Look Back, Oneshot Review: Tatsuki Fujimoto is Brilliant.

Ever since Tatsuki Fujimoto released his one shot manga Look Back weeks ago, I have found myself returning to it time and time again, finding new meaning in it every time.
It’s funny because, even though Fujimoto is the author of one of my favourite mangas, Chainsaw Man, I honestly wasn’t expecting Look Back to be all that much.
Just a fun little story to read once and then move on from.
Boy, was I wrong.
I came out of Look Back an emotional wreck and I have felt just as impacted every time I have reread it since then.
It’s clearly not just me either because I have seen so many other people who feel the same way and come out of reading it with different interpretations of what it all means.
Look Back begins with a simple, single page panel of a room with an empty desk and chair, the importance of which will be realized by the ending.
We then meet our main character, Fujino, through the four panel manga strip she entered as homework for her school’s newspaper.
Fujimoto does an excellent job presenting her to us, as first we see the teacher giving his class the newspaper, then them passing it down and laughing with and appreciating Fujino’s art, and next we actually see the comedic strip before we are finally introduced to Fujino herself.
However, despite the class’ praise of her artwork, Fujino is actually not too receptive to the idea of becoming a manga artist when she grows up, perferring the idea of becoming an athlete instead.
It is on the following page where we first hear of the character who will change all of this for her, Kyomoto, when her teacher asks her to give up one of school paper manga slots to her, since Kyomoto is a recluse who doesn’t come to school but wants to explore her own artwork.
This news causes Fujino to cockily wonder how someone who is afraid of coming to school could draw manga well.
Her arrogant claim made it all the funnier when I turned the page and saw her horrified reaction when she saw Kyomoto’s artwork next to hers and realized it was much better than hers.
Fujimoto is really good at drawing hilarious character reactions and he doesn’t disappoint with Fujino’s.
It is not just her who realizes that Kyomoto’s artwork is better because everyone in her class does as well.
Remembering how everyone first praised her, wanting more of that, and realizing that Kyomoto is so good because she practices all the time at home, Fujino decides to devote even more time than the “five minutes” she spent on her earlier manga strip.
Following this moment, we get the first of many montage panels where time passes as Fujino practices her drawing at her home, school, the library, the park, and other places, along with buying various different guide books to help teach her.
At least a year passes during this montage, with the snow on the roof being in one panel then gone the next highlighting this.
We then get confirmation on how much time has passed, when one of Fujino’s friends says they will be middle schoolers next year and rhen asks if Fujino thinks that she herself is too old for drawing because she doesn’t want to be thought of as a creepy otaku at her age.
This, her sister’s discouragement and urging to try karate instead, and her seeing that Kyomoto’s background art is still better than hers, causes Fujino to give up.
There even seems to be a slight tear when she does so, showing how much this decision hurts, but she turns this emotion away to instead join up with her friends and spend time with family.
She even has her old drawing guide books thrown out.
It would seem that she is distancing herself from the passion of drawing forever but fate has other plans, as Fujino’s teacher again asks her to go to Kyomoto and deliver her graduation certificate to her.
No one answers the door, so Fujino goes inside and finds the walls outside of Kyomoto’s room lined with journals for drawing.
Seeing one bare manga strip, a moment of cruel inspiration strikes Fujino, as she draws Kyomoto winning the shut-in world championship because she is dead.
Epic foreshadowing (only kidding).
Just as she is wondering what she is doing, she drops the strip, which slides under Kyomoto’s door, causing Fujino to flee in panic, only for a disheveled and awkward Kyomoto to pursue her outside.
The symbolism of this first meeting is pretty great, as Fujino’s feet are in the light and Kyomoto’s are in the shade of her house, showing their different standings in life, with Fujino currently being outgoing and Kyomoto an introvert.
It is then that Kyomoto nervously admits to being a fan of Fujino’s, followed by another great reaction shot of Fujino.
Although, while the previous reaction shot of her was comedic, this one is dramatic, as her face is bathed in light, the only panel in the entire page where a character’s face is not in the shade.
This shows the importance of Kyomoto’s confession to her, as it resparks her passion for drawing manga, only this time not to gain praise which I will explain later.
Kyomoto follows this up by getting Fujino to autograph the back of her shirt, and then asks why she stopped drawing manga after sixth grade, causing Fujino to expertly lie, highlighted by her refusing to look at Kyomoto.
Fujino claims that she hasn’t been drawing as much because she is preparing to create a story, which she will submit for a manga award and promises to show Kyomoto once she is done.
She then leaves as it starts to rain and begins to skip and dance, no longer having to lie to herself about lacking the passion to draw anymore.
The full page spread where she skips and dances through the rain in a way that is somehow both awkward and triumphant is excellently drawn by Fujimoto and one of my favourite moments in the one-shot.
Que another, much longer montage of panels, as the years pass and Fujino and Kyomoto grow closer, beginning to work togethor and inspire each other it their own artwork.
After a day out on the town, spending the money they earned from their manga, Kyomoto admits that, just like Fujino starting to draw manga because of the praise she got from others, she began drawing manga not for fun but because otherwise she was bored, thanking Fujino for bringing her outside.
Eventually, the two become successful enough to become seralized, however, Kyomoto cannot help Fujino with the new manga series because she wants to go to art school to hone her craft.
Fujino does not take this news well, using Kyomoto’s earlier confession to try and manipulate her into staying and helping her, saying she will become bored at art school.
This argument seems to cause a seperation between the two because, as time passes in the next montage, with Fujino becoming successful with her manga, Shark Attack, which is then set to get an anime adaptation, we don’t see them interact, which makes it all the more heartbreaking when it happens.
Fujino looks at the news one day and sees that an attack has happened at Kyomoto’s art school and unfortunately she did not make it.
This is clearly a representation of the tragic Kyoto Animation arson attack in 2019, which claimed 36 lives.
It is particuarly sad to then notice in hindsight that the first part of Kyomoto’s name is also the beginning of the name of the animation studio where the real life attack took place.
This all goes to show just how devestating the attack on Kyoto Animation and the loss of life was for many creators out there who had been inspired by their work, seemingly Tatsuki Fujimoto among them.
Kyomoto’s death affects Fujino especially hard, as she goes on a highatus afterwards, claiming an illness to be responsible.
She then visits her old friend’s house where she finds the manga strip she wrote which accidentally drew Kyomoto out of her room.
This causes Fujino to blame herself for Kyomoto’s death because, as she sees it, if she had never drawn that manga strip then Kyomoto never would have come out of her room and thus never would have died.
It is then that we see what appears to be a fantasy of Fujino’s of what Kyomoto’s life would have been like had they never met.
In this fantasy alternate universe, only the torn part of Fujino’s manga strip where the onlookers tell Kyomoto to not come out of her room slips under her door.
So, Kyomoto never overcomes her insecurities to interact with others but still gets into art school.
Then, the attack happens, only this time there is a hero to save the day.
It is none other than Fujino who, in this alternate universe, focused on karate like her sister asked, so was able to thwart the attacker and save Kyomoto’s life.
This leads the two to become friends in this fantasy as well, with Fujino offering Kyomoto a place as her assistant, inspiring Kyomoto to go home and draw more manga strips, one of which blows away in the wind and under Kyomoto’s door to meet Fujino, the fantasy ending.
Fujino reads the strip, which has the titular title Look Back, and is a comedic version of her saving Kyomoto, possibly something the shy girl imagined back when she was Funjino’s biggest fan.
Entering Kyomoto’s room, Fujino sees that Kyomoto indeed still was a fan of Fujino, as she had all of the volumes of her manga and still kept the shirt she signed with a place of honour on the hook of her door.
This all causes Fujino to admit to herself that she never really enjoyed drawing manga because of how unfulling it was and wonders why she did it all?
The answer comes in a flashback to Fujino gifting Kyomoto with the manga she promised back when they first met, resulting in an overjoyed expression from Kyomoto, along with all the times they inspired one another.
This all shows how Fujino’s passion for writing manga changed from first being to get the praise of her peers to then making her readers happy once she saw how happy it made Kyomoto.
And right there came the tears from me because this broke me the first time I read it.
If this is not a direct message from Fujimoto to his readers then I don’t know what is.
Especially considering the characters’ names of Fujino and Kyomoto, which makes up his name.
Looking at her Shark Attack manga, eerily similar to Fujimoto’s Chainsaw Man, and realizing what it all meant to Kyomoto, Fujino goes back home to continue her serialization.
The one-shot then ends on another single paged panel of Fujino sitting in her chair at her desk, continuing to write her manga, directly paralleling the beginning of the one shot where we saw Fujino’s chair and desk but no one was sitting in it.
Look Back seems to be detailing Fujimoto’s experience as a mangaka primarily through Fujino, as she starts off writing it for praise and to beat a rival but then starts doing it for the experience of the readers, as seen through how Kyomoto inspires her.
It’s also neat to note how the Oasis song “Don’t Look Back in Anger” is shown to be an inspiration through how it is placed by Fujimoto throughout the one-shot, with the opening black board saying “Don’t”, Kyomoto’s manga strip of Fujino saving her being titled “Look Back” and one of the books Fujino has on the final page being titled “In Anger.”
There are a lot of other subtle details to this one-shot, like the infamous Chainsaw Man door at one point.
It can take multiple read throughs to find many of these and some of them had to be pointed out by others for me to get, like the already mentioned “Don’t Look Back in Anger” reference.
Along with these details, there is the emotional power of Don’t Look Back, which hit me with the weight of a truck when I first read it.
It is a fantastic one-shot and I have the exact same thought every time I finish: Tatsuki Fujimoto is brilliant.

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