Thought Japanese schoolgirls were cute? Think again. This one leaves a trail of corpses in her wake, although strictly speaking, it’s not her fault: boys get so enamoured of her that they fight over her. And die, of course. Thinning the competition, that’s the ticket.
This was a surprisingly enjoyable flick, given that it was made on a fairly low budget with bugger-all special effects. This is mainly due to the actress playing Tomie: the talented Miho Kanno, star of Kitano’s Dolls as well as a host of J-Dorama (TV drama series) and B-grade cinema.
Kanno has the fey and slightly deranged charm necessary to make the scary schoolgirl work, and she drifts through the film wrapping all the other characters around her. The nominal heroine is fairly two-dimensional, but she doesn’t really matter, since we’re just biding our time until Tomie turns up again. In fact, the nominal heroine is very nearly physically two-dimensional: most of the girls in this series are woefully thin, both physically and in terms of character. Tomie stands out as some sort of full-colour archetype: the femme fatale who’s truly fatal.
The boys, too, are fairly shallow creatures, but that’s fair, since they’re essentially spear-carriers (Note: a spear-carrier is a character whose only purpose is to be killed by or near the main character). We don’t really care when they die: indeed, a couple of the deaths provide an opportunity for the offbeat humour that Japan does best. Taguchi, from the extremely bizarre Tetsuo (The Iron Man), carries a little of the Tetsuo magic along with him, and makes his small role quirky and intriguing. I confess, I kept wondering when he’d start sprouting metal attachments, but alas he never did.
The film was based on a popular manga, and it shows: the film blithely skips what in normal cinema would be necessary connecting stages, evoking the panel structure of a comic. I found this disconcerting at first, but it kind of grew on me. Rather like Tomie, who starts out as a head in a plastic bag and rapidly gains her full growth.
Don’t expect cinema verite, or significance, or enlightenment: this is pure manga-style Japanese schoolgirl horror. And if you’re not afraid of Japanese schoolgirls, you soon will be, because Tomie has four (count ’em, four) sequels.