Wednesday, January 17, 2018
Fire Punch Vol. 1 Review
The English Langauge debut of Mangaka Tatsuki Fujimoto Fire Punch chronicles the story of Agni a functionality immortal orphan who is now a living human torch after his entire village is wiped out as well as his only surviving family his sister Luna. After it is discovered that the village has been eating human flesh. The irony being that the flesh comes from Agni whose regenerative abilities make him one of what are known as The Blessed. Humans with superhuman abilities one of The Blessed known only as The Ice Witch having plunged the world into an eternal winter. Quickly Agni on his quest for revenge against Doma the leader of the military expedition force of the Theocratic City State known as Behmdorg that destroyed his village and killed his sister Luna. Finds a chipper young orphan named Sun who has the ability to create electricity who is convinced that Agni is some kind of God and a mysterious woman named Judah who looks exactly like his dead sister. While Bhemdorg forces try to take down Agni while Sun and a slave girl named Neneto are subjected to a fate worse than death. Words fail to describe this series it is both a testament to the stark beauty of winter and nature and the utter sadism and fanaticism of man. While also occasionally showing flashes of kindness only to have those destroyed by the malicious actions of others or misguided attempts at doing the right thing. Fujimoto-Sensei takes his time building the world with most of the first chapter's (which functions as a prologue)first eighteen pages. Building up the village and Agni and Luna showing the daily life and self-sacrificial personality of Agni. He's very much the kind-hearted older brother duty bound by his desire to protect his younger sister. While the significantly older villagers either die refusing to violate the almost universal taboo against Canabilism. Or receive the gift of Agni's flesh with gratitude. It lulls the reader into a false sense of security building the world and then snapping it around the audience's neck like a noose and breaking the proverbial neck of its collective hopes and dreams. In a tragic and beautiful fiery conflagration with painstakingly detailed renderings of charred corpses and the effects of the inextinguishable flames on Agni mentally and physically in chilling interior monologues. Fujimoto-Sensei gives his audience no respite for the rest of the series from slaves being forced to drink urine to repeated attempted sexual assault, rape, and dismemberment. All done with a cinematic flair that gives even the most squalid depictions of man's inhumanity to man exquisite craftsmanship from panel layout, to character positioning, to backgrounds and the choreography of the few fights. This is less a volume that stays with you and more one that claws out space in your mind because you cannot unsee some of the horrors inflicted on people. In particular, what happens to poor cheerful Sun in the latter half of the series being particularly hard to stomach as he is the kind of character you would see in a more "Traditional" Shonen Manga. Optimistic, cheery, willing to endure anything for the sake of his friends and family. In conclusion, this is the first volume of a series that emotionally scars and wounds making for a bleak almost funereal introduction to a fictional universe. That as I said in my Most Anticipated Manga of 2018 section of my Best and Worst Manga of 2017 post. Makes Berserk feel like Strawberry Marshmallow. While unremittingly bleak I highly recommend this title for fans of gritter more "hard-edged" Shonen Manga titles like Tsugumi Ohba & Takeshi Obata's Death Note or Hajime Isayama's Attack on Titan. Between this level of experimentation in Shonen Manga found in this title and Yoshitoki Ooima's To Your Eternity and the psychological nuance found in Shojo Manga titles like Morino, Megumi's Wake Up, Sleeping Beauty, Anashin's Waiting for Spring and Ichigo Takano's Dreamin' Sun. 2018 is shaping up to be a very good year for Manga in general and Shojo and Shonen Manga in particular.