Junji ItoTomieRuna NagaiChie Tanaka
Tomie: Another Face
Medium: film, anthology
Year: 1999
Director: Toshiro Inomata
Writer: Junji Ito
Keywords: horror
Country: Japan
Language: Japanese
Actor: Runa Nagai, Akira Hirai, Chie Tanaka, Mitsuaki Kaneko, Eriko Odaira, Mayumi Yoshida, Hiroaki Muroi, Tomomasa Ono, Atsushi Okuno, Takara Harada, Tomonori Yoshida
Format: 72 minutes
Series: << Tomie >>
Url: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0284565/
Website category: J-horror
Review date: 4 June 2010
You know how some films give you a lot to talk about? This isn't necessarily a mark of quality, mind you. There's many a train wreck that can keep you busy for hours pulling all the bodies out of the wreckage, but at least it's giving you something to take note of.
Tomie: Another Face is the opposite of that. It's not actually bad, but there's not much to discuss or review. The reason for this is that it's a three-part anthology of short films that would appear to be close adaptations of standalone manga chapters. If I'm wrong, then they were trying to give that impression. Each is approximately the length of an anime episode and they're about as linear and pared-down as you can get. Apart from Tomie herself, there are only five significant characters altogether. That's an average of less than two per story. They don't even all get much characterisation, since the overall focus is much more on Tomie and the strange and horrible things that tend to happen to her and the people close to her.
Just to recap, Tomie is a horror manga by Junji Ito that became a long-running movie series. This is the second of those films, albeit straight-to-video and obviously so, looking cheaper than any of them, even the first. (Look at the terrible staging of the scene where Takashi retrieves the bracelet from the motorway.) Tomie herself is the beautiful immortal who drives men crazy and will never stay dead no matter how often you murder her. The first film was incoherent and best avoided unless you already had a thorough grounding in the mythology, although it had some good ideas. This one at least makes sense, but I don't know if I'd go so far as to recommend it.
Segment one feels like a bland schoolgirl anime, but done in live-action. It's not bad, but it never really gets cooking either. Tomie's stolen another girl's boyfriend! There's nothing wrong with this as a premise, but unfortunately the boyfriend (Takashi) is entirely uninteresting and the girl (Miki) largely sidelined. The story picks up late on, mind you. "She was a terrible girl. She deserved to die." Miki becomes interesting in the way she loves Takashi without being possessive of him, as opposed to Tomie being cheating and evil, but also territorial. Miki would go a long way to help her man, even if it meant she'd never see him again.
Segment two is better than its predecessor. Its hero is a photographer who once saw Tomie many years ago and now takes no pleasure in photographing lesser women. This segment has one big creepy idea and a neat development near the end.
Segment three is perhaps the best. There's a nice guy who loves Tomie and wants to marry her, but she's about to ask him to do something horrible. There's also a one-eyed stalker guy with a knife. This is all fairly good, but I liked its ending a lot. "You have to stab me deeper than that." There's also an extension of Tomie mythology and an ending that doesn't bode well for life on Earth. It's a shame this isn't the last film in the series, in which case I'd have been assuming an apocalypse. Well, it's Tomie. I suspect you can watch them all in any order anyway. This film certainly has no connection with the first one and again won't have anything to do with part three, so I might pretend that it's the finale anyway.
The most important thing in the film is the new Tomie, seventeen-year-old idol Runa Nagai. She's gorgeous, much sexier than Miho Kanno, but unfortunately she's decided that Tomie uses a silly high-pitched voice when talking to men. It's really annoying. It makes her sound about three years old. Admittedly lots of real Japanese girls do this, but they sound stupid too. Nevertheless I thought Nagai gave a perfectly decent performance, so I was slightly surprised to see that her acting work to date has involved three projects in 1999, including this film, and then a 2006 movie called Vanished. Nothing else. She's certainly pretty enough to get any number of acting roles on Japanese TV, for which talent isn't a factor, so maybe she just doesn't want to take her career that way? Perhaps she prefers modelling. Did she change her agent in 1999-2000, then?
Tomie's 100% evil this time, by the way. No sympathetic undertones of humanity. She's simply a bitch. There's also a guy with an eye-patch, but he's an ex-police pathologist called Oota rather than the schoolboy Yamamoto from films 1 and 6.
Overall, this film is good at what it does. Short J-horror stories with almost no intellectual content and a hot, selfish girl who gets people killed, usually including herself. There's no nudity, but in two scenes Nagai's only wearing a sheet. By the standards of straight-to-video J-horror of which you'd be insane to have any real expectations, it's solid and not at all bad.