By Tatsuki Fujimoto. Released in Japan by Shueisha, serialized in the magazine Shonen Jump +. Released in North America by Viz Media. Translated by Christine Dashiell.
Wow. It’s hard not to read the first volume of Fire Punch without picking your jaw up off the floor a few times. As with some other titles of this nature, I will try to do a vague and ambiguous review in the first paragraph, then spoil things after the picture. So… well, Fire Punch is a hell of a well-crafted manga. The art is good, the plot is stark and horrifying, and there is certainly enough punching things with fire to satisfy even the most hardcore. I will say that this title is rated M for a reason, and there are innumerable horrible deaths, rape threats, actual rapes, and very nice people having very bad things happen to them. This is not surprising, as the story is about a young man who is burning (literally) with a desire for revenge on the man who killed his sister (and village, but, well, mostly his sister). I am not sure this journey is for me, but if you like dark dark fantasy and horror, you should like this.
Spoiler time HOLY ZARQUON’S SINGING FISH, WHAT THE HELL WAS THAT? From the very first few pages, where we see a teenage girl chop off her brother’s arm, and then be told to do it over and over again (he regenerates, it’s OK), to the copious discussions of cannibalism and which teen would taste more succulent, to the sister deciding that she wants to have babies with her brother, to the horrific massacre that ends by killing everyone except the brother, who is cursed to be ON FIRE FOREVER, the first chapter is an amazing and appalling experience. Sadly, the rest of the volume can’t keep the pace, though it tries, particularly at the end with, well, the man who asks people to love his dogs, I’ll leave it at that. We do meet a young woman who might be a regular in the future, and who seems to resemble our hero’s dead sister, but honestly this is the sort of series where you can never really count on anyone to survive more than 30 pages or so.
This is a story well-told, but I would not remotely call it enjoyable. There’s no hope and joy to balance out the unrelenting awful that is this world, from the deep freeze everyone seems to be in, to the village resorting to chopping off a boy’s arm over and over again to eat so they don’t starve, to endless rape threats, actual rape, and degradation of just about everyone. I’m not actually sure where the book is going with this – the cliffhanger to the first volume has our hero meeting the guy who killed his sister, but there’s apparently seven other volumes after this, so I assume revenge may be more complicated than he thought. In the end, it’s rare I read a title that I can intellectually know is well done while still getting a visceral “HELL NO” emotional reaction from me. If you like that sort of thing, and don’t mind feeling icky, given Fire Punch a try, because it’s a trip.