By this point if you are well-versed in the world of manga you should know the name of Tatsuki Fujimoto, known for his works Fire Punch and Chainsaw Man. The latter in particular has sold over twelve million copies, making it one of the most successful titles to be serialized in the Japanese magazine Weekly Shōnen Jump. Although Fujimoto is not done with Chainsaw Man as the second part will begin serialization later this summer– and we are expecting MAPPA’s upcoming anime adaptation later in the year– the author has had time to create some one-shots, including Look Back.
The story centers on Ayumu Fujino, an elementary schooler with a talent for drawing manga, which she publishes in the school’s paper. After receiving praise for her exceptional skills, she finds herself challenged by another student named Kyomoto, who begins publishing her own manga alongside Fujino’s but demonstrates herself as the superior artist between the two. Eventually the two girls meet and it turns out that Kyomoto is a shut-in who also happens to be a huge fan of Fujino’s work. The two decide to collaborate on drawing manga with the hopes of submitting their work to be published.
There have been manga titles that have explored the lives and painstaking process of what it means to be a manga artist– the most recent example being Inio Asano’s Downfall. Look Back isn’t determined to break new ground regarding this subject but there is an honesty in the way Fujimoto presents the lives of these two girls, each having their own way of living through creating manga.
Serving more as the protagonist, Fujino is similar to Denji, the eponymous Chainsaw Man, in that they are both fairly shallow teenagers. In Fujino’s case, she revels in the praise for her work, but once someone else works in the same profession and in considered superior, she goes down the spiral that is continuously drawing manga to maintain her dominance, even if that means lacking a social life. It gets to the point that Fujino gives up being a manga artist and learns to socialize and try other things, and it is only when she finally meets Kyomoto, the desire to draw comes back and so does the dominance.
Whilst you delve more into the mindset of Fujino than with the shut-in Kyomoto, no doubt she is unlikeable, especially when she confronts her collaborator who wants to maintain her independence as an artist. However, like Denji, the journey Fujino goes on is challenging, upsetting and ultimately redeemable. Regarding the upsetting elements of this title, there are scenes that readers have noticed have similarities to real world tragedies, although the storytelling manages to avoid any discrimination.
If you have read Chainsaw Man, you will notice a progression in how Fujimoto’s art has improved and with Look Back he is hitting on all cylinders. Whilst this title doesn’t revel in gore-tastic action and crude humor, its quieter approach is all about the stillness of the characters, as roughly one-third of the book is dialogue-less, relying on closeups or large panels to convey specific feelings. As someone who likes to experiment with his art, you can see Fujimoto playing with that notion with the two girls’ styles of drawing, as well as the recurring image of just seeing Fujino’s back as she draws manga that is used as a passage of time, hence the book’s multi-layered title.
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