Look Back is a one shot manga by Tatsuki Fujimoto, the creator of the Chainsaw Man manga.

Look Back
Written by: Tatsuki Fujimoto
Publisher: Shueisha Inc.
English Publisher: VIZ Media
Release Date: September 20, 2022

The story begins when the main character, a fourth grade girl named Ayumu Fujino, is drawing manga for the school newspaper and getting praise from her peers about her talent. One day, a teacher asks Fujino if she could give up one of her manga spots to a student named Kyomoto that never comes to school. When the first issue comes out that has Fujino and Kyomoto’s manga side-by-side, it’s clear that Kyomoto is the superior artist. Infuriated by this, Fujino throws herself into improving her art skills, and alienating her friends and family as she obsesses about overcoming Kyomoto. After about two years of this, though, Fujino sees she’s not reaching Kyomoto’s standards and quits drawing altogether out of frustration.

When it’s time for graduation from elementary school, Fujino is asked to deliver Kyomoto’s diploma to her, since she’s still not coming to school. Fujino doesn’t want to do it, of course, because of her feelings toward the other girl, but the teacher cajoles her into doing it. When Fujino enters Kyomoto’s house, she can hear noises and figures out Kyomoto is there. Fujino finds a piece of paper and draws a comic mocking Kyomoto. The comic inadvertently makes it into Kyomoto’s room and Kyomoto runs outside to catch up to Fujino. It turns out Kyomoto is a shy girl and is also a big fan of Fujino’s manga from the school papers. Fujino is both flustered and flattered by the compliments and blurts out that she quit drawing for the school paper to focus on submitting manga to contests.

The two girls become friends and start working together on manga to submit to contests, with Fujino writing the story and drawing the characters and Kyomoto drawing the backgrounds. As they work together, Fujino helps Kyomoto start to break out of her shell, but she still is too shy to go to school. However, things start looking up when a manga they submit is an honorable mention in a manga contest, and they have seven one shots published by the time they’re 17… which leads to them being offered a chance at a serialization once they graduate from high school.

But this is where things start changing, because Kyomoto decides she wants to go to art school to improve her skills, so she won’t be available to help with the serialization. As Kyomoto is studying at school, Fujino’s serialization takes off and is successful enough to receive an anime adaptation. But tragedy strikes when a mass murder happens at the school Kyomoto is at, and this causes Fujino to be filled with regret and blames herself for inspiring Kyomoto to pursue an art career.

I thought that Fujimoto did a great job of telling a complete story in this 143-page one shot. This gave him time to develop the two main characters and their story, so when the tragedy happens at the art school, the reader is able to have an emotional reaction to it. Although, there is the section that takes place after the tragedy and leads up to the finale that was a little on the confusing side to me. We seem to enter a different timeline for part of it, before returning to the main timeline. In a lot of ways, this section feels ambiguous, but perhaps Fujimoto intended for it be that way. What happens here could either be interpreted as Fujino coming up with this alternate timeline as she struggles through her grief and trying to figure out how she’s going to move forward, or it could be interpreted as being an unusual event that really happens and ultimately provides Fujino the answer she needs in order to move forward.

When it comes to the art in Look Back, I can see elements of Fujimoto’s style from Chainsaw Man, especially once the two main characters are older. I appreciated seeing Fujino actually drawing the manga Fujino made back in elementary school and taking the time to make it look like something actually drawn by a kid between the ages of nine and 12. While you can see a noticeable difference between Fujino’s art in fourth grade and her art in sixth grade (after spending time studying from books and practicing), it’s still not up to the quality of Kyomoto’s art. I thought this was a nice touch of realism to include in this one shot.

Even with some of the confusion I had with the ending of the story, I still enjoyed Look Back quite a bit. Fujimoto was able to tell a compelling story and complemented that story with art that captures the events and emotions happening at various points within it. It was also refreshing to see that Fujimoto is capable of more than just the style of storytelling that he uses for Chainsaw Man.

This is a one shot I would recommend to readers who enjoy Fujimoto’s work, as well as to manga readers who appreciate one shots that tell a compelling story about characters who grow up over the course of it.

The reviewer was provided a review copy by VIZ Media