Trauma in Junji Ito`s “Tomie” – Part 2

Who is the Monster?

 

In the last post, I discussed how Junji Ito metaphorically describes the struggles of a trauma survivor suffering from PTSD. I explained that her first murder was the original trauma that cursed Tomie to re-experience being chopped to pieces time after time. I explained how our minds react to traumatizing events in order to protect our sanity and why this mechanism makes victims relive their experiences in hard-to-control flashbacks.

Today, I want to focus on the relationship between the victim and the offender and how it projects itself into the survivor’s mind.

(This post contains affiliate links to the manga collection on Amazon)

Trigger Warning

This blog talks about trauma, abuse, and its consequences. If you are a trauma survivor, I do not recommend you read this article if you do not feel stable enough to be exposed to these kinds of topics.

Spoiler Alert

Obviously, this blog contains massive spoilers for the manga. I highly recommend you read it. 

 

Let`s look at the episodes following the first one. We witness how Tomie entangles men and women with her charm, only to later ridicule and devalue them.

Tomie is both the victim and the offender. This, to some degree, is true for many trauma victims.

How can a victim also be an offender?

There are two aspects to this. First of all, abuse, whether physical, emotional or sexual, runs in families. A child that was beaten and devalued will grow up to be a depressed, angry grown-up who cannot give his or her own child the emotional warmth he or she needs. Often, those parents are blind to their own story and refuse to enter treatment for the sake of their child`s wellbeing. The denial of their own trauma makes it impossible for them to work through it and heal. Like this, the victim becomes the offender.

Secondly, whilst under attack, a victim`s mind tends to integrate the negative messages sent by the perpetrator. It`s like an evil voice that once belonged to the aggressor that soon turns into the victim`s self-talk. Take the example of a kid being bullied in school. The kid will grow up with the feeling of never fitting in and not being lovable enough to have friends. This is argued to be a defense mechanism. If we stay calm and try to avoid getting attention, we might just get beaten up less often. However, when this kid grows up to get a job, he will still act quiet and shy, anxious to be disapproved of, despite being in a safe environment. He is basically carrying the perpetrator around with him as a part of himself.

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Tomie and her Curse

We can compare the “double nature” of the trauma survivor to Tomie`s curse. As she seems entrapped in the vicious cycle of being killed and resurrected, we see that Tomie is not exactly the most mellow person there is. When she does not get what she wants, she resorts to devalue and ridicule her victim. This reminds me a bit of episode one, where we are told that Tomie has but one real friend and all the other students do not talk to her. I think we can safely assume that Tomie was being bullied and is now continuing to do this to her victims herself.

Also, Tomie is a perpetrator to herself. In “Hospital” and “Assassins”, Tomie goes after her clones to kill them. I doubt I have to explain this any further.

The Victim and the Monster

Tomie multiplies when someone hurts her physically and emotionally. In “Photo”, the heroine Tsukiko discovers Tomie`s monstrosity by developing photos she took of her. Tsukiko distributes the bizarre photos throughout the school. Tomie is ashamed and more than angry as she sees her grotesque self in the photo. She does not want the others to know what she really is. In a final showdown between the two girls, Tsukiko confronts Tomie with her monstrosity. Instantly, Tomie starts to grow a new face, causing her tremendous suffering.

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Psychologically, this translates to the inner perpetrator being brought to the awareness of the victim. Like the parent who was once an abused child, Tomie struggles to understand that she herself has something “evil” inside of her. Survivors are horribly ashamed of what happened to them as they believe they are inherently bad and so deserved their trauma.

For the victim, recognizing the evil they carry around within themselves is hurtful. They feel that it is a part of who they are. When the victim becomes strong enough to look this inner perpetrator in the eye, they understand that the monstrous image they have of themselves is an illusion that was put on them by the original aggressor. This is what happens in psychotherapy.

Uncovering the monster in them as something that is not part of their true self can be powerful and healing. An important requirement for this is that the victim does not have any relationships that keep reactivating their original trauma. Tomie, sadly, is not able to go down the path of healing as she keeps constructing a hostile environment for herself.

Conclusion

Trauma survivors partly identify themselves with their perpetrator and thus have a monstrous self-image. This results in them being self-conscious and inherently ashamed. Healing occurs when this identification breaks and the survivor recognizes her inner demons as not being part of her true self.

If you liked this article, please share it with your friends. Comment down below which mangas you want me to analyze in a psychological way. Any critique is welcome, too!

Trauma in Junji Ito’s Tomie

 

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