What I’m Reading: “Gyo,” “Uzumaki,” and “Tomie” by Junji Ito [part 3]

The Junji Ito Special Edition Trio: Gyo, Uzumaki, and Tomie

Warning: There *might* be spoilers ahead.

Tomie
Of the Ito-trio, this was the most… meh, for me. It certainly started with the worst art, though by the end, it was just as beautiful as the art in Uzumaki (my fave). The story also follows a pattern, like Uzumaki. Each chapter follows a structure, and almost always ends the same, which made this manga boring and predictable for me. This one also took me the longest to finish, which I blame on the lack of diversity in each chapter’s plot. Speaking of plot, let’s go over how this starts.

Tomie begins at a school where a young, female student (that we never see again past the school portion of the story) tells us that her friend Tomie Kawakami was murdered, chopped into pieces, and scattered about the town. Who could do such a thing? Well, Tomie is quite the looker, though her bully attitude leaves much to be desired. She entertains the affection of a particularly jealous boy but maintains an intimate relationship with her teacher. On a field trip, she confesses to her teacher, to get him to marry her, that she is pregnant with his child. The jealous boy overhears, becomes enraged, and goes after the teacher. The teach, on the other hand, becomes enrage, and pushes Tomie off a rocky precipice.

Believing she is dead, the teacher encourages all the male students to remove their uniforms and help chop her into pieces. They all comply while the girls watch in horror. Much to their surprise, Tomie is still alive, but the teacher has already started, and he won’t stop. Hesitantly, the other boys follow.

Once she is separated into pieces (and the teacher perversely confirms the pregnancy was a lie), everyone takes a piece of her and hides it. With the deed done and the murder unsolved, life goes on… including for Tomie. Soon after she is brutally murdered, she returns to school, acting as if nothing has happened. From there, she guilts her murderers to turn themselves in, kill themselves in various ways, commit themselves to mental hospitals, or encourages them to kill her again in places and situations where they will be caught.

The story starts off as ghostly, revenge narrative, but quickly devolves into something much less interesting. Tomie goes from getting revenge on her killers to just ruining the lives of strangers. Of course, some people deserve the Tomie curse for various reasons, but there are some that are just randomly cursed by Tomie. When Tomie is the reanimated victim, despite her garbage personality, I am still rooting for her. Yas queen, slay your killers (literally). Once she started hurting the lives of strangers, she was more of an annoying catalyst for the various plots.

In a lot of ways, Tomie’s role becomes more figurative. She becomes a representation of various sins, vices, and obsessions. There is a story involving Tomie being dissolved in alcohol. It is quite clear Tomie represents or is the catalyst for alcoholism as the men find themselves unable to keep themselves from drinking the alcohol.

One thing I was happy to see, though, was that the way the original Tomie died made a constant occurrence throughout each story. It was a nice reminder of the ghost-revenge narrative from the beginning, and it really helped tie all the stories together in a morbid way. Men are uncontrollably drawn to Tomie. They become so enamored with her beauty that they, quite literally, want to cut her to pieces, only to find she can regenerate and multiply as a result. I found this super clever since the men were the only ones who took part in tearing her apart. Thankfully, the women aren’t spared either, but are usually tortured because of the men in their lives being tortured.

Overall, Tomie was super fun in the beginning, dragged in the middle, and left me kinda unsatisfied at the end. Still would recommend for any Junji Ito fan, because I can see elements of his other works, but I probably would not recommend this to every horror/body-horror manga fan.

Thanks so much for reading! Have you read this book? What did you think of it? Comment below, and let me know! Want to know what I am reading next? Join the book club: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/565422-lissywrites-book-club

Lissy

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What I’m Reading: “Gyo,” “Uzumaki,” and “Tomie” by Junji Ito [part 2]

The Junji Ito Special Edition Trio: Gyo, Uzumaki, and Tomie

Warning: There *might* be spoilers ahead.

Uzumaki
Of the three Junji Ito special edition titles, Uzumaki is my absolute favorite. No, Uzumaki is not about our fave ninja from the Hidden Leaf, but more about what that name means. The word “uzumaki” translates to “spiral.” Yes, this manga is all about spirals, and the various forms a spiral can take.

The story takes place in Kurouzu-cho and mostly follows the characters Kirie and Shuichi – a young high school couple. Shuichi attends a school outside of their town, so Kirie meets him at the train station every day and they walk home together. However, one day, Kirie is on her way to meet Shuichi at the train station when she sees Shuichi’s father staring at the wall in an alleyway. She tries to say hello, but finds he is unresponsive. Not wanting to risk missing Shuichi, Kirie leaves the man and heads to the train station, but not before noticing the thing the man is staring at is a snail shell.

Once she meets up with Shuichi, they start home and Kirie tells him about the run-in she had with his dad. Shuichi isn’t surprised by the odd behavior. He then explains that his dad has been obsessed, haunted, even, by the spiral pattern. Shuichi goes on to say he believes the town is haunted by the spiral. The roads seem to spiral to the middle of town, the town is surrounded by fiddlehead ferns, and seemingly insignificant dust devils randomly sprout up throughout the town. From here begins the pattern, and things quickly spiral out of control (HA! See what I did there?).

The art in this is by far the best out of the GyoUzumaki, and Tomie special edition trio. I think the story is also much stronger than the others, only because it follows a story pattern (a spiral), but the stories aren’t repetitive. Each iteration of the spiral is much more than a pattern and grows in intensity as we explore various elements of the town and meet new citizens. We can mark a distinct growth as the curse of the spiral continues to reveal itself. The spiral is a disease that slowly, but surely, drags the people of Kurouzu-cho into its center.

Even the reader is, ultimately, captured by this spiral. Junji Ito, in his notes at the end, goes into the inspiration for the story and explains how the human eye will naturally follow the pattern of a spiral all the way to its center. Even if we don’t know what we will find at its center, if it even has one. This study of the spiral is really captured in the journey the reader takes with the main characters. As you follow the pattern deeper and deeper in, you know the spiral is going to appear again. You don’t know how it will end, or if it even will. Regardless, Uzumaki is a whirlpool worth getting caught in. Just wait and see what is at its center.

Thanks so much for reading! Have you read this book? What did you think of it? Let me know, and comment below! Want to see what I am reading next? Join the book club: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/565422-lissywrites-book-club

Lissy

What I’m Reading: “Gyo,” “Uzumaki,” and “Tomie” by Junji Ito [part 1]

The Junji Ito Special Edition Trio: Gyo, Uzumaki, and Tomie

Warning: There *might* be spoilers ahead.

Gyo by Junji Ito

Gyo

Of the three in the Junji Ito deluxe collection, Gyo is was my least favorite. Gyo starts with this couple Tadashi and Kaori on vacation. They are staying in Tadashi’s uncle’s beach-side home enjoying the sea and sun. However, it isn’t long before something goes awry. Tadashi goes in for a kiss and Kaori rejects him because she can smell the fish on his breath. Turns out, Kaori has a hella sensitive nose. They have a bit of a squabble and Kaori, determined to go back to Tokyo, leaves the house.

This appears to be the start of a dramatic, romance novel (or manga, rather). Unfortunately for Kaori and Tadashi, this isn’t a Shojo Beat manga. While Kaori is out on the street, having a fit, she catches a whiff of something… something she can only describe as death and decay. The smell is absolutely overwhelming. Where is the smell coming from, you may ask. A fish. A dead, rotten fish on a pair of pointy, robotic insect legs. It attacks anything with a pulse, and so begins the invasion of dead fish on insect legs.

As goofy as it sounds, I thought the concept was super interesting. These insect legs are actually man-made robots that use bodily scents to function. Ito focuses heavily on the scent and frequently refers to it as a death-stench. The process of death gives these creatures life. Death and decay, these processes we associate with the end of life end up creating it.

However, once the process of decay is complete, the mechanical legs have no power source, but, much like any living creature, their survival instinct pushes them to continue. Once the bodies have rotted away to nothing, the legs attach themselves to the nearest living beings, including household pets and humans. Then Ito presents us with the great moral question: what is life? Tadashi watches soldiers mowing down many of these human-robot-hybrids, and he meets a man attempting to create a circus where he tortures these creatures for the amusement of others. It’s all grotesque and horrific, and in some cases the regular humans seem to be much more monstrous than the monsters.

Ultimately, though, I didn’t think the story was all that interesting. Despite how long it is, I feel it could have dwelled longer at some points and on some of the aspects of the world. For example, it is revealed that the decaying creatures may have some sentience. They are humanized for just an instant. An instant, and then it is over. The art was good, and the concept kept me reading, but it felt… superficial. Still, would recommend to any body-horror manga reader.

Thanks so much for reading! Have you read this book? What did you think of it? Let me know, and comment below.

Lissy


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What I’ve Read: Ico Castle in the Mist by Miyuki Miyabe

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As I’ve written before, Ico is one of my favorite video games of all time. Video games and books have taught me so much about myself and about writing, it would be foolish to try to separate one from the other. When I discovered that an author had been given the rights to write a book based on the story and world of Ico, you can imagine my excitement. My favorite video game in book form? What is there not to love?

Well, let me tell you, this book is nostalgia goodness. I felt like I was playing the game again. A lot of the puzzles showed up in here, and even the descriptions of the castle mimicked a lot of the stages of the video game. The lore she layered onto this world is an absolute treat for anyone who has played the game and wants to strengthen their immersion while playing.

For those who don’t know the general premise:

Ico Castle in the Mist (and Ico the video game) follows a young boy, born with horns, as he traverses the mysterious castle he has seemingly been sacrificed to. There, he meets a girl by the name of Yorda who is unable to speak to him. She has been trapped here in a giant metal bird cage, and, once freed, she is too weak to travel alone. Ico must take Yorda by the hand and lead her through the castle to save both himself and her. Fighting off shadow creatures with horns much like his and solving strange puzzles, Ico learns the secrets of the castle and of Yorda, all while trying to find his way home.

Will people enjoy this who have played it or who are playing it?

Absolutely.

Can people who have never played the game still enjoy it?

… meh? Is that a good answer? It’s hard for me to say since I have played the game. So, I read it from the perspective of a gamer playing a game. This isn’t like reading a walk-through, but it’s got a few moments where it feels like I should be playing while reading. There were moments where I thought the author might be playing as she was writing certain scenes. Those sections would probably drag to those who haven’t played the game. While it helped me immerse myself in the world again, and it tickled my giddy, nostalgic self, the stage descriptions and puzzles may seem trivial and unnecessary to newcomers.

I think you could enjoy it if you like high fantasy writing without the high fantasy elements. Otherwise, you may get bored.

Even so, this is definitely one that goes on my “favorites” shelf.

Worth the Purchase?  Most definitely.

What do you think? Based on this description, would you read it? Have you read it? Have you played the game? Let me know, and comment below.

Thanks for reading!

-Lissy

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These posts are for book discussion and to express my overly-fangirly nature over certain books and series. Though I already have an extensive library with plenty of reading material, I’m always looking out for new or interesting titles. Not only is this for me, but for other writers! Often times, writers forget they started off as readers. Support your fellow authors and read!

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It will be considered spam and deleted immediately. However, if you would like me to buy and read your book, I’ll gladly take recommendations on this page. Fill out the contact sheet with a link to your book, and I will get to reading! While I will read most recommendations, I won’t review them all. If the book in question would probably get less than three stars, I’ll simply keep the review to myself and either email the author directly (if they themselves sent me a contact sheet), or just not discuss the book at all. I want to recommend books that I will read, and that I think others will enjoy. No need to embarrass or completely wreck someone in the name of reviewing.

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