Tatsuki Fujimoto’s One-shot Look Back is clearly a tribute to the KyoAni arson attack. Is it too too soon or a proper catharsis?
WARNING: The following contains spoilers for Look back by Tatsuki Fujimoto, Amanda Haley and Snir Aharon, available now in English on Manga Plus and Viz Media.
Tatsuki Fujimoto’s special one-shot manga Look back tells a heartbreaking and poignant story of friendship and loss. It is perhaps a little surprising that such a loving story comes from the creator of Man with chainsaw, but Fujimoto has a very clear intention in mind, inspired by an actual tragedy: the Kyoto Animation arson attack.
Look back was released on July 18, 2021, the same date as the second anniversary of the KyoAni attack. At the end of the story, one of the protagonists, Kyomoto (his name may be intentional), is tragically killed in his art school by a delusional murderer who believes someone had plagiarized his work. The killer randomly attacks the first people he sees with an ax, killing 12 people.
Although KyoAni’s killer did not use an ax, he also carried knives and randomly attacked several KyoAni employees after entering the studio building and before lighting the fire. The killer also accused KyoAni of plagiarism, which was completely unfounded. The parallel between the art school setting and the animation studio is also easily noticeable.
Since the KyoAni tragedy is still fresh on the minds of many people, especially on his birthday, some might view Fujimoto’s work as callous. Even though he refrained from describing the tragedy in gory detail – as he often does in his other works – it could still evoke painful memories just by alluding to this event at the story’s climax.
This reaction would be quite understandable, especially when later the other protagonist, Fujino (probably an alter ego of Fujimoto himself), reinvents the event but with se as the hero, saving his friend from the fatal attack in a somewhat comical scene – in front of the Kyomoto Memorial.
But this imaginary scene actually gives the true essence of Look back. It is clear that Fujimoto was deeply touched by the KyoAni tragedy and this manga is his way of looking for a way to heal. After the tragedy, many people felt a sense of deep loss and wished they could go back, arrest the responsible person and save their loved ones. This is the feeling expressed in Look backreinvented scenes.
Fujimoto uses this reimagining in the same way filmmaker Quentin Tarantino does, who often reimagines historical calamities, like World War II in Inglorious bastards and the murder of Sharon Tate in Once upon a time in Hollywood, giving them a different result. Much like Tarantino’s films, Look backs reimagining is somewhat playful and self-aware; There is a four panel strip titled Kyomoto’s “Look Back” (in Fujino style) that seems to inspire this reimagined scene.
But Fujimoto’s real message goes beyond catharsis to be truly touching. As many have noticed, on the first page of the manga in the upper right corner there is the word “Don’t”. On the last page at the bottom left, the words “In Anger” are visible. Combine these two lines with the title of the manga “Look Back” and you get the phrase: “Don’t look back in anger”, which is the title of a song from Oasis, but also Fujimoto’s message to everyone. who read.
While people can understand the words – after all, anger never gets anyone real resolution or peace – the KyoAni incident itself was fueled by a angry person. Not feeling angry in the face of so much grief and pain is not easy. Thus, Fujimoto offers people a way to express their anger: by imagining what could have been and persistently creating, the legacy of the deceased can always be carried on.
The paneling in Look back, especially the last few pages, is incredibly cinematic, striking Tarantino’s comparison. There is hardly any dialogue in the final pages, but the emotions conveyed by Fujino’s face and body language say all about his inner thoughts. Just as Fujimoto preached in the title, Fujino finally recalls happy memories – not anger – as she moves forward in her life, carrying Kyomoto’s hopes and dreams with her.
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