Tatsuki Fujimoto Before Chainsaw Man: 17-21 is a compilation of some early one shot manga by Tatsuki Fujimoto, the creator of Chainsaw Man.

Tatsuki Fujimoto Before Chainsaw Man: 17-21
Written by: Tatsuki Fujimoto
Publisher: Shueisha Inc.
English Publisher: VIZ Media
Release Date: January 17, 2023

This collection includes four one shot manga, which were drawn when Fujimoto was between the ages of 17 and 21 (hence the 17-21 in the title).

The first one shot in this volume is “A Couple Clucking Chickens Were Still Kickin’ in the Schoolyard,” which was Fujimoto’s first work, and it was nominated for the December Jump SQ. Monthly Award. According to what Fujimoto writes in here, this one shot was drawn while his start at college was delayed due to the 2011 Tohoku earthquake. The gist of the story is that in 2019, there was a war between aliens and humankind on Earth, and the humans lost. Most humans have been killed and eaten by the aliens, but the story focuses on two humans who are hiding at a school by wearing chicken heads and pretending to be chickens (which is something these aliens won’t eat). The story is a little on the strange side, but there were a couple of twists that appeared that I hadn’t been expecting. After learning that this story was written and drawn in the wake of the 2011 earthquake, it does help to explain the darker and dystopian feel of this piece. Art-wise, it’s a little on the rough side, but it’s understandable when you factor in that this was Fujimoto’s first work, and that he drew it at 17 years of age.

This is followed by “Sasaki Stopped a Bullet,” a one shot that won a Jury Special Award at the 5th Shueisha’s Crown Newcomers’ Award in 2013. In this story, a young man named Sasaki has developed a crush on his teacher and basically views her as a god. One day, one of the teacher’s old high school classmates barges into the classroom with a gun. Sasaki, as you can glean from the title, plays an important role in the story. This is another one shot with a twist, and I thought this twist added a nice touch to the story. With this piece, you can already see that Fujimoto’s art style had evolved and improved from the previous one. Of the four one shots included in this collection, this one was my favorite.

“Love Is Blind” is Fujimoto’s first published work, and it also won an Honorable Mention Award at the November 2013 Shueisha’s Crown Newcomers’ Award. It follows a young man who is about to graduate from high school and wants to confess his feelings to the girl he likes. But he has a hard time getting the words out, and it doesn’t help that he keeps getting interrupted. The interruptions go up in intensity, but our protagonist is more concerned about his love confession than anything else. I found this story to be quite amusing, and I thought Fujimoto’s art style had progressed even more than it had on “Sasaki Stopped a Bullet.” I can see why it received an Honorable Mention Award. This was also another strong one shot, although I liked “Sasaku Stopped a Bullet” just a little bit more.

The final one shot included in this collection is “Shikaku,” and the main character is a young woman who is a well-known assassin. It’s established at the beginning of the story that when she was a child, she had a fascination with pulling apart insects, and that her parents hated her and abused her because of it. We see her taking on an assassination job, and there’s a twist involved with the person who hired her. This twist ultimately leads to a twist that ends the story. Unfortunately, providing any more information delves into spoiler territory, and I don’t want to take away any potential surprises from this story’s plot twists. Tonally, I thought this one shot was the closest to what I know of Fujimoto’s work from the Chainsaw Man manga. The art style still isn’t quite to the level of Chainsaw Man in this one shot, but it’s certainly stronger than the art that appeared in “A Couple Clucking Chickens Were Still Kickin’ in the Schoolyard.”

I found Tatsuki Fujimoto Before Chainsaw Man: 17-21 to be a quick, yet enjoyable read. As a reader who has some familiarity with Fujimoto’s work through Chainsaw Man and Look Back, it was interesting to see the evolution of his art and storytelling in these one shots. From what I’ve seen, it appears there’s going to be a second volume of Tatsuki Fujimoto’s one shots coming out later in 2023, and I hope I can get an opportunity to read that volume as well.

If you’re a fan of Tatsuki Fujimoto and his work, I would highly recommend giving Tatsuki Fujimoto Before Chainsaw Man: 17-21 a shot. While readers who aren’t familiar with Fujimoto may find enjoyment in these one shots, I strongly feel that fans of his work will get more out of this release.

The reviewer was provided a review copy by VIZ Media