Tatsuki Fujimoto Before Chainsaw Man: 22-26 is the second compilation of one shot manga by Tatsuki Fujimoto, the creator of Chainsaw Man.

Tatsuki Fujimoto Before Chainsaw Man: 22-26
Written by: Tatsuki Fujimoto
Publisher: Shueisha Inc.
English Publisher: VIZ Media
Release Date: April 18, 2023

This collection includes four one shot manga, which were drawn when Fujimoto was between the ages of 22 and 26 (hence the 22-26 in the title).

The first one shot in this volume is “Mermaid Rhapsody.” The story focuses on a middle schooler named Toshihide, who is the son of a human and a mermaid. Toshihide has no memory of his mother, though, so he’d like to meet a mermaid, even though humans believe that mermaids eat people. There’s an underwater piano built by mermaids that can make sound underwater, and Toshihide skips school in order to play it. Since he’s part mermaid, he can stay underwater longer than regular humans, but he still has to eventually come up for air. One day, a mermaid named Shinju who’s been watching him play rescues him as he’s going to drown. Toshihide offers to teach Shinju how to play the piano to pay her back, since there aren’t any mermaids who know how to play the piano anymore. The relationship starts off kind of rocky, but after Toshihide and Shinju form a friendship, something unexpected happens that changes the dynamic. According to the note at the end of the story, Fujimoto explains that Jump SQ. editorial said that he couldn’t write a normal story, and he wrote this one to prove them wrong. When compared to the one shots that appeared in Tatsuki Fujimoto Before Chainsaw Man: 17-21, this is definitely a more normal story. This story also shows at this point that Fujimoto’s writing had gotten stronger, as did his art style.

This is followed by “Woke-Up-as-a-Girl Syndrome,” and it’s basically what the title says: a boy named Toshihide (it’s not the boy from “Mermaid Rhapsody,” even though they share the same name) wakes up one day and he’s now a girl. Unfortunately, there’s no cure for this syndrome, so Toshihide has to deal with the confusion of trying to live as a girl. Toshihide had been seen as a “crybaby” prior to this incident, and now the boys who teased Toshihide are trying to take advantage of the situation now that Toshihide is a girl. But Toshihide is saved by Akira, who is the brother of Toshihide’s girlfriend, Rie. But after being saved by Akira, the situation between Toshihide and Rie becomes awkward. This story seems to be Fujimoto’s attempt to focus on a transgender character, and he does a decent enough job with it, considering it’s a short story. It could have been a little better, I think, but considering the page length for a short story, there wasn’t as much space to truly delve more into Toshihide’s gender confusion. If Fujimoto could have had more page length to do a one-volume story, “Woke-Up-a-a-Girl Syndrome” probably would have been a little stronger.

“Nayuta of the Prophecy” is the story where the character on the front cover of the volume comes from. A young man named Kenji is raising his younger sister, Nayuta, alone. There was a prophecy saying that a mage will be born with horns that lacks a human heart, will speak unintelligibly, and one day will destroy the world. Nayuta is born with horns, and everyone in the town thinks she is the child of prophecy and want her destroyed. As she gets older, it can be seen that she speaks unintelligibly, uses magic, and does things that show she doesn’t seem to have a human heart. When Nayuta does something that affects the livelihood of one of their neighbors, Kenji tries to take the blame for it. But as we see, Nayuta does something that shows that she does think about her brother and has some kind of heart in her after all, and this becomes important for the climax of the story. In a note for this story, Fujimoto says that Jump SQ. editorial told him that he can’t write unique characters, so he wrote this story to prove them wrong once again. Nayuta is definitely a more unique character than the others that have appeared in his other works. The story itself was also interesting and kept me wanting to read more in order to find out how it was going to be resolved.

The final story in this collection is “Sisters,” and it’s about two sisters who attend the same art college. The younger sister won first place in the school art contest, and it’s a painting of the older sister in the nude. Since this was the first place entry, it’s hung up at the school entrance for the entire school year. When the student body realizes that the subject of the painting is a student at their school, she has to endure other students commenting about the painting to her. This leads to a confrontation between the two sisters, and the ending sees the older sister teaching the younger sister a lesson. As you can probably tell from this description, there are some panels of female nudity because of the younger sister’s painting. “Sisters” is an interesting look at a sibling relationship, especially one where the siblings aren’t that close anymore, but the younger one is still trying to chase after the older sibling in the hopes of being like them. According to the note Fujimoto has at the end of the story, he says that “Sisters” is foundational to his later one shot, “Look Back.” I’ve already read “Look Back,” and I think I think I understand where Fujimoto is coming from when he says “Sisters” is foundational to “Look Back.”

Just like the previous volume of one shots, Tatsuki Fujimoto Before Chainsaw Man: 22-26 is a quick, yet enjoyable read. When compared with Tatsuki Fujimoto Before Chainsaw Man: 17-21, these stories seem much stronger. Considering that all four of these one shots were done after the ones in the previous volume, it makes sense that these would come across as stronger works. As a set, these two volumes of one shots show Fujimoto’s evolution as a mangaka over the course of nine years. The four stories in Tatsuki Fujimoto Before Chainsaw Man: 22-26 have more in common in both its art and storytelling with Chainsaw Man than the stories in Tatsuki Fujimoto Before Chainsaw Man: 17-21. I appreciate seeing that these two volumes of one shots were released in order to give fans of Tatsuki Fujimoto and/or Chainsaw Man insight into Fujimoto’s earlier works.

If you’re a fan of Tatsuki Fujimoto and his work, I would recommend reading both Tatsuki Fujimoto Before Chainsaw Man: 22-26 and Tatsuki Fujimoto Before Chainsaw Man: 17-21, in order to get the fullest appreciation for Fujimoto’s work and evolution as an artist.

The reviewer was provided a review copy by VIZ Media

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