Although Tatsuki Fujimoto is mostly known for Chainsaw Man, especially in light of its upcoming anime adaptation to be developed by MAPPA, he has always had a strong versatility to his craft not letting himself be boxed within the confines of the tropes typical to the shounen genre.
Look Back was recently published as a one-shot web for Shounen Jump+, Shueisha’s online platform that also serializes series from Weekly Shounen Jump. It revolves around a young woman named Kyo Fujino, starting with her discovery of a passion in drawing comics as a child into her adulthood.
Published in Shueisha’s Shōnen Jump+
Fujino’s comics are published in the school newspaper, and she relishes in the attention. She starts to second guess her talents when a teacher advises that she should give up one of her spots in the paper to the class’s shut-in, Kyoumoto, as an effort to hopefully bring the girl out of her reclusiveness. Kyoumoto’s knack for highly detailed backgrounds and well-drafted scenes, inspires Fujino to keep pushing her art to develop it in a career, and the two eventually develop a symbiotic relationship to publish as a duo. But success does not come without struggles, and after tragedy ensues, Fujino is challenged into further maturation as an artist, renewing her relationship with her work.
Look Back was deliberately released on the 2nd anniversary date of the horrific arson attack on Kyoto Animation’s studios. Fujimoto does not shy away from creating allusions to the tragic event in an effort to demonstrate that art — although a very personal, intimate act — puts creators in the spotlight and scrutiny of many spectators. While wounds remain fresh, Look Back depicts the very frank experience of putting heart and soul into a piece at the risk of it being devalued or being thrown into the dangers of fanaticism.
But while an artist seeks and needs validation from an audience to support their careers, sometimes their biggest enemy is within themselves: After all, the hardest thing about drawing is drawing itself.
Although Look Back may not be intended to be autobiographical, it was not hard to see how it mirrored Tatsuki Fujimoto’s own life. Fujino and Kyoumoto get published at a young age and are lauded for such a feat, while Fujimoto himself is currently only 27 years old. This may seem arbitrary to point it out, but Fujimoto’s Chainsaw Man is finding skyrocketing popularity among the presence of other mangaka contemporaries still active in the field, like Tite Kubo, Masashi Kishimoto, Kouhei Horikoshi — who are all men now entering their 30s or older.
Fujimoto also had the benefit of starting art as a child, similar to Fujino. And surely enough, Fujimoto has also used his own direct experiences working within the manga industry to apply to what Look Back thoroughly explores through the protagonist’s eyes.
As with Chainsaw Man, Fujimoto has put into pictures the feelings of fleeting adolescence and emotional melancholy through his expressive character art. He finds himself at the crossroads of the mature, darker evolution of shounen work like Koyoharu Gotouge’s Demon Slayer and Gege Akutami’s Jujutsu Kaisen, and even outside of shounen itself.
Whether it be through drawing the subtle nuances of Fujino’s facial expressions to highlight her insecurities or the obsessive quality in depicting the literal shape and form of inking, Look Back hammers in on the meta of creating art.
Fujimoto used a comic to comment on not just the making of said comics, but the mental, spiritual, and physical vigor needed to do so. It is poignant that the strongest argument to speak for a medium is the said medium itself. Through Look Back, Fujimoto reminds us that sometimes artistic passions come coupled with pain, but we must be mindful that there are people behind the work we consume.