This Signature series continues to go to dark places but ends up finding some light in volume two.
Fire Punch is the type of manga that’s mature for a reason. It’s not trying to be gratuitous simply to shock, but rather to reveal a side of humanity that may be uncomfortable to look at. The first volume revealed how the world has changed and humans have become crueler because of it. It ended with a sense that there are those who see others as playthings, which was unnerving, but it also made you cry out for justice. Vol. 2 goes in that direction but in unexpected ways.
So what’s it about?
The official summary reads:
Why does this matter?
Fire Punch is part of Viz Media’s Signature line of manga which they deem “cutting-edge,” and it certainly is. It’s pushing the boundaries of fiction in different ways which is exciting, although for the faint of heart it could be too much.
Fine, you have my attention. What’s good about it?
Vol. 1 ended with a mysterious girl named Togata who was infatuated with movies from the olden days (a.k.a. what we consider modern times). It was a strange turn of events since the flaming hero known as Agni was the focus until that moment. Now it all makes sense as Togata is the driving force behind this entire volume. In the opening, we learn how Togata became infatuated with Agni, how she saves Agni from being drowned forever, and how her big movie is the driving force behind all her actions. After you live for 300 years you apparently lose your mind a bit, and she’s lost a lot of it. After admiring all the best ’80s and ’90s films, her desire to make her own movie is the only thing that gives her purpose. This gives the heavy nature of the story a lightness even when intense gore and violence are present. It’s a fascinating way to make this story set in the future relatable to current audiences, while also disconnecting Togata from reality.
Tatsuki Fujimoto continues to infuse this story with action with nary a moment of reprieve save for getting the characters from point A to point B. Togata is a skilled fighter and ends up showing off these skills against characters we at once thought were unbeatable. Her ability to kill with little effort adds to her character’s formidable nature, and in the final chapter we see that her planning skills are ruthlessly calculated as well. Togata serves as the perfect villain in a story where she’s not even an enemy of most of the characters. She’s like a god that’s playing around until things get really interesting.
Fujimoto fleshes out the world in interesting, yet disturbing ways. One example is the discovery of what the evil Jack does with the innocent boy Sun. This boy has the power of electricity, and we soon discover that to stay warm in an always arctic climate people have resorted to using Blessed (the series’ term for superhumans) to power and fuel their buildings. It’s a sad situation and one that will make you wish something could be done. We also get a better understanding of why the world is frozen and how religion is being used to subjugate the people.
An interesting theme in this manga is how there are no heroes. It seems the world, and the people that live in it, have slipped into an immoral cavern never to be rescued or freed. It’s unclear if any of them can be saved, and those that are innocent have not a shred of hope to cling to. It’s a depressing world, but it also mixes up the characters’ motivations in a way that may just spark a streak of good acts. At least I’m hoping!
Agni gives Togata purpose in life.
It can’t be perfect can it?
Togata may be an intriguing weirdo, but she’s also way too powerful, which reduces any chance of her getting hurt or having stakes in any act she exhibits. This reduces the character to an inhuman sort of nature (she certainly doesn’t mind maiming and killing), and makes her somewhat flat. She does console with another character at one point, but it’s unclear if she’s simply acting. She appears to be the type of unemotional character that has been seen in manga many times before, which further reduces the originality of the character. Considering she’s the driving force of the plot and has the most dialogue, that reduces the manga’s ability to connect to the reader.
It’s somewhat unfortunate that Agni takes a back seat in this story, serving more as an observer to Togata’s madness and orders. The first volume built up his story, starting with his childhood and giving the entire series a sense of purpose. That seems to have been abandoned to allow Togata to do whatever she wants, even though Agni could probably just carry on without her. There isn’t enough done to build up Togata’s argument to Agni to do as she says, which makes Agni come off as a bit dense.
Is It Good?
I was somewhat reluctant to dive back into this manga because of how dark and disturbing it can get. Truth be told, this volume goes to new dark places, but it also has a unique plot about a god-like movie director who wants to make her own story. In a post-apocalyptic world where all hope is lost, she has her chance. This volume is in danger of losing the audience because Togata isn’t very relatable, but the story is so unique and out-there that it’s still well worth exploring.