Please allow me to once again lament the loss of this series. This time around, it’s a special tragedy because this seems to start in on chronological short stories, and the stories in this volume are OLD. They look extremely primitive, and sort of hilarious in some cases. You can see how much better Ito’s art has gotten over the years when you compare these stories… well, to the ones in the last volume (which was mostly Tomie stories drawn post-2000). The art in this volume may put some people off, but the stories are certainly still A-list.

The only repeat from the previously published “Horror Comics Collection” is the story from which the volume gets its title. I remember being sort of surprised by this initially, because I thought it would contain all the stories from “Flesh-Colored Horror.” I’m all about new material, but I didn’t think think this volume would have a lot of it, and I wonder if others thought the same thing and gave it a pass. All ten of us that bought “Flesh-Colored Horror,” anyway. “Long Hair in the Attic” is worth re-reading, I’ve got insanely long hair myself and I’m always worried I’m going to wake up and find one of my cats tangled and suffocated in it, similar to the girl waking up with the rat in her hair in this story.

The best story in this collection was probably “Village of the Sirens,” about the two people who go back to their hometown and find it full of eccentric elderly people. Turns out a wizard has summoned demons who hypnotize the townspeople to do his bidding with the sirens mounted on the new factory that scream all night long. Baby stealing and sacrifice is involved, along with European-style devils that look pretty awesome compared to everything else in the volume. It’s a little longer than most of the stories in the volume, and I think it’s sort of a precursor to Uzumaki in a very indirect way. It’s got a lot of twists and turns, and is really well-developed for a short story. The man can write.

“Heart of a Father” is actually much longer than all the other stories in the volume about a family whose children all seem to mysteriously die at a certain age. The children also all suffer from migraines, and then apparently don’t act like themselves. The plot picks up with the one surviving daughter and the boy who watches out for her, a friend of one of her older deceased brothers. The reason behind the madness in this one is especially bizarre, and I have to say the ending was a little disappointing for not making sense. It was certainly very involved, though.

What else… “Love as Scripted” was kind of good only because it was sort of bizarre and about a weird obsession. A girl is jilted and takes action, but then she falls more in love with a video tape. It had a touch of dark humor to it, but it wasn’t quite that funny. “Sword of the Reanimator” was memorable for being really… very lame. It had some good ideas mixed in though, and it was still pretty good for being the weakest story in the volume. Oh! The first story, “Bio-House,” was the most primitive story art-wise but was also one of the best in the volume. It was about a girl who went to the home of her employer and was prepared a meal based on the fact she expressed a preference for “extreme food.” A really long, beautiful, awkward scene plays out where the girl sweats her way through some of the most disgusting edibles you can imagine, and of course things don’t end well for her, but the ending is kind of random compared to the beautiful meal scene. I almost forgot about that one, it really sets the tone for the rest of the volume.

In total, there are about a dozen stories, almost all of which are quite notable. I could go on and on about them, but I’ll stop. “Village of the Sirens” alone was worth the price of admission. I would recommend this volume over the other two, but if you’re turned off by the artwork, start with the second Tomie volume. But please, please, do yourself the favor and read these if you enjoy horror manga at all. This was a gift to us from Dark Horse, and I am still deeply saddened by the loss of the rest of the series.

I was visiting my parents in Ohio for a few days, and I packed kind of light, but luckily I store most of my old manga at their house when I’m done reading it, so there’s a bunch of stuff there I haven’t talked about here yet. I realized awhile ago that I had somehow neglected to talk about the last two volumes of Museum of Terror despite the fact I complained bitterly when the series was cancelled, so I thought I would fix that.

Seriously though, I was really shocked that this series had low sales. Junji Ito is… well, the most accessible of the horror manga artists I can think of. I like Umezu and Hino well enough, but some of their stuff can be batshit insane (Umezu) and/or the same story or type of story told over and over again (Hino). Ito has a more traditional feel, a balance between psychological and gory horror, and I appreciate that a lot. I always secretly hope that Viz projects will revive things like this (the reprintings of Uzumaki and Gyo, for instance, or the success of Drifting Classroom or Cat-Eyed Boy giving Scary Books new life), but sadly, it doesn’t seem to have any effect.

The first volume was material I had already read in English, but this volume was all new Tomie stories, newer stuff… possibly newer than Gyo and Uzumaki, but I can’t verify the dates. The art looks very good though, and these are probably better Tomie stories than the ones in the first volume. The only thing I can complain about is that it’s almost too much Tomie, but that’s because I read this entire 400-page volume in one sitting. I saved myself the overdose the first time through by breaking the stories up over the course of several days.

The stories in this volume are a lot more striking than in the past volume. Instead of constantly preying on students, Tomie branches out into the world of adults and young children. The high schoolers aren’t completely exempt (a story about girls planting her hair on their heads springs to mind), but there’s more variety in these later stories. Tomie ruins the life of a young boy she somehow gets to call her “mama,” she makes two grown men throw the pulped remains of her body into the sake vats, making the most intoxicating alcohol known to man, and she gets adopted by an elderly couple she runs a con job on.

I actually don’t like Tomie that much, and I don’t like Tomie stories as a result, but I really like the number of situations Ito writes for such a limited subject (a girl who bewitches every male she runs across to the point they become her slaves and must kill her). Even though Tomie’s not my favorite, I wouldn’t trade this volume for another since Ito is quite good at short stories.

It can be pretty gory in a cartoony, non-graphic way, and there’s also some genuine weirdness and eccentricities mixed in as well. I’m not going to be able to convey how well Ito can write short horror stories, but they are superb, and these volumes give you a LOT of story for your buck each time. I’m just so bummed the series got cancelled though, I was very much looking forward to huge volumes filled with Ito short stories for years to come.

Museum of Terror 1: Tomie

September 30, 2006

Bah. I only did a review for Tomie 1, or I’d just say reference both reviews to see my thoughts on this. The Museum of Terror is a repackage of the Junji Ito Horror Comic Collection, of which we got the first three volumes. However, the Museum of Terror is a wideban compilation, so it’s equal to two volumes of manga. I was under the impression that the first two volumes of Museum of Terror were going to be Tomie stories that corresponded to the first two volumes of the Horror Comics Collection, with a third volume of new Tomie stories split between them from a newer compilation of Tomie… but that was not the case. My volumes of Tomie are not with me right now to compare, but I’m pretty sure that this is every story from the first two volumes of the Museum of Terror. Which makes for a HUGE volume of manga, but one I’ve already unfortunately read.

Most of the stories are pretty good, and Junji Ito is actually my favorite horror comic artist (Hino is also a favorite, but he tends to be more humerous than Ito, so they’re somewhat separate). Reading them in one long shot like that though makes you realize that a lot of the stories are very similar. The best ones are towards the end, and my two favorites are one which doesn’t even really feature Tomie directly called “Waterfall Basin” and another that is in a more isolated setting than the rest called “Revenge.” The three-part story that includes “Photo,” “Kiss,” and “Mansion” is also quite good… and they’re all good in their own ways, but again, it’s hard to read them all in one go since they’e all basically about Tomie driving men crazy and the men cutting her up, the women trying to stop her.

Also, the artwork is circa 1987 and is ass-ugly when compared with Ito’s later works. I can’t wait to get some later volumes… if my guess is right, I think the next volume will be the Tomie stories I haven’t read plus the material from the third volume of the Horror Comics Collection, the superb one-shots that I liked a lot and would mark the end of content I’ve already read.