Tatsuki Fujimoto is a name most of us have probably heard by now: the mangaka has been making waves in the shonen scene in the past few years with Fire Punch and Chainsaw Man. His work gets a lot of praise: the art, the story, and the action are all immaculate so I can’t say I wasn’t surprised when the new one-shot, titled Look Back, came out in 2021. This title seemed to be on the quieter side and did not pique my interest at the time, even though the art looked stunning. However, after I read it I was hit with so many emotions, for this story is truly wonderful.
Look Back follows two teenage girls who meet by chance and bond over a shared love for drawing. Ayumu Fujino draws a manga for the school newspaper. One day, her teacher asks her to let a shut-in student have some space for their manga and she agrees. Soon she realizes that the other student’s talent surpasses hers by far and after hours of trying to be better and improve her skills she finally gives up. Fujino manages to get her life back on track but her teacher then asks her to go to her rival’s house and give them their diploma. Fujino reluctantly agrees and ends up at Kyomoto’s home.
As it turns out, Fujino’s work inspired Kyomoto who also spent most of her time drawing and trying to improve so that she could reach “Fujino-sensei’s” level. The two end up becoming friends and eventually begin drawing together. As they grow, their talent continues to shine and they even get an offer to serialize their manga. Fujino happily accepts, but Kyomoto surprises her by saying she wants to go to art school and improve her skills. The friends part ways not realizing it will be the last time they see each other…
Look Back – Ending Explained (Spoilers)
What is seemingly a warm and emotional story about friendship also carries a deeper meaning about artists and their art. As Kyomoto dies, Fujino is faced with the harsh reality: she doesn’t even like drawing and it was Kyomoto who kept her going all along. But, as she looks back on the time they spent together she realizes that it wasn’t about what her art meant to her, it was about what it meant to others, Kyomoto included. So she picks up the pen and goes back to drawing, thus honoring her friend and her love for art.
Oasis’ “Don’t Look Back in Anger” was used in one of the promotional programs for the one-shot and when you learn about the history of the song, there is no way it was there just because of the title. The song, originally released in 1996, is about looking forward, moving on, and not wasting your time on what-ifs and what-could-have-beens while berating yourself for not doing more. It resonates strongly with Fujino’s character and her determination in the end but it can also be seen as a touching message to the artists who have been through tough times. This takes on a whole different meeting when you draw the parallels between the attack on Kyomoto’s school and the Kyoto Animation studio: the attacker had a similar motive. It seems like Fujimoto decided to create a small nod to his colleagues and fellow artists who found themselves in Fujino’s position.
It’s also interesting to note that the protagonists’ names, Fujino and Kyomoto, form Fujimoto. Perhaps this is a message to both the author and artists in general, as they are those who spend their lives creating content for others to enjoy, often for nothing in return. But if you find meaning in your art and those who enjoy it, then looking back should be filled with no regrets.
Look Back – What’s Next for the One-Shot?
I am sure you’ve all seen studio MAPPA’s CEO, Manabu Otsuka, talking about Fujimoto’s work and his desire to eventually animate them all. This, of course, would be a wonderful addition to the anime world, but I can’t help but think that there would be a better choice for a studio, should the opportunity arise.
Look Back will be out in digital and print editions on September 20, courtesy of Viz Media.
LOOK BACK © 2021 by Tatsuki Fujimoto/SHUEISHA Inc.
Anime Corner received an advance copy of Viz Media’s release of the Look Back manga for review purposes.