I haven’t written a manga review in quite a while. My first and last review of a manga has been about Girl By The Sea. Since then I’ve been reading a bunch of works, but I wasn’t quite sure when to write about what piece. Today, I wanted to talk about Fire Punch, a manga written and illustrated by Tatsuki Fujimoto.
Written & Illustrated by Tatsuki Fujimoto Published by Shueisha Genre: Dystopian, Dark Fantasy, Supernatural Thriller, Shonen Original run: April 2016 - January 2018 Chapters: 86 Content Warnings: Blood, Gore, as well as implications of cannibalism, slavery, incest, torture, and beastiality, and talk of sex trafficking and sexual assault.
Fire Punch is a story about many topics from justice and destiny, to finding yourself and defining who you are, to revenge and religion… There are a lot of topics and even though it has a rather serious outlook on many things, Fire Punch can still get emotional or even funny at times, which is an interesting mix. In Fire Punch, we’re introduced to a barren and mad world in an Ice Age that has claimed many lives. In this world, some people own so-called “blessings”. These manifest in the form of superpowers like controlling iron, levitating, or even freezing the world – after all, the Ice Witch, a mythical character did so ages ago, apparently. Our main character, Agni, is a boy that lives in a starving village with his sister. Since there is basically no vegetation and since food is getting low, Agni – who is blessed with super-regeneration – chops off his arm multiple times a day and lets it regenerate to provide meat for the village and to save those he cares about. Someday, a man named Doma finds out about this cannibalism and burns down the village and everyone in it using his blessing: Flames that don’t go out until their target has been reduced to ashes. Luna, Agni’s sister, tells Agni to live on, and because of that, Agni resists the pain of being burned alive for years while always regenerating, to someday kill Doma. The plot also features a bunch of other characters that have interesting ideas, dreams and wishes – although I don’t want to spoil any of that, obviously.
Now, this sounds incredibly gruesome and serious and it also follows those cliches of the main character seeking revenge but the story is actually less about that specific goal and more about Agni accepting his faith or finding his destiny. There are very serious topics in this manga, and as mentioned above, there are certain contents that are no appropriate for everyone such as attempted assault, language, and extreme violence… But still, Agni is essentially a naked man on fire that travels through the barren and frozen wastelands, saving people, and who wants to kill this guy called Doma using his own flames. It’s so serious and yet so… funny?
Again, there are very serious topics in this manga and it’s interesting and I love it but all of it gets broken apart by moments that are so bizzare and dumb, and I’d argue that that’s part of the charm. It works for the characters. A lot of other regeneration-type blessed have grown detached from the world or have gone mad for several hundred years. Agni, himself, loses himself on his journey. He constantly is questioning whether or not he should go on or if he should die. The fact that he can’t die makes it so that he wants to die eve more, but Luna’s last words “Live on” haunt him and stop him from succumbing to the flames. Eventually, he fights people, meets people, saves people, kills people, and there’s even a religion being formed around him with Agni-sama’s followers and stuff. I mean, if you saw a burning, immortal, and naked man come down from heaven to punish those that treated you not as humans but as “fuel”… You’d think that’s God, too, right?
The aforementioned fights are messy but it fits the style. There were times where I had to re-read the pages in Fire Punch as it was unclear to me what exactly was happening. Part of that is because of how bright Agni’s flames are in contrast to the dark lines present in some of the fights… but part of it is also a design choice that makes it feel absolutely awesome. During most of the fights, there’s no text at all. No flashy “super moves” or “battle cries” or anything like that. It’s just two people fighting each other. Agni’s punches light the enemy up and they die because of Doma’s flames. The enemy often tries to stop Agni but Agni’s immortal, so… you get the idea. It’s often pointless when Agni fights against normal enemies but it reminded me a lot of fights in One Punch Man: It’s less about who’s the cooler fighter and more about one very strong person winning already but not feeling great about it. Saitama in OPM has grown tired of being the strongest and he just wants to find an enemy that takes more than a punch to beat. Agni in Fire Punch has grown tired of being immortal and just wants to get this over with. He wants to kill Doma and then die to be reunited with his family. Later this goal changes and there are many intricacies and changes in his philosophy, shifts in his character, and the story evolves as the plot thiccens…
But that’s part of what I dislike about the series. It starts out strong by being extremely bizarre and serious and fun and silly and amazing. It’s a great manga to read in the beginning but eventually, it just becomes this sort of pseudo-philosophical mess. The last few chapters are weird as they feel so detached from what was going on beforehand and there is little to no explanation as to why exactly certain things happened or how it works or anything really. The end feels pointless but a bit satisfying in a way? Maybe there was no point, to begin with, but I feel like the story loses itself eventually and comes to an end at Chapter 86 when it really should have ended around Chapter 75 or so. I’m not quite sure where I would have drawn the line but eventually, the red string that was going through the story was lost and replaced with a blue string that I didn’t care about.
Still, I found Fire Punch incredibly fun to read through. I binged through it in two days. It entertained me quite a bit! The art is great, the concepts are interesting, the fights were fun, and eventually, it ended up not being exactly what I expected but still quite a great read overall. If you’re into Shounen manga with interesting twists or if you’re into naked burning men, you gotta give Fire Punch a go! Since I enjoyed this one so much, I’m also looking forward to reading Fujimoto’s other work, Chainsaw Man, soon!