Saturday, August 11, 2012

Saturday Scream Queens: The Faces of Tomie

One of the few truly creepy comics book series is "Tomie" by Japanese writer/artist Junji Ito. It relates tales of its title character... a mysterious teenaged girl who all men become oobssesed with--so obsessed that they will kill anyone who they think stands between them and their possession of her, including Tomie herself. But no matter how gory and apparently final Tomie's death, she reappears again and again, always bringing madness and destruction to those she interacts with.

With the promise of blood and gore and a sexy girl at the middle of it all, it should come as no surprise that the "Tomie" comics have been become a long-running series of movies. While Tomie is always an exact copy of how she looked before--even when there are multiples of her running around at the same time, due to the way she regenerates from bits of her previous body--no actress has so far played her in more than once.

This post covers the first seven actresses to tackle the roll of the Girl Who Always Comes Back.

Miho Kanno: (Tomie, 1999)
In 1993, Miho Kanno rocketed to stardom as a J-Pop singer at the age of 15 when a musical group she was in won a national contest in 1993 and became a regular feature in variety shows. By 1994, she had launched a successful career as an dramatic actress with starring roles in television movies and series, and stage work followed shortly thereafter. In 1997, she posed for a "photo art book" titled NUDITY... and it became a Top Ten national best-seller in Japan.

Kanno was the first actress to portray Tomie, and she remains the biggest star to tackle the role. It wasn't her first horror movie, however. In 1995, she played a teen charged with defeating magical evils yet who yearned to just be a normal girl in "Eko-Eko Azarak: Wizard of Darkness". In the same year she played Tomie, she also appearred in the horror film "Hypnosis".

Kanno has left her pop-singer days behind her years ago, but she continues to be a busy and popular dramatic actress in Japan, with an ever-growing list of television, stage, and film credits to her name.

Runa Nagai (Tomie: Another Face, 1999)
Runa Nagai is primarily a model who specializes in "photo art books" which are collections of pictures of girls and young women in various states of undress. Given her main line, it is only natural that she should be cast as the supernatural temptress, Tomie. (And one of the story-lines in the anthology film in which she starred had Tomie becoming involved with a photographer, so perhaps there's some meta-referencing going on.)

Nagai had a handful of film and television roles during the early 2000s, with her biggest role being as Tomie in "Another Face".

Miki Sakai (Tomie: Rebirth, 2001)
Born in 1978, Miki Sakai got her start as a professional actress in the acclaimed drama "Love Letters" in 1995. Throughout the 1990s, she was very successful at playing "the girl next door"-type parts, so perhaps the reason hers was a Tomie performance that many rank among the best there have been so far--she had a good-girl veneer with the monster lurking beneath.

Sakai continues to be a popular actress on Japanese television, mostly appearing in comedies and lighthearted mystery made-for-TV movies and series, but "Rebirth" remains her only horror role thus far. The closest she's come have been a couple of dark thrillers made for theatrical release in recent years.

Nozomi Ando (Tomie: Forbidden Fruit, 2002)
Nozomi Ando got her start at the age of 17 with a lead role in the monster-fest "Gamera 3," in 1999 and she's been kept busy with roles in horror films and thrillers ever since.

Aside from her turn as Tomie, other noteworthy roles have been a teenaged demon-hunter in "Sakuya: Slayer of Demons" (2000), the love interest of a werewolf Ronin in "Werewolf Warrior" (2004), and a hapless college kid stalked by a demon deep within a forest in "Gurozuka" (2005).

Rio Matsumoto (Tomie: Beginning, 2005)
This actress can be said to have something in common with Tomie. She began her career in 1994 as a child actress and model, but retired from the business in 1999 because she wanted to attend high school as a "normal student."

Then, in 2002, In 2002 after her graduation from high school, she rose from the ashes of her past career, reborn and reconstituted like Tomie, or, to use a less sinister example, a Phoenix. Since her second debut, she has returned full-bore to modeling and acting. She has had recurring roles in numerous television dramas and appeared in several action films. "Tomie: Beginnings" is so far her only foray into horror.

In 2007, Matsumoto branched out into fashion desig with a line of wedding dresses. She continues to divide her professional life between acting, modeling, and fashion design.

Anri Ban (Tomie: Revenge, 2005)
Born in 1985, Anri Ban was 20 years old when she became the 7th face of Tomie. It was her first role in a horror film, but she had already appeared in key roles in several mysteries and action-oriented dramas.

The only other horror movie on her resume is "Woman Transformation" (2007) in which she plays one of three women who gradually transform into demons, but she has been featured in numerous mysteries since making "Tomie: Revenge".


  1. Wow - I know nothing about this character or series - but it looks really interesting! My favorite of these ladies is Runa Nagai - for a couple of obvious reasons - but they all look like they could fulfill the role well - I'm going to have to look into this series!

  2. Skim my write-ups about them before you jump in is my advice... the series really is hit-and-miss. (That said, some people swear by performances I was unimpressed by. Like that given my Miki Sakai. However, it might e a cultural difference that is coming into play.)