Essay

Name: Kieran Ryder-Lewis

Tutor:  Adam McDade

Course: Illustration Year 1

“Present a Critical Analysis if a Visual Artefact”.


Ito, J. (2016) Top Model [ink on paper] In: Ito, J. (2016) Tomie Complete Deluxe Edition (Complete Deluxe). Tokyo: VIZ Media, p. 684.

This essay will present a brief analysis of Junji Ito’s Tomie Kawakami, a femme fatale with long dark hair and recognisable features. She is described as an immortal succubus that is the most beautiful person to whoever is doomed to meet her.

The aim of this essay is to examine the links between obsessive thoughts and desire at how it can manifest our minds into becoming something beastly and uncontrollable, towards Tomie and characters alike. I will outline ways the story of Tomie Kawakami links to Ito during his life before and during Tomie’s publishing. I will also be questioning what cultural background the character lies upon and how it has impacted the series and herself as a character. I will be exclusively talking about how desire and obsession can lead to uncontrollable mannerisms based on Tomie as a fictional character. I will also link ways in which Tomie has links to society and power with money relating to her as a source of obsession.

First, we must address the scene of horror manga within Japanese society and how artists shape their work whether it being based on real life or pure fiction. Usually, horror manga has backstory, in this case Tomie is based off a ghost story that was a part of Ito’s upbringing. Generally, we find that ‘Artists of the ’80s were more interested in personal memories, imaginary worlds and playful approaches, disfavoring artistic high seriousness.’ (Japan Times, 2002) Therefore, artists want to create a personal connection within their work that allows the viewer to build upon relation to the manga and create a sense of understanding between reader and artist that ‘it is natural to assume that the artist is taken seriously’ (Art and Audience 1970), therefore viewers can create that personal connection. Ito finds that he ‘suffered from being overly self-conscious when I was younger.’ (Grape Japan 2019) The juxtaposing character Ito has created could be a recollection of his past childhood. Afterall Tomie is based off someone he used to be acquainted within school who died then attended school days after they perished.

Manga has a very long history within Japan, however in the last hundred years it has taken shape into a ‘cartoony’ style developed in many ways. ‘The manga boom exploded with skyrocketing sales’ (Macwilliams and Schodt, 2008) during the 1980s, around when Ito first started to appear. ‘Such freedom of sexual expression characterised ladie’s comics of the early years’ (Macwilliams and Schodt, 2008) started to appear much more in manga series, in Tomie we find she is sexualised in the series either by her or by the opposite character. However, this started to develop further late 1990’s alongside Tomie, Uzumaki and Gyo. Gyo sprung into the world early 2000s. This is most relevant because ‘The themes of ladies’ comic stories included falling in love, romance, mate selection, family life, female friendship, sex, and lust.’ (Macwilliams and Schodt, 2008) Afterall Tomie’s presence alone seems to drive people to become fixated on her and this relates to the foundation on which she as a female character is based upon.

Tomie’s ‘superpowers and abilities’ play a huge part as a main plot point. This may be purely fiction; however, her powers have relevance to obsession and inevitability. Her abilities include her source of obsession and super regeneration. People tend to be overwhelmed by the mixture of intense love and hatred towards her, switching from each juxtaposing element throughout each story. Her regeneration includes her body creating multiple copies of

 herself, sometimes triggered by stress or emotion, but mostly after being chopped up by a crazed and obsessed man. This can relate to power with money in society today. ‘Money, according to the adage, makes the world go round.’ (Jacobs and Šlaus, 2012) Tomie can be seen as the object in what make people richer, driving men to keep her as their power. However, once she has lured someone in, she is either killed or the lurer is killed, making the situation obsolete. In the article ‘The Power of Money’ (Jacobs and Šlaus, 2012), ‘The introduction of purely symbolic money as a substitute for material objects marked an important stage in social development.’ (Jacobs and Šlaus, 2012), Tomie is a great example of how she is symbolised as an object within the series how characters would repetitively chant ‘gorgeous, gorgeous, gorgeous’ or proclaiming how she must be added to a collection.

Tomie is described as an ‘immortal succubus” as previously stated. A succubus is a female demon who is believed to seduce victims. Ito describes immortality as ‘never dying, is something I think everyone longs for. At some point, we all wish we could be immortal.’ (Grape Japan 2019) Longing for obsession goes together with being immortal and this plays a factor within the story of men craving Tomie as they meet her. Tomie can be said as the counterpart to Yuki-onna, a Japanese folklore spirit or yōkai. ‘She is also described as inhumanly beautiful and is a natural born killer who preys on travelers in the mountainous roads.’ (Sohma, 2016) Both Tomie and Yuki-onna have similar traits that build upon the female antagonist. Both characters are based upon luring the character in, creating a link between spirit/character and man.

People become animal like and tend to kill her once they get to know her. Rachman talks about how ‘it is likely that unfortunate sufferers from obsessions get caught up in a vicious circle’ (Rachman, 1997), this directly impacts Tomie as the character is forced to endure her fate through death and resurrection. Desire will lead to obsessive thoughts and often cause you to blindly realise ‘interpretation becomes significant’ (Rachman, 1997), this can be relevant to how people have no control over their emotions and suddenly start to obsess over Tomie. We find that ‘Man’s desire is the desire of the other’ (Lacan, 1973) meaning we desire and recognise in the other as to say we must find something within that ‘thing that the other lacks.’ (Hewitson, 2010) Tomie is treated as the most beautiful person to have existed by some characters meaning they want what Tomie must give for them. We also must consider how people don’t exactly want to obsess over Tomie, in ‘Tomie Part 2, Morita Hospital’ a character can’t oppress the overwhelming urge for Tomie even though he has a girlfriend. This is repeated a few times throughout the series. We find that ‘unwanted intrusive thoughts are the basis of obsessions’ (Rachman, 1997)   within every character that Tomie meets.

As we can see, obsession can lead to a beastly and uncontrollable mindset towards Tomie. Tomie is a great example of how desire for something or someone can lead to an uncomfortable display with links to other Japanese myths with Rachman’s theory applied.

Bibliography

Davisson, Z. (2021). Yuki Onna – The Snow Woman. [Online] 百物語怪談会 Hyakumonogatari Kaidankai. Available at: https://hyakumonogatari.com/2013/12/18/yuki-onna-the-snow-woman/ [Accessed 9 May 2021].

Durgnat, R. (1970). Art and Audience [online]. The British Journal of Aesthetics Vol. 10 No. 1. Pages 11-24. [Accessed 06 May 2021]

Hewitson, O. (2010). What Does Lacan Say About… Desire?. [online] Lacanonline.com. Available at: www.lacanonline.com/2010/05/what-does-lacan-say-about-desire  [Accessed 9 May 2021].

Ito, J. (2002) The Junji Ito Interview: A conversation with the creator of Uzumaki. Interview with Junji Ito. Viz Media, 20 December [online]. Available from: https://web.archive.org/web/20021220094300/http://www.jpopcinema.com:80/uzumaki/interview_ito_pulp_02.html#top [Accessed 06 May 2021]

Ito, J. (2016). Tomie: Complete Deluxe Edition (Complete Deluxe). 1st ed. Tokyo: Viz Media.

Ito, J. (2016) Top Model [Image] In: Ito, J. (2016) Tomie Complete Deluxe Edition (Complete Deluxe). Tokyo: VIZ Media, p. 684.

Ito, J. (2019) An Interview With Master of Horror Manga Junji Ito (Full Length Version). Interview with Junji Ito. Grape Japan, 06 October [online]. Available from: https://grapee.jp/en/116016 [Accessed 06 May 2021]

Jacobs, G. and Šlaus, I. (2012). The Power of Money | Cadmus Journal. [online] Cadmusjournal.org. Available at: https://www.cadmusjournal.org/article/issue-5/power-money [Accessed 9 May 2021].

Lacan, J., 1973. The Four Fundamental Concepts of Psycho-Analysis. Paris: Éditions du Seuil, p.235. [Accessed 09 May 2021]

Larking, M (2018) Japan’s artistic rebels of the 1980s. Japan Times [online]. 20 November. Available from: https://www.japantimes.co.jp/culture/2018/11/20/arts/japans-artistic-rebels-1980s/ [Accessed 06 May 2021]

Macwilliams, M. and Schodt, F. (2008). Japanese visual culture: explorations in the world of manga and anime [online]. 1st ed. London: Routledge. [Accessed 09 May 2021]

Rachman, S. (1997) Behaviour research and therapy [online]. Vancouver: Elsevier Ltd. [Accessed 06 May 2021]

Sohma, M. (2016). A Heart as Cold as Ice? The Japanese Legend of Yuki-onna, the Beautiful Yet Dangerous Snow Woman. [online] Ancient-origins.net. Available at: www.ancient-origins.net/myths-legends/heart-cold-ice-japanese-legend-yuki-onna-beautiful-yet-dangerous-snow-woman-007186 [Accessed 9 May 2021].

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