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Tatsuki Fujimoto Before Chainsaw Man: 22-26
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Manga and Anime

‘Tatsuki Fujimoto Before Chainsaw Man: 22-26’ review

The creator of Chainsaw Man shows that he had a wild imagination during his early years of short stories.

Tatsuki Fujimoto will forever be known as the author of Chainsaw Man, which began publication in 2018 and has been one of the most successful titles published in the manga magazine Weekly Shōnen Jump, the home of One Piece and My Hero Academia. This manga was so huge that it made MAPPA’s TV anime adaptation one of the most anticipated releases. There hasn’t been confirmation about a second season being developed yet; luckily, there’s plenty of Fujimoto’s other material to check out until then, including the latter half of his two-volume anthology collection of one-shot stories that he wrote and drew. 

Just like 17-21, Before Chainsaw Man: 22-26 covers four stories that the artist told during that age period in his life, before Chainsaw Man and even his first long-running title Fire Punch. It’s worth noting that with all these stories, the quality in the art varies, but it is here where Fujimoto develops his style with young innocent looking characters living in mundane surroundings, going through some journey that has a supernatural edge. 

Starting off with possibly the most conventional story from the whole anthology as “Mermaid Rhapsody” is your typical boy-meets-girl-who-just-happens-to-be-a-mermaid narrative. Whilst there is a hint of horror that always lingers, which is the fear of humans being eaten by a mermaid, it is really about a boy so disconnected with his normal life that he only solace in playing a piano underwater, where he befriends a certain mermaid. Fujimoto loves doing coming-of-age stories and although this isn’t as insane as his most popular work, there is a gentleness to storytelling that sometimes goes unnoticed, and that is definitely the case here. 

Arguably the best title in this collection as “Woke-Up-as-a-Girl Syndrome”, whose title pretty much sums up the story as Toshihide is now suddenly a girl with no chance of a cure and tries to adjust to this new transition whilst still having a girlfriend and being bullied in high school. Readers will be divided over the story’s approach to gender identity and relationships, from Toshihide trying to figure out who they want to be, to the boys objectifying them, even disgustingly proposing sex. It still maintains a light-hearted tone with moments of levity, particularly Toshihide’s girlfriend and her brother, both of which pack a punch. 

Out of the four stories here, “Nayuta of the Prophecy” is the closest to Chainsaw Man’s melancholic insanity, in which Kenji is determined to protect his younger sister, who is prophesied as being a mage that will bring about the end of the world. Along with Fujimoto’s art balancing the cinematic with the surreal, Nayuta looks like a character that could have existed in the pages of Chainsaw Man, from her horned, magic-sword producing appearance to her quirky, sadistic personality. The ambiguous outcome is oddly touching, seeing a young man who would rather let the world burn than let anyone harming his sister, who might be the greatest threat of all. 

The relationship between siblings continues the final story, “Sisters”, narrated by Mitsuko who is plagued by a nude painting of herself that is presented in her school for her fellow students to look at. Revealed that it was her little sister who did the painting, Mitsuko exacts revenge by doing a nude painting of her. Essentially a precursor to Fujimoto’s masterpiece Look Back, it is ultimately about one girl realizing how much an inspiration she is to her own sibling, even if it means being overshadowed by her.

Like the previous volume, Tatsuki Fujimoto Before Chainsaw Man: 22-26 feels like a preview for what Tatsuki Fujimoto will eventually do, but does feature better stories that are varied through art and themes.

Tatsuki Fujimoto Before Chainsaw Man: 22-26
‘Tatsuki Fujimoto Before Chainsaw Man: 22-26’ review
Tatsuki Fujimoto Before Chainsaw Man: 22-26
Like the previous volume, '22-26' feels like a preview for what Tatsuki Fujimoto will eventually do, but does feature better stories that are varied through art and themes.
Reader Rating1 Votes
8.4
Like before, there is a fun variety of stories that serve as a precursor to Fujimoto's acclaimed work, even Look Back.
Whilst his art varies, in terms of the story he's telling, the art is great overall.
Some readers will be conflicted over the ideas of “Woke-Up-as-a-Girl Syndrome”.
9
Great

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