Around halfway through reading Fire Punch for the first time, I decided that Tatsuki Fujimoto is my favourite mangaka.
This is not to say that I think Fire Punch is his best work.
If anything, reading it showed me just how much he has improved since writing this manga, going on to write and illustrate my second favourite manga, Chainsaw Man, and the fantastic one shots Look Back and Goodbye Eri.
One thing that has stayed the same across all of Fujimoto’s works, though, is his undoubtable creativity, present in Fire Punch from the beginning, all the way to the very end.
Another constant throughout my first read through of Fire Punch was me repeatedly saying, “what the f**k am I reading?”
I don’t think I am exagerrating when I say that Fire Punch is the craziest work of fiction that I have ever read.
To be honest, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to continue reading after the first ten chapters because of how completely grim everything was, but I pushed forward and found a flawed yet rewarding story that is, of course, f****d up on every conceivable level.
Fire Punch is set in a world where super powered people, known as the Blessed, started a new Ice Age that is slowly leading to humanity’s extinction.
Agni is a young blessed with the power of regeneration, who lives with his little sister Luna in a small village, where he cuts off his arm daily to feed everyone, since there is no food.
Oh, and Agni’s sister wants to have his babies.
So, yeah… that’s a thing.
However, Agni’s life is disrupted when a blessed named Doma arrives in his village, looking for soldiers, only to be disgusted by the cannibalism going on there, leading to him using his flame powers to burn the village to ash.
Everyone in the village dies, except Agni, who is kept alive by his regineration power, although he is left in a constant state of burning agony.
In her last, horrifying moments, Luna urges Agni to live, and so Agni does, persevering to eventually get his revenge on Doma, beginning the story of Fire Punch.
The story only gets crazier from here, with plenty of weird characters, many of whom have disturbing ideologies, and, of course, plenty of movie references.
It would not be a Fujimoto story without at least one, after all.
Fujimoto embodies these movie references in my favourite character in Fire Punch, Togata, the reginerative blessed who is a movie fan, nut job.
Togata is initially characterized as someone who will do anything to make a movie starring Agni, yet, as the story goes on, Fujimoto pulls back the layers on his character to reveal the vulnerabilities, creating an extremely sympathetic side to him.
It also helps that he’s incredibly funny.
Seriously, one Togata segment during a truck chase had me laughing so hard my sides hurt for a couple of minutes afterwards.
Fujimoto absolutely nails dark humor.
He also nails the themes of the story, with Agni’s and Togata’s arcs being especially hard hitting.
However, I did say near the beginning of this review that Fire Punch had flaws and there are quite a few.
Probably the two biggest of these are the characters and the pacing.
As I said, there are a lot of wacky characters in Fire Punch, but it does not seem like Fujimoto knew what to do with many of them.
Some just show up, look cool for a while with very little characterisation and then are killed off shortly after, sometimes off screen.
The pacing can be just as problematic at times, with some important events happening way too fast or even off screen.
Then there’s the constant incest theme with Agni’s character, which is obviously uncomfortable.
Some of these flaws even have a positive side to them, at least if you have read Fujimoto’s more recent works first.
The flaws of Fire Punch make for an interesting comparison, as any reader can see how much he grew as a writer from his first long-running manga to Chainsaw Man.
As well as this, despite the issues, Fire Punch builds up to a great and expectedly crazy ending that closes off the story’s theme about living on no matter what well.
Overall, Fire Punch is a flawed yet meaningful story that is well worth it by the end.
Just be prepared to constantly say or think “what the f**k?” when you read it.