Thoughts and Musings

"Look Back" by Tatsuki Fujimoto

Immediately after reading, I had to lie down in bed. Overwhelmed by such a mix of heartbreaking emotions to close out such an amazing one-shot.

To be honest, I haven't read a manga in quite a while. Probably since early college, maybe? Even then, it was only romance yuri one-shots or short manga. Serialized manga at the time didn't quite grab my attention, and even then the most popular or accessible ones were shonen. It's not that I'm not interested in shonen, I definitely think the genre has some really cool works and can do some really interesting things in terms of story and action. But it's a genre I don't really actively delve into, and if I were to start one it would be in such a weird and unique way.

A low and behold, one late night twitter scroll on my timeline introduced me to a rhythm game with this anime girl in tears playing DDR. I was enamored by it and immediately had to find out why she's crying yet dancing her absolute heart out. That week, "Chainsaw Man" entered the brain and lived there rent free, along with the unique art style and storytelling of Tatsuki Fujimoto.

Who knew that yet another twitter timeline scroll would lead me to Fujimoto again, this time seeing his name trending due to a release of a new one-shot. And yet again, another devastatingly beautiful read.

Fujimoto has such a way to capture raw emotion in just one panel. His closeups are some of the best, something that I haven't even thought of since I read Asano's "Solanin". Even in "Chainsaw Man", the way characters express complex emotions like disgust, glaring disdain, and liberating validation in a simple yet powerful way makes it all the more effective. Even the parallel panels, a simple choice showing such subtle changes yet still has a huge impact on the reader.

[Spoiler Warning, though at this point if you haven't read it you should!!]

Speaking on parallelism, the big major conflict at the end really got to me. Essentially a terrorism attack by an individual against unsuspecting people, people who were just living their lives and doing their jobs. What makes all the more heartbreaking was that these were students, specifically art students. People who just wanted to get better doing what they love. As soon as Fujino sees the news pop up on her TV, you can just feel the panic as she rushes to make calls on her phone. And the despair in the moments after.

I don't think it's a coincidence that this was published soon following the two year memorial anniversary of the Kyoani terrorist attack, an event that took away the lives of many who just wanted to get better at their craft among those who just wanted to get through their work day. Even to this day, it still breaks my heart. And I'm sure it does Fujimoto as well, to be able to convey Fujino going through stages of grief so powerfully in the aftermath of a tragic event.

The true beauty in Fujimoto's storytelling, in both "Look Back" and "Chainsaw Man" is even through all his subtle criticisms and exploration of the darker, more grim side of the human condition, is being able to still somehow end it with a tone of optimism and a little bit of hope. In this one-shot in particular, Fujimoto in her grief rediscovers why she draws in the first place despite her own arguments against it. She is reminded how much Kyomoto helped her in her path as a mangaka, from first being a rival artist in grade school to being one of first real fans, ultimately leading to their collaboration. She's able to look back after her death and continue pushing through with her serialization with a newfound drive, taping one of her 4-koma's on her massive window of the outside world. The view outside her office is littered with other high-rises and tall apartment buildings, yet she adds this vertical strip of paper along with it. The framing of this panel is so beautiful, as it's so subtle and easy to miss. But it's there, and despite the busyness of all those buildings and everything else in the world, I'm sure to Fujino it's all she needs. Despite everything, they're still together. The future isn't ever guaranteed, Fujino's reminded of this. But through looking back, she's now able to look forward and be in the present, working away on her project.

As sad and heartbreaking "Look Back" is, I'm glad I've read it. And you should too.

Thanks for reading.