In this day and age of constant spoilers it’s difficult to enjoy a work of fiction and not know something about it. That’s where manga can be a relief. I recently sat down with the Fire Punch manga from Viz Media by Tatsuki Fujimoto and had no idea what I was in for save for the cover. In this case I may not have been pleasantly surprised, but that’s the point.
So what’s it about?
The official summary reads:
Orphaned siblings Agni and Luna, like the Ice Witch who cursed their world, are two of the “blessed,” humans who hold special abilities. However, not all who are blessed are friendly, and after another of their kind attacks Agni and decimates the orphans’ village, Agni fights to survive, vowing revenge.
Why does this matter?
This is the latest manga offering from Viz with a very strong warning of explicit content. I’m talking disturbing stuff. If you want manga with adult themes that make you think you’ll want to read this.
Fine, you have my attention. What’s good about it?
Don’t do it!
First and foremost, Fujimoto has written a manga that paces and balances when to deliver details incredibly well. It opens with a bit of mystery in a frozen land where two normal looking children go about their day. Until one chops the other’s arm off. From there we learn they have powers, the world is frozen for a reason, and most importantly humanity has lost itself in a dystopian and hopeless future. Fujimoto proceeds to deliver horror after horror whilst feeding us new details about the protagonist, the world at large, and eventually the fact that we should never trust anyone. Albeit if we’re living in a post-apocalyptic future.
I can’t stress enough how disturbing this manga can get and it’s doubly so because of how Fujimoto surprises you with something gross or upsetting. Maybe it’s because I have a good deal of empathy for my fellow man, but Fujimoto plays on that making you think a character is safe and then showing us a character you thought would help another was in fact going to abuse or use them. There are also interesting themes one of which involves incest that’s gross and yet makes you ponder if this is a logical thought in a world where all society has crumbled. Fujimoto has essentially used the premise to explore the darkest parts of people and furthermore if these dark parts flourish when given the opportunity.
This is also a superhero manga in a way. The main character is (obviously) on fire and they can indeed throw a fire punch. The powers however are tied to a tragic moment that occurs in this volume. The character is essentially a victim and they wear that pain right on their face. That’s a bit of genius and there’s a lot of allegorical elements like this.
I was taken by the art in this manga because it sets itself apart from your usual visual style. There are still big eyes and simpler layouts, but the detail is quite good. It’s clear Fujimoto is attempting to pull off a more realistic detailed style which further makes the disturbing bits more polarizing. Details in environments–though sparse since most of this manga takes place on a frozen tundra–and the fire on the protagonist are great.
She did it…
It can’t be perfect can it?
The lack of color in the manga can make the fire confusing to look at when the protagonist is fighting. It’s just difficult to understand what we’re seeing under the fire which makes the action muddy and confusing. There aren’t too many fight scenes in this book, but it does hamper the dramatic moments considering these fight scenes are the culmination of terrible acts and you want to see that violence.
Is It Good?
This is a manga that will stick with you and one you’ll want to tell your friends about. It’s disturbing, but on a psychological level. Violence can be graphic, but not in a gratuitous way and there is some nudity, but again, in a more realistic sort of way rather than showing off the human body. If you like revenge tales you will love this. Its ability to tie in superpowers and make you think about empathy in hard times is unquestionably good. Now, if you can stomach it is another question entirely.