“If you wake up in a house that’s full of smoke, don’t panic, call me and I will tell you a joke”
Art is objectively human. Rather it is in the form of word, animation, song, or canvas. For centuries man has tried to encapsulate the very idea of what it means to be human. But among that struggle, what many fail to see is the obsessive search that lies within that effort. The sleepless hours that haunt musicians and comedians alike, the literal destruction of social and self norms in a usually fruitless effort to coin that single work.
Tatsuki Fujimoto is no stranger to this grind. The mind that penned Fire Punch and the ever so popular Chainsaw Man. Fujimoto released a one-shot in July 2021 that is a bittersweet look into this world, a world where an unspoken jealously drives one into a grind that will follow them the rest of their life.
Following Fujino, a 4th-grade artist. She is the star of the class, penning comic shorts for the school paper. She is perplexed when she discovers another, shut-in student, Kyomoto wants to join in the comic action. Not thinking much of Fujino remains passive on the new event until Kyomoto’s manga hits print, clearly showing a higher quality than Fujino, starting a rivalry that would follow them the rest of their middle school life.
Dedicating herself completely to the form of art Fujino cuts all ties with what is normal for a middle school girl of her age. She stops hanging out with her friends, spends all her free time during the day and in the evening doing nothing but drawing, bettering herself to reclaim the queen of manga title she had held up until that point.
This change of pace does not go unnoticed, however. Though she pays little to no mind there is a clear shift in how her classmates and even friends look at her. Once upon a time, Fujino’s art made her cool, but with this sudden obsessive shift, people start to talk negatively about her actions, noting that at this rate she will be a shut-in or labeled the cursed otaku. I thought this part of the book was a nice addition in a lot of ways. It really shows how unnatural it is the go head deep into a talent like this. We, as viewers don’t usually see the taxing work that goes into writing a novel, or developing a song. The hours laboring, working endlessly to make it perfect in the eyes of the creator.
And how unbelievably fucked up that is to observe by the people around the artist.
The story takes another turn when Fujino, at the point of giving up knowing she may never best her new rival, Kyomoto, is asked to take the latter her diploma. Because she is a super shut-in and never left her room to go to school but still passed? I guess? I don’t know how any of this works.
Anyways, taking the document to Kyomoto’s house she finds it eerily quiet, deciding on a whim to use one of the many comic strips laying in the hallway to pen what would be her last drawing. One wrapped in the malicious jealousy of being best in her own craft. It was this decision however that changed both of their lives. By chance the comic slides under the door leading to Kyomoto’s room, knowing the art style immediately she storms out of the house following Fujino, stating boldly that the only reason she drew, was because of Fujino’s art that she fell in love with.
Even with the awkward meeting the two start a friendship as both of them decide to put their skills together, penning award-winning manga at a young age, continuing their work through high school and into college. But as these things go, people grow up, ambition changes. Kyomoto had always been a shut-in, unable to break her social anxiety until she was brought out by Fujino, brought out into a world where her art mattered, a world where they were actually professional authors. Even so, she felt finally, after all of those years it was time for her to move on, on her own, going to a college of the arts, leaving her partner and the manga they created over the years. This decision, though in context makes sense, is seen by Fujino as betrayal, her best friend and co-author leaving her alone after all these years, all they have been through.
Casting shade at her former co-author. Fujino tells her she doesn’t need her anyway, she was only there for background art, and if she wants to leave it all behind to go pursue some stupid dream, then go ahead. What follows is a bitter end of heartache and tragedy as that fallout would be one of the last times the two would ever be able to talk to one another ever again. Look Back is an extremely interesting and fantastic one-shot that does what Is rarely done with books of the same tag. Fujimoto can paint a complex, vibrant story that made me feel highs and lows drastically over its 100 or so pages. It is a true statement to Fujimoto’s talent as both an artist and a storyteller, crafting this bitter-sweet narrative that closely parallels real life.
When push comes to shove I have a soft spot for stories that paint real pictures. Show many different angels on what it means to be an artist or crafter of any kind. To show the pains and struggles they may go through to master their work. Look Back does all of that and more damn near perfectly. If you haven’t checked out this one-shot yet I cannot endorse it enough, if you are stateside it is currently over on Shonen Jump app or website and can be read with just an account, no sub required.
As always, thanks for the read!