If there’s one good thing to be said about the Tomie film franchise—and this really may be the only good thing—it’s that the films could be found pretty much anywhere. For the Asian film fan trapped in small town America, the Tomie films—which occupied DVD rental store shelves with a kind of ubiquity rivaled only by Ernest movies and Bolo Yeung vehicles—offered a ready if dissatisfying Asian film fix. I myself once watched Tomie: Re-birth (2001) with my bemused father while visiting him in Wyoming. Hey, it was either that or They Call Me Bruce? (1982) again.
Tomie Vs Tomie is the 8th film to bear the Tomie name. It’s somewhat fitting that a story about a girl who just will not die should spawn so many films. No matter how bad they get—and they do get bad—the series will not stop. What started as a manga about a demonic girl named Tomie, who is able to regenerate her body from even the tiniest part, has turned into a series that’s remarkable only for its consistency. No matter which film you pick up, you’re guaranteed it will be bad. OK, to be honest, the first Tomie (1999) wasn’t horrible, and Taguchi Tomorrow was pretty funny in it. And OK, I admit to mildly enjoying Tomie: Forbidden Fruit (2002) because it featured a pre-stardom Miyazaki Aoi. But you would never, ever confuse any Tomie entry for a good film.
Tomie Vs Tomie finds the titular anti-heroine living above a mannequin factory. This is apt not just because Tomie can regenerate from any of her body parts but also because Yu Abiru plays Tomie with all the emotion of a wooden dummy. She’s drawn to a new hire, currently undergoing psychiatric treatment for having witnessed the horrific murder of his girlfriend, who looks just like Tomie, a few years back. Our anti-heroine is also seeking a second Tomie, running around out there somewhere, because she needs her blood. Apparently. Eventually the two Tomies meet, there’s a lot of mumbo jumbo about injecting Tomie blood into babies, and eventually not much happens except you cursing yourself for having wasted your time with this turd.
Tomie Vs Tomie, which was directed by first-timer Kubo Tomohiro, is shot like a recreation segment from a History Channel documentary. Actually, that’s giving it too much credit. I kept staring at all the space above the actors’ heads, wondering what that vacuum was there for. The actors would invariably have their legs chopped off below the knee as well in some kind of horrible, botched attempt at an American medium-long shot. It’s not like the director has never been on a set before; he was assistant director on Bright Future (2003), Moonlight Whispers (1999) and Aragami (2003). But what’s this? He was also A.D. on Tomie: Forbidden Fruit. Looks like Tomie can control filmmakers as well as mannequin factory employees. What other explanation could there be for this man going out of his way to not only direct but write the screenplay for Tomie Vs. Tomie?
I wish I could tell you that Tomie Vs Tomie put this series into the ground. But no. Like the girl herself, the series is coming back to life, this time with latter-day splattermeister Iguchi Noboru—The Machine Girl (2008), RoboGeisha (2009) directing. Tomie: Unlimited (2011), a reboot of the first film, could very well revive the series, which up to this point has been a dead-on definition of the law of diminishing returns. Or perhaps Iguchi too has fallen under the spell of our girl Tomie, in which case all hope is truly lost. The two Asian film fans in Wyoming should be happy though.