Author: Tatsuki Fujimoto
Publisher: VIZ Media
First Published: July 19, 2021
Genres: Coming of Age, Shonen, Slice of Life
Source: Free, Read Online
Fujino is a fourth grader who draws a manga strip for the school newspaper. Her art makes her the star of the class, but one day she's told that Kyomoto, a student who refuses to come to school, would also like to submit a manga for the paper...
Why do we create art? For enjoyment? For praise? To compete with our rival, or to live up to our idol? For money, a successful career? Creating art can be filled with joy, but it can also be painstaking too. This is the idea that lies at the heart of Look Back, a thoughtful one-shot manga that pays homage to the manga industry.
“You know, to begin with… I… don’t even like drawing manga.”
Look Back follows two young girls, both aspiring manga artists, and how their art brought them together. Fujino is the best manga artist in her class, she lives for the praise of the people around her. Yet she finds herself upstaged by her classmate Kyomoto, a shut-in who creates astounding scenic art. Their mutual admiration of each other’s art inspires deep changes in each character, from honest adulation to an intense desire to compete and improve as an artist. The talents of these two characters complement each other in the creation of manga, and their partnership forms an enriching friendship.
I loved this manga, for the way that it meditates on the life of the artist; the successes, the joys of companionship, but the dark times too, when the drive to create runs out. The characters are well-developed and the story feels like it comes from a personal place. The reference to the Kyoto Animation arson attack was haunting and makes the story uncomfortably real.
Look Back is a masterpiece that asks artists a simple question, “Why do you create art?” A loaded question, but a necessary one for creators to reckon with.