Look Back Look Back

On July 18, two years to the day since it was devastated by an arson attack, Kyoto Animation streamed a short memorial video on its Youtube channel.

On the same day, Tatsuki Fujimoto, a 27-year-old mangaka known for the series Chainsaw Man, published a manga that alludes to the attack without mentioning it explicitly. Look Back features an incident that recalls what happened at the studio. It is also a story about the comfort art can bring to those in distress, and so serves as a tribute to all artists, including those who have suffered and died for their work.

The 140-page one-shot manga instantly made waves, racking up 2.5 million views in one day on Shonen Jump Plus (the online magazine that released the Japanese version). It can (officially) be read in English for free in Viz Media’s Shonen Jump online library — check it out here.

(Note: spoilers follow.)

The story follows the intertwined fates of Fujino and Kyomoto, two would-be mangaka who we meet as high-school students. (Not coincidentally, the first character in “Fujino” and second in “Kyomoto” make up Fujimoto’s name.) The artists pursue their ambitions together, then apart, in a wrenching tale of rivalry, jealousy, creative passion, and friendship.

Look Back

In a climactic scene, the art school where Kyomoto is studying is attacked by an ax-wielding man who kills 12 students, including Kyomoto. As he attacks her, he accuses her of plagiarizing his art — an echo of the accusations the Kyoto Animation arsonist made against the studio.

Fujimoto made his name with a run of one-shot manga, which he began publishing while still a teenager. He has two serialized works to his name: Fire Punch and Chainsaw Man, the first part of which ran in Shueisha’s Weekly Shonen Jump until December 2020. Over 11 million volumes of Chainsaw Man are in circulation as of June 2021, and Mappa is producing an anime adaptation.

The attack on Kyoto Animation destroyed one of its studios, leaving 36 dead and 33 injured. The suspect was indicted in December 2020. The company eventually resumed operations after the fire, and started recruiting again in July 2020.