[Visions Of Horror] Junji Ito’s ‘Tomie’

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Choosing just one master of horror to cover every week is a daunting task. There are so many artists in the comics industry who deserve to have their work recognized and lauded, but perhaps no man in modern horror deserves it more than manga maestro, Junji Ito. Every time a list of great horror comics surfaces, Junji Ito is always found at the top. His work is sensational, insanely original, and downright terrifying. There are few creators in any field who are capable of building fear like Junji Ito. So hit the jump and let’s dive head first into the masterpiece that is “Tomie”.

Junji Ito is, unquestionably, one of the greatest horror manga artists to ever grace the industry, boasting an impressive repertoire of fantastically frightening artwork and distinguishably eerie tales. Even as a child he possessed a keen interest in creating horror manga, and began honing and developing his skills as a mere hobby. It wasn’t until he’d already established himself as a working dental technician in Japan that he’d finally decided to endeavor into the professional world of writing and illustrating.

Shōjo horror magazine, “Gekken Halloween”, sent out a call for submissions within their first year of operations, and Junji ambitiously answered their request. By 1987, the magazine featured “Tomie”, his first published story, to a widely positive reception. “Tomie” is the cursed tale of a dangerously manipulative high school girl who falls victim to various — brutally heinous — acts of violence, only to continuously regenerate in order to wreak havoc and exact pain on a number of different characters. Junji’s work on this piece won him an honorable mention, and ultimately the Kazuo Umezu award from a panel of distinguished manga creators. Since then, “Tomie” has been serialized, reprinted twice in the United States, and adapted into a series of Japanese Horror films spanning a whopping nine installments to date.

“Tomie” is a staple of Japanese Horror manga, and it’s because of its massive appeal that Bloody-Disgusting has chosen to feature artwork straight from the bizarrely surreal pages of this series. Specifically, page 188 of “Tomie” Volume 1, Chapter 4, titled “Mansion”. Not only is this chapter significant in terms of providing readers with a greatly anticipated explanation regarding Tomie’s regenerative powers, but it’s a stylistically perfect example when it comes to showcasing Junji’s recognizable, and exceptionally skilled, artistic abilities and techniques for illustrating horror manga.

In the photo below, the artist depicts a detailed and monstrous worm-like creature, with multiple Tomies protruding from its body. His signature black and white illustrations don’t adhere to the usual stylistic framework of most manga drawings, but evoke a tone and atmosphere that is so distinctly his. The beautifully crisp, clear, and intricate line work that emanates prominently off the page is due to the lack of colour in Junji’s palette, his consistent use of light grey tones, and his stark ink renderings that provide depth and shadow. Tomie’s dead eyes and sharply elongated nails produce a feeling of dread and discomfort in the reader, and that can be attributed to Junji’s knack for effectively mastering a perfect balance between disturbing art and psychological suspense. It’s both extremely beautiful and surrealistically grotesque, but it wouldn’t be “Tomie” otherwise.

Page from “Tomie” Volume 1, Chapter 4:

From here, Ito would go on to create some of the most disturbing works of horror manga including “Hellstar Remina”, “Uzumaki” (which was adapted to the film Spiral), “Gyo”, and others. There are very few artists working in comics who don’t draw some inspiration from Ito’s work, so if you have yet to explore his unique brand of horror, dive it. “Uzumaki” was just re-printed in one big volume in North America, and most local comic shops should have a copy. Buy yourself an early holiday present, you won’t regret it.

If you want Bloody Disgusting to cover one of your favourite horror artists, or a fantastic piece of horror-related comic book art, head down to the comment section, or hit up Farah or Lonnie on Twitter.

  • Bryno

    I just got the Uzumaki omnibus, which is something I discovered through this site. Other than Monster, I’m having a tough time finding any other manga with good artwork that I want to read. I haven’t read all of Uzumaki yet, but plan on checking out whatever Junji Ito stuff I can find. If any other commenters have ideas I’m interested…

    • Lonmonster

      You can check out Domu, Drifting Classroom, Zashiki Onna, Fuan no Tane, Zashiki Onna, Le Portrait de Petite Cosette.

  • Chelsea

    Tomie is my all time favorite of all of the Junji Ito stories. Ever since Vertical (I think) released a majority of them in the Museum of Horror volumes way back when.

  • Laugh Riot

    What did you think of the live action movies of it???

    • Zebraman1428

      I have only seen the first five Tomie movies. The first is the best if a bit slow. The second Tomie:Replay is slower than the first and despite being a direct adaptation of one of the mange stories manages to be boring as hell. Tomie: Rebirth is the best by far and is the only one that captures the feel of the original manga. Tomie: Another Face is a made for TV anthology with four stories but it suffers from a meager special effects budget. Tomie: Forbidden Fruit is almost as good as Rebirth. Those are the only ones I have seen so someone tell us how the others are.

      • Tomie Kawakami

        Tomie: Another Face is the second movie technically, despite being made for TV.

  • Zebraman1428

    Junji Ito is my favorite Manga-ka of all time. I have copies of the original flipped version of Tomie from the original stateside release as well as Viz Media’s unflipped versions and the first five movies. I also have all of Uzumaki as well as the movie adapatation. I also have all of Gyo and Ito’s short story collections that have been released here. I have never heard of Hellstar Remina. Does anyone know if that one has been released in the states?

  • MrMyers

    Zebraman,you say the first is the best but then say Rebirth is the best by far,then you say Forbidden Fruit is almost as good as Rebirth!
    Which one is it?!
    I’ll just start at the start i think.Haha.

    • Zebraman1428

      Oops. I meant to say that the first one was the closest to the source material. Replay is a direct adaptation as well but has no tension or mood. Rebirth and Forbidden Fruit are my favorites in the series. Sorry for the confusion.

  • Tomie Kawakami

    Tomie is the best manga that will ever exist. Team Tomie all day all night all week all year all century T E A M T O M I E.

  • MaryMaria

    Since I first found his anthologies, Junji Ito has been my favourite horror comic author and artist. His artwork is simple and disgusting and the stories are just so weird and terrifying. They’re not all home runs for sure, but when he gets it right, he gets it oh-so-right. It’s still tough for me to turn the page in his short story, ‘Long Hair in the Attic’. Ughghgh! He also did a really funny and weird comic called ‘Ito Junji’s Cat Diary’ which is like a cross between his horror shorts and Chi’s Sweet Home. A horror artist writing slice-of-life gags about his cats? Sure! I highly recommend it.

  • LilBastardFromHell

    Good choice, thansk to Uzumaki, for the very first time in my life, i had nightmares after reading a comic.
    The whole hospital chapter is incredibly disturbing – that guy is really a master of horror.

    I also checked “long dream”, so much athmosphere in just a few chapters…!

  • AzurServal

    I discovered Junji Ito’s work in my early twenties when I worked at Barnes & Noble and was always trying to track down anything to do with the horror genre. I think Uzumaki was one of my most treasured finds. I quickly added Gyo and the Museum of Horror set to my collection after that. LOVE his work. I have a copy of the movie they made of Uzumaki as well… I really like it, though I don’t think it could ever have caught what is truly haunting about Ito’s work. Beautifully terrifying stuff.