Tatsuki Fujimoto is known for writing Horny Boys. His most popular work, best-selling manga and future anime Man with chainsaw, is a bloody action series starring a teenager motivated by the desire to touch breasts for the first time.
Fujimoto’s recent one-shot, Look back, is nothing of the sort. Instead, it creates a moving and devastating story about friendship, the divergent paths we take in life, and why we create art. No guts, no gore, just a love story about two friends who want to write manga together. The entire story is currently available on the Viz website.
Look back begins with a young girl named Fujino, a confident college student who is good at everything she does, including drawing manga for her student journal. Fujino soaks up praise from everyone around her, until one day, Kyomoto, a silent escapee from the class next door, submits her own comic. Kyomoto’s work is beautiful and cinematic – his work, while not as funny as Fujino’s, is a detailed study of empty rooms and sunny buildings. “Fujino’s art looks totally average next to Kyomoto’s,” Fujino’s classmates say, to his horror. At first, Kyomoto’s aptitude prompts Fujino to practice her art as much as possible, but eventually her inability to outdo Kyomoto discourages her and she gives up.
However, after being tasked with presenting Kyomoto with a graduation certificate, Fujino lures the absentee out of his room with a comic strip. In the Strip, a crowd shouts in a stadium: “It’s the final of the closed world championships!” Kyomoto is first with a large lead, ”he jokes.
Fujino slips the tape under the door and starts to leave until Kyomoto chases after her. Sweaty, with messy hair all over the place, Kyomoto tells Fujino that she inspired her own work and asks Fujino why she stopped drawing. Boldly, Fujino says she only quit because she started working on her first book: a one-shot. On the way home, Fujino has fun in the rain and soars to the sky. When she gets home, she picks up her pencil to begin the first draft of the story she’s bragging about. Thus begins a relationship of several years between the two bringing together manga under the nickname of Kyo Fujino.
Man with chainsaw, like Look back, is heartbreaking in an emotional sense. Corn Look back spares the public the guts and the gore. It is also more accessible than Man with chainsaw and other shonen series like that. Some shonen have hundreds of chapters and have been functioning for years. I crossed Look back in one afternoon.
Look back is a great friendship story, but what makes it essential reading for any new reader or veteran is how it makes readers think about how the art in their hands was made. While the girls are drawing, Fujimoto transmits the subtle passage of time by forcing the girls to shift positions at their desks over the hours and hours. Time-lapse allows us to revel in the amount of work they put into making their dreams come true. It demonstrates the simple reality that every reader should know: making manga takes time, work and sacrifice.
Towards the end, Fujino wonders why she makes manga. Working has become a difficult chore for her: “You can draw all day without being far from finished. She better just read manga, she reasoned. It’s a callback to the opening scene, where a peer asks her if she would like to become a manga writer. Fujino says, “sitting at a desk all day seems boring,” and says being a professional athlete would be more speedy.
So what is it that makes the reluctant artist come out of his own reluctance to create? His friend. The first person who pushed her to improve.
After Fujino expresses his doubt, Fujino cuts Kyomoto’s tired eyes at a panel, staring at her and reminding her of his responsibility to his friend’s work. Kyomoto was the reason she drew from the start. After thinking about her, Fujino walks into her room and changes into more comfortable clothes, and she returns to her drawing desk.
Writing a manga is a painful and laborious process in good times. In difficult times, creating art, writing, doing anything really can be difficult as we face the angst of life. However, no matter how difficult the act of creation is, the manga becomes a way for Fujino to express his love for his friend and keep his memories of her alive. Ultimately, Fujimoto shows Fujino, alone, her back again facing us, and the architecture of the city guiding our eyes to her – a reference to Kyomoto’s own work as a background artist.