unquestionable beauty has led to her murder by the boys in her class, who, along with the teacher, proceed to slice her up and hide the body. Somehow Tomie returns, and this cycle of murder and reincarnation will repeat itself over and over, but also morph and change like a genetic experiment gone terribly bad. No matter what form Tomie takes, she seems bent on one thing: revenge, and the bloodier and more painful the better.

We have been looking at quite a bit of Japanese horror in recent weeks, but make no mistake, Museum of Terror really lives up to its name. It’s hard to imagine a truly nightmare-inducing comic book, but Museum of Terror comes as close as we have experienced, and is likely only to be topped by the second volume, Museum of Terror: Tomie 2, which is also available now. Museum of Terror: The Long Hair in the Attic, which is a collection of short horror stories by Junji Ito, is released on October 25.

The first two images are from Chapter 1. The last two pictures are from the last chapter, "Painter". Click images for more detail.


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It is very true, Junji Itou is a true genius of horror art. His longest work Uzumaki (translates into Spiral) is also very good. I'm glad to find this blog that posts the same comment I'd give on his works.

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