“Come on! What’s so precious about a monster?”
You guys. I have been waiting on this Tomie-inspired fragrance ever since Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab teased its creation way back sometime last year. And much like the feelings provoked by the malevolent, regenerative entity herself, I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it since that time.
I’ve mentioned my great love for horror manga artist Junji Ito’s creations many times on this blog; just the other day I included one of the Tomie movies (there are like nine of them at this point) in my 31 Days of Horror blogs. But if you’re unfamiliar, how to describe Tomie? I feel like a monster myself (and a horrible feminist) when I try to talk about her. Tomie is an enthralling young woman whose beauty drives people mad in different ways–women want to either be her or, or are insanely jealous of her, and men become obsessed with her to the extent that they end up chopping her up and killing her–and she returns eternally to torment all of them.
What is Tomie? A succubus? A mutation? To me, at least, it’s never really clear. She’s an irredeemable anti-hero who’s an absolute guilty pleasure girl-power fantasy and she brings to mind the Margaret Atwood quote, “Men are afraid that women will laugh at them. Women are afraid that men will kill them.”
..and all this misogynistic violence and exploitative gendered body horror and self-flagellation on my part for even reading it at all stems from the artist’s boyhood memory of a classmate dying. In an interview, Juni Ito shared that a boy in his junior high died in a traffic accident.
He observed, “It just felt so odd to me that a classmate who was so full of life should suddenly disappear from the world, and I had a strange feeling that he would show up again innocently.” He goes on to reveal that’s how he came up with the idea of a girl who is supposed to have died but then just shows up as if nothing had happened.
In Wikipedia, it says that he was inspired by the phenomenon of lizard tail regeneration. I suppose it could be both, why not!
Anyway! Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab has taken all of our Tomie angst and terror and created a “seductive and deceptively delicate blend of rose-tinted white sandalwood, ethereal white amber, voluptuous almond blossom, coeur de jasmin, and a gasp of bourbon vanilla.”
When I first wore it, it seemed a simple confectionary musk. I became unnerved and overwhelmed when I thought for a second there that it was beginning to remind me of something, a sort of candied heliotrope feather boa of a perfume that when I first smelled it in 2020 I became convinced that it was a monstrously annoying YouTube celebrity’s signature scent. (She was revoltingly pink and OKAY YES I was obsessively watching her even though I hated her and found her vile and this all makes sense to me even if I can’t explain it.) I don’t want to say who because I don’t want to be a mean girl, and I also hate comparing one perfume to another when I am reviewing things, but my only point here is, that I thought I smelled this perfume for a brief second* but when I obsessively began sniffing my wrist trying to pinpoint it, the momentary phantom was already gone. There is actually no comparing these two scents at all, but the thing is, from then on, I never stopped obsessively sniffing.
*my point, which I am having the devil of a time trying to articulate is that BPAL, in those opening notes, nailed that sort of attractive/repellent quality that this specific perfume requires; a flash of something revolting just to remind you who you’re dealing with, but then you’re immediately and utterly subsumed by how beautiful it is and you’ve forgotten that you were briefly but thoroughly appalled. It’s hard to write a sentence with the words “revolting” or appalling” when it comes to your favorite perfumer, but it feels so marvelously intentional and incredibly executed here, I can’t not talk about it!
Tomie crawls beneath your skin, a slithery jasmine-amber-flecked marzipan cotton candy ghost musk of a scent, but not a fresh, hot carnival cone of the stuff–rather, the soft, sticky filaments of floss caught in your uniquely self-scented hair at the end of the night. And maybe a bewitched and bothered someone is bizarrely compelled to snip a few of those sweet, tangled tendrils while you’re sleeping because they’re an absolute psychopath, and maybe when you wake up in the morning the scissors are gripped in your own hands, the sultry tresses are tucked into your own little etched sandalwood box, and maybe, perhaps, the psychopath is you. Utterly obsessed with yourself.
BPAL’s Tomie is both quietly haunting and all-consuming, the ghost of something you’re desperate to possess, but which is fully possessing you even as it slips through your fingers and disappears.
This is exactly it. This is Tomie. They got her perfectly right.
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