[Learning or getting back into art is a journey all on its own. This story is a 143 page one-shot, go read it, now, yes now ]
Everyone knows that art is hard. Or at least I hope they do, it’s so much more than just making lines on paper. What is important to add, is that while it’s hard, it does not mean you have to be a genius upon picking up a pencil. You can be shit at drawing while 14 or 44, it does not and should not determine your passion. Even amazing artists struggle, especially if they want to pursue art as a career, but what we are focusing on today is art as a hobby with the help of Tatsuki Fujimoto’s Look Back.
My own relationship with art is complex. I have been drawing since I was a child, but not in a way that made me improve (improve your art in 1 week with this easy step!1!!!!1!!) as fast as I was hoping, inspired by all the people my age who spent way more time on it and naturally were great in comparison. Maybe it was a mix of that disappointment along with not getting praise anymore (we all know you can draw, so it’s fine, uh, good job I guess?), but then in a manner so very like me, I dropped drawing completely for almost 4 years. Only to pick it back up again this year. And I still suck, but I am able to see that I did improve from whatever scribbles I made all these years ago. What does that have to do with art as a hobby?
Well, like most things we feel the need to do things not by looking at moon phases. Maybe it’s fun, maybe you want to draw in a particular style, maybe you want to be better than someone else… oh.
Yup, that was the motivation of Look Back’s Fujino in the beginning. She grows in an environment where her art makes her feel special, teachers praising it and putting it in the school newspaper, hearing how she could become an artist… only for that rug to be pulled from under her feet, when everyone falls in love with the intricate backgrounds that the more absent from school than not Kyomoto draws. And this is also what hits me with this one-shot. Picking a thing to be YOUR thing, even when you turn out not so great at it, to the point that it describes you (you know, the art kid) only to have it be the thing that humbles you harshly and forces you to look at your own self worth, is incredibly painful. Fujimoto (get it, FUJIno KyoMOTO) also encompasses everything you need to know about art with this panel:
One of the reasons why this one shot hit me right in the heart was that the main character really tried to get better. Refusing to go out with friends, she spent countless hours studying, but never succeeded by, in her eyes, never beating Kyomoto. Later on, after she declares that she is done, she gets tasked with bringing Kyomoto her graduation certificate. What she finds in her home are countless notebooks stacked by Kyomoto’s room. She draws her signature gag comic strip on a piece of paper, which accidentally slips into Kyomoto’s room. Fujino runs out embarassed only for Kyomoto to run after her and exclaim that she is a huge fan of hers.
When asked why she stopped drawing, Fujino lies flattered by Kyomoto’s enthusiasm over her comics and says she’s working on a piece for a manga award. This moved Fujino enough to start drawing anew and she and Kyomoto grew closer and began drawing manga together, even getting serialized before their paths in art diverge as Kyomoto wants to pursue it more seriously and go to an art school.
While the crux of the conflict is Fujino’s dependence on Kyomoto that’s not what’s in the foreground of the art side. Even when separated, Fujino continues her manga “Shark Kick”. A devastating incident makes her want to go back in time and never draw the comic strip that brought out Kyomoto out of her room to begin with, but she comes to realize that she can’t drop it after all. In a time twisting turn of the story, Fujino realizes that she and Kyomoto’s paths would have met either way, she never abandoned their dream and was there all along supporting Fujino and her manga.
Those fun times the two had drawing together and the support were Fujino’s reason to continue on. As she explains it herself, she doesn’t even like drawing manga and would rather stick to reading it. You can spend countless hours working with no end in sight, but she draws anyway. Not cause she’s particularly amazing at it or wants to get back at Kyomoto in some way. Maybe that’s enough. To just draw, one step at a time. Draw because it reminds you of something fun or you just want to make comics about a girl who reincarnated into a meteorite or a Shark who kicks bad guys. And it’s never too late, no matter how good, bad, or old you are.
END NOTE I am convinced this mangaka is a genius. I should read Chainsaw man AND Fire punch and whatever else he made till the end. I don’t think a work of his has not touched me in some way, but Look Back was what burst the tear dam and shook me, as much as I thought I was okay with giving up and calling it a day, as a self described untalented-casual. His art style just keeps getting better with each work in its expressiveness, shading and overall creation of atmosphere via paneling and zooming in on details that matter. Some of the faces Fujino makes are so insanely relatable, it hurts.
If you’re like me, who’s looking at art as a hobby they are passionate about, after a long break, take it easy. Go one thing at a time. Anatomy can wait if you can barely draw a circle, fundamental fundamentals first, no one is yanking your rough Sonic the hedgehog fanart to hang in the Louvre for all to see. Take your time and enjoy your time spent. Remember why you’re doing it – as simple as the reason may be.
IMPORTANT NOTE: the one shot has been revised and some lines were changed of a violent character that appears towards the end, so as to not reflect negatively and cause discrimination to real people who suffer from mental illnesses. While it’s debatable what certain big incident could have inspired said character, I believe it’s nice that adjustments were made. I’m not sure if all sites updated to the new version, but thought it would be important to mention nevertheless. You can read about it here.
This welcome adjustment does not take away from the core of the story in any way and I encourage everyone to read Fujimoto’s great one shot about art and manga.