Tatsuki Fujimoto Before Chainsaw Man 22-26 Review – A Strong Collection of Manga Gems
Title: Tatsuki Fujimoto Before Chainsaw Man: 22–26
Author: Tatsuki Fujimoto
Release Date: April 18, 2023
Publisher: VIZ Media
Tatsuki Fujimoto is widely known for his hit manga Chainsaw Man, a fast-paced, action-heavy, coming-of-age shounen that garnered praise for its unique themes, depictions of relationships, and cinematic influences.
But before Chainsaw Man, what was this acclaimed author up to? The aptly titled ‘Tatsuki Fujimoto Before Chain Saw Man‘ showcases the author’s manga journey through a collection of one-shots he wrote on his way to the upper echelons of the manga industry. The one being reviewed now is the second rendition of this series covering’ 22-26′ and contains the stories Mermaid Rhapsody, Woke-Up-as-a-Girl Syndrome, Nayuta of the Prophecy, and Sisters.
NARRATIVE AND CHARACTERS
Relationships are the common through-line within all these stories, starting from the first volume and continuing here in the second. Examining human relationships ranging from romantic to siblings to friendships is one of Fujimoto’s strengths, and he usually does so by putting his characters in distinctive and highly absurd situations.
Mermaid Rhapsody, however, is where he deviates and writes a relatively straightforward and self-proclaimed ‘normal’ story about an underwater piano-playing boy who falls in love with a man-eating mermaid. While that may still sound weird and has some quirks, the story is written in the vein of similar romantic manga. Although it’s fun to see Fujimoto try his hand at a more mainstream story, it falls relatively flat, with nothing sticking out or being memorable.
Woke-Up-as-a-Girl Syndrome is where Fujimoto is back to his classic style. A boy wakes up one day with an irreversible syndrome whereby he is transformed into a girl. The story follows him as he comes to terms with his new body, reflecting on gender and the meaning behind gender identity while delving into the complexity of his situation through his romantic relationship with his girlfriend and her brother.
The story has good heartfelt moments and tackles relevant thematic subject matter. Unfortunately, as I haven’t lived the Transgender experience, I don’t have the perspective to justify whether it is dealt with fairly. Still, it is at least good to see this come from the Japanese manga industry, which is generally known to be more on the conservative side.
Nayuta of the Prophecy examines a sibling relationship between an older brother and his magically powered, gibberish-speaking younger sister, who is prophesized to destroy the world. I think this is where Fujimoto shines the brightest, combining his crazy and quirky story elements with his keen understanding of human relationships to deliver a wholesome story of an elder brother looking out for his younger sister.
Sisters, on the other hand, tackles similar themes but with the opposite result—another story about siblings, this time two sisters, and how they mended their fractured relationship. Unfortunately, Fujimoto leans too much into an explicit and sexual way of telling this story that doesn’t do well to balance the jarring nature of the narrative with the core theme of the story.
Fujimoto’s art style is pretty great, as usual. However, as this collection contains relatively grounded stories, we don’t see him flex his imaginatively designed monsters, fight choreography, or environments all too much. But, at the same time, he doesn’t deviate from his usual design to match his more grounded story approach. Nayuta of the Prophecy is perhaps where he blends his art with his story the best, as the narrative allows him to be a little more creative, but the cinematic panels we’ve loved in his other mangas aren’t showcased as much in these short stories.
If you’re keen to read more from this unique author and want to follow his journey to see how he developed his writing and draw from his start in the industry to Chainsaw Man, these volumes will be interesting. That being said, the first volume of short stories has the more interesting crop of stories. Unfortunately, while this second crop has some gems within, it’s not holistically up to the standard we’ve expected from Tatsuki Fujimoto.
This post may contain Amazon affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate Noisy Pixel earns from qualifying purchases.