Tomie: No Use Escaping by Junji Ito

Tomie: No Use Escaping by Junji ItoTomie: No Use Escaping by Junji Ito is a delightful set of horror stories, and if you are a horror fan and have not read any Junji Ito, you are definitely missing out! In the United States, Ito is the best-known horror manga artist. So far, seventeen volumes of his work have been translated into English. The Tomie stories are important, because the first manga story Ito ever wrote in Japan was a Tomie story. Twenty stories about Tomie are included in this massive near-750 page volume.

Who is Tomie? Tomie is a succubus of sorts, of indescribable beauty, and she lures men into falling in love with her and worshiping her. The horrific twist is that she also instills in men the desire to stab her, cut her up, dismember her. This twist is made even more horrifying because Tomie grows back from each piece of her body. So, if she is chopped up into thirty pieces, she will come back as thirty identical Tomies. In one scene for example, pieces are thrown into a small pond at the bottom of a cliff. Men start throwing themselves to their death until eventually, a whole group of nude Tomies emerge simultaneously from the water, walk through town, and disappear into the night. Stories later in the book add one more layer: Tomie has the impulse to kill her duplicates, so she is often using men to kill her other selves.

There are too many stories to review, but I’ll give the premise of a few: In one, Tomie manipulates the father of four boys, three of whom fight over her. The fourth, the unattractive son of the family, wants nothing to do with her. This drives Tomie a little crazy as she has never met a man who could resist her charms. Her revenge on the young man is a complex plot that is creative in its cruelty. In another story, a young boy is lured by Tomie into falling in love with her as his mother, getting him to deny his own parents. He grows up twisted by his childhood encounter with Tomie.

My favorite stories are the few that are interconnected at the end of the book: A man whose face is obscure (it is eventually revealed that he has been burned all over) injects the blood of Tomie into a series of infants in a neighborhood and watches them grow up, turning into Tomies, all in the hope of seeking revenge on Tomie. We get the backstory of this mysterious man in the following story: He was a model who was given a disfiguring, career-ending scar by Tomie. He is determined to find a way to get his ultimate revenge: To watch Tomie grow old and ugly, so that she has to confront her own inner ugliness on the outside.

Ito’s art is fantastic and quite beautiful when he is not portraying ghastly scenes, but even then, there is a certain beauty to his horrific black-and-white artistic scenes. There is no doubt that this volume, like his masterpiece Uzumaki, is a five-star book. Do not miss these great tales of horror.


  • Brad Hawley

    BRAD HAWLEY, who's been with us since April 2012, earned his PhD in English from the University of Oregon with areas of specialty in the ethics of literature and rhetoric. Since 1993, he has taught courses on The Beat Generation, 20th-Century Poetry, 20th-Century British Novel, Introduction to Literature, Shakespeare, and Public Speaking, as well as various survey courses in British, American, and World Literature. He currently teaches Crime Fiction, Comics, and academic writing at Oxford College of Emory University where his wife, Dr. Adriane Ivey, also teaches English. They live with their two young children outside of Atlanta, Georgia.