Cover Image: Tatsuki Fujimoto Before Chainsaw Man: 17-21

Tatsuki Fujimoto Before Chainsaw Man: 17-21

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'17-21' is a showcase of a popular mangaka's early work before his hit series - notably Tatsuki Fujimoto of 'Chainsaw Man.' Given the nature of this compilation this is mainly geared toward those who are engaged into Fujimoto's work - noting the evolution of an author's artistic and storytelling style. As someone who is not an avid fan of his series, I can still recommend this volume as a collection of witty, wry, and grim one-shots (stand alone stories). 

Fans and otherwise can enjoy four stories: 
1) an absurdist survival narrative of two humans disguising themselves from predatory aliens aptly called "A Couple Clucking Chickens Were Still Kickin' in the Schoolyard,"
2) a suspenseful tale of a  student confronting a schoolyard shooter in "Sasaki Stopped a Bullet,"
3) a funny rom com of continual inconveniences and cockblocking in "Love is Blind" and,
4) a disarming and charming story between a dense assassin and a weary vampire in "Shikaku."

One note here is that  all of these stories teeter to life-and-death circumstances; whether it involves a potential alien invasion or one already it is all fair game. As comedic as these stories can get, is a pulse beating for taking the risk in spite of the consequences. A bullet can take a life, yet can catching one change the shooter's life for the better? How critical is a high school confession on your last da when there is imminent danger around you? How do you spice a life of eternity? Fujimoto clearly demonstrates these with a wicked sense of humor that comes at the cost of someone's ego or life. It is finding flattery within the farce. 

Fujimoto is an accomplished artist of this decade and this collection shows the potential his publishers see in him. Thankfully Western audiences, including myself, can now have access to enjoy a one-of-a-kind voice within the industry.
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A delightful and interesting collection of short manga stories! Fujimoto's style is still a bit raw in his younger years but it makes up with style and character. Definitely a good addition to any manga lovers collection. My favorite story is Love Is Blind, I genuinely laughed out loud at the alien bit.
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*ARC provided by NetGalley in return for an honest review*

DISCLAIMER: This book is not a prequel to Chainsaw Man.
* I did list this disclaimer for my friend... you know who you are.

Honestly, these short stories were really enjoyable. As per usual with anthologies, some of the stories are hit or miss based on your personal preferences and what you enjoy. However, I think this book is great for anyone who enjoys collecting multiple works from an artist and for those curious as to how Fujimoto got his start.
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In the book itself, Tatsuki Fujimoto expressed being hesitant about getting 17-21 published. I can see why; some artists understandably cringe when they look at their older work and the art looks rough (although the panel layouts are very well done). I'm glad 17-21 got published, as it shows Fujimoto's growth as an artist and writer. Every author has a distinct voice and I can see how the same person who made these comics ended up making Chainsaw Man. Fujimoto also expressed their process for improving their art (spoiler: it's with lots of practice), which is always encouraging for anyone who's aiming for self-improvement. (I received a free ARC of this book from the publisher via NetGalley.)
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This collection is interesting as a restrospective of Fujimoto's earlier works, but if you're not already a fan of Chainsaw Man or his stuff, I don't know if it'll be for you. None of the stories really stood out to me, but I did get a laugh out of the "Love is Blind" story.
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It’s crazy to believe that Tatsuki Fujimoto is only in his late 20s (and about a month younger than myself). It’s also wild to think that he had some killer manga before Fire Punch. Tatsuki Fujimoto Before Chainsaw Man: 17-21 is an anthology of assorted one-shots from the Chainsaw Man mangaka. It’s a mostly strong showing of interesting manga stories, and demonstrates the writing chops of the author.

This anthology collects four stories, each from Fujimoto’s college years. A Couple Clucking Chickens Were Still Kickin’ in the Schoolyard, Sasaki Stopped a Bullet, Love is Blind, and Shikaku. The stories have their own spin on the genre they represent, from a romantic comedy to a sci-fi monster adventure. While Fujimoto’s trademark style is present in these stories, it’s interesting to see how his work advances in that aspect. My favorite would be the first one, as it has the biggest twist in its storytelling and raw artwork. Sasaki Stopped a Bullet and Love is Blind have similar school themes with much different approaches. The weakest of the stories is Shikaku, but only because the “assassin turned vampire” plot is a bit overused.

All in all, this collection of one-shots is a great recommendation for those looking to get started with Fujimoto’s work. It’s a brilliant showing of how versatile the mangaka is, and there’s a lot of emotions to process throughout.
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Although Tatsuki Fujimoto has now become a household name in the manga world with Chainsaw Man – currently being adapted by anime studio MAPPA to great success – the manga artist already had a long-running manga series, Fire Punch, which ran for eight volumes. However, like many manga artists, Fujimoto had produced a series of one-shots before jumping into the long-running format where they are able to showcase their art-styles. As the two-volume anthology collection of one-shot stories that Fujimoto wrote and illustrated, 17-21 covers four stories that the artist told during that age period in his life.  

Beginning with “A Couple Clucking Chickens Were Kickin’ in the Schoolyard”, it tells the story of two high school students trying to survive their world that has been taken over by aliens. Naturally, they disguise themselves as chickens, of which the aliens are completely clueless about. From an artistic standpoint, this is the crudest of the four stories as all the characters, human and alien, are drawn in a style slightly above sketch. But a narrative standpoint, you can tell Fujimoto has a wild imagination that is darkly comedic, whilst never losing sight of presenting weighty themes, such as race issues. 

The next two stories feel the closest to Chainsaw Man, not in terms of devilish content, but how it depicts adolescence in a humorous, if silly fashion. “Sasaki Has Stopped the Bullet” – Fujimoto’s personal favorite from this collection – is about the eponymous student having a crush on her teacher, whom he sees as a god, but when a gun-wielding man demands to have sex with the teacher due to failing in life, Sasaki steps up. Forty pages long, this particular story goes off in strange directions from silly comedy to outlandish sci-fi concepts, and yet it is rooted in what is motivating Sasaki and what he hopes to achieve later in life, no matter how outlandish. 

Fujimoto is able to take a normal situation that we can all relate to and take it to strange tangents, which is what happens in “Love is Blind”. Ibuki, the student council president, wants to confess his love to Yuri as they walk together to their respected homes, only for some obstacles to get in the way, such as a robbery and an impending alien invasion. While that last bit may sound like a repeat from the first one-shot, how it gets resolved is one of the reasons why “Love is Blind” is the funniest of them all. The comedy is driven by Ibuki’s single-minded determination, no matter what outside forces will try to interfere – even his intense facial expressions bring out the laughs.

When we get the finale, “Shihaku”, this is where you can see the early signs of Fujimoto developing the style that we all know, as well as his black sense of humor in Chainsaw Man. Centering in the eponymous assassin, she has been assigned to kill the very person who hired her, which turns out to be more complicated than it turns out. From the quirky sensibilities of Shihaku herself (reminiscent of Power from Chainsaw Man), it feels like a precursor to what Fujimoto would eventually do, and even though not everyone was on board with them, the later one-shot titles he did in-between his flagship manga show a maturity and a craftsmanship that is worth checking out.

Like many of these early short story collections by manga creators, 17-21 feels like a preview for what Tatsuki Fujimoto will eventually do, but the stories themselves have enough to enjoy on their own merits.
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Tatsuki Fujimoto: Before Chainsawman 17-21 is a collection of shorts from the acclaim author. All of these shorts are a fun read and I wish and hope he will go back and give these great stories a proper serious. Some really great concepts and artwork
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Tatsuki Fujimoto Before Chainsaw Man: 17-21 is a compilation of some early one shot manga by Tatsuki Fujimoto, the creator of Chainsaw Man.

Tatsuki Fujimoto Before Chainsaw Man: 17-21
Written by: Tatsuki Fujimoto
Publisher: Shueisha Inc.
English Publisher: VIZ Media
Release Date: January 17, 2023

This collection includes four one shot manga, which were drawn when Fujimoto was between the ages of 17 and 21 (hence the 17-21 in the title).

The first one shot in this volume is “A Couple Clucking Chickens Were Still Kickin’ in the Schoolyard,” which was Fujimoto’s first work, and it was nominated for the December Jump SQ. Monthly Award. According to what Fujimoto writes in here, this one shot was drawn while his start at college was delayed due to the 2011 Tohoku earthquake. The gist of the story is that in 2019, there was a war between aliens and humankind on Earth, and the humans lost. Most humans have been killed and eaten by the aliens, but the story focuses on two humans who are hiding at a school by wearing chicken heads and pretending to be chickens (which is something these aliens won’t eat). The story is a little on the strange side, but there were a couple of twists that appeared that I hadn’t been expecting. After learning that this story was written and drawn in the wake of the 2011 earthquake, it does help to explain the darker and dystopian feel of this piece. Art-wise, it’s a little on the rough side, but it’s understandable when you factor in that this was Fujimoto’s first work, and that he drew it at 17 years of age.

This is followed by “Sasaki Stopped a Bullet,” a one shot that won a Jury Special Award at the 5th Shueisha’s Crown Newcomers’ Award in 2013. In this story, a young man named Sasaki has developed a crush on his teacher and basically views her as a god. One day, one of the teacher’s old high school classmates barges into the classroom with a gun. Sasaki, as you can glean from the title, plays an important role in the story. This is another one shot with a twist, and I thought this twist added a nice touch to the story. With this piece, you can already see that Fujimoto’s art style had evolved and improved from the previous one. Of the four one shots included in this collection, this one was my favorite.

“Love Is Blind” is Fujimoto’s first published work, and it also won an Honorable Mention Award at the November 2013 Shueisha’s Crown Newcomers’ Award. It follows a young man who is about to graduate from high school and wants to confess his feelings to the girl he likes. But he has a hard time getting the words out, and it doesn’t help that he keeps getting interrupted. The interruptions go up in intensity, but our protagonist is more concerned about his love confession than anything else. I found this story to be quite amusing, and I thought Fujimoto’s art style had progressed even more than it had on “Sasaki Stopped a Bullet.” I can see why it received an Honorable Mention Award. This was also another strong one shot, although I liked “Sasaku Stopped a Bullet” just a little bit more.

The final one shot included in this collection is “Shikaku,” and the main character is a young woman who is a well-known assassin. It’s established at the beginning of the story that when she was a child, she had a fascination with pulling apart insects, and that her parents hated her and abused her because of it. We see her taking on an assassination job, and there’s a twist involved with the person who hired her. This twist ultimately leads to a twist that ends the story. Unfortunately, providing any more information delves into spoiler territory, and I don’t want to take away any potential surprises from this story’s plot twists. Tonally, I thought this one shot was the closest to what I know of Fujimoto’s work from the Chainsaw Man manga. The art style still isn’t quite to the level of Chainsaw Man in this one shot, but it’s certainly stronger than the art that appeared in “A Couple Clucking Chickens Were Still Kickin’ in the Schoolyard.”

I found Tatsuki Fujimoto Before Chainsaw Man: 17-21 to be a quick, yet enjoyable read. As a reader who has some familiarity with Fujimoto’s work through Chainsaw Man and Look Back, it was interesting to see the evolution of his art and storytelling in these one shots. From what I’ve seen, it appears there’s going to be a second volume of Tatsuki Fujimoto’s one shots coming out later in 2023, and I hope I can get an opportunity to read that volume as well.

If you’re a fan of Tatsuki Fujimoto and his work, I would highly recommend giving Tatsuki Fujimoto Before Chainsaw Man: 17-21 a shot. While readers who aren’t familiar with Fujimoto may find enjoyment in these one shots, I strongly feel that fans of his work will get more out of this release.
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This collection of Fujimoto's near-juvenalia was SHOCKINGLY good. Literally, I was gape-mouthed at how much I enjoyed these varied stories, though I can see the seeds of his later interests that he developed more fully in 'Chainsaw Man' getting explored here, in a variety of weird ways. I will definitely be picking up a hard copy of this.
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Tatsuki Fujimoto Before Chainsaw Man: 17-21 is a collection of four short stories written by the author prior to the serialization of his major works Fire Punch and Chainsaw Man. Fujimoto's more recent short stories ("Look Back," also published by VIZ) speak to his versatility as a storyteller and I think you can see that developed in these earlier works as well. The one-shots feature aliens, divine beings, and vampires yet grapple with decidedly human themes. There's definitely a rough around the edges charm to them and the chronological order of this volume emphasizes the growth in Fujimoto's artistry and storytelling. This is an essential for fans.
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My reviews are done in video format. I recommend following the link below to view the content as I've intended it.

Hello and welcome to the Warmadillo Inc Board Review of 17-21 by Tatsuki Fujimoto. For full disclosure a copy of this book was provided for free by the publisher for the purpose of this review. Now the format of this review will be slightly different because this volume is actually a collection of one-shots rather than a series. Since there are 4 stories and 5 of us, each member of the board will be reviewing an individual chapter with me providing the closing thoughts. With that out of the way, let's get started with A Couple Clucking Chickens Were Still Kickin' in the Schoolyard.

Warmadillo On the Desk
Something to note about this anthology is that the title 17-21 actually represents Fujimoto's age when creating each one-shot. I think that's important to establish because Clucking Chickens sure reads like something written by a teenager. It's got that classic flavor of a surface level observation masquerading as a big brain idea that reveals the hypocrisy of human society. Humans eat cows so what's the difference in aliens eating humans? Really makes you think. By Fujimoto's own admission, this work was made without a rough draft and he went straight to the inking process. It definitely shows.

Executive Warmadillo
I read Sasaki Stopped a Bullet and I'd like to issue a content warning for this chapter since it involves a school shooting. In the afterword, Fujimoto describes this as his favorite chapter in the anthology and I can certainly see why. It feels the most like his work with the brain dead protagonist, insane dialogue, and musings on the fundamental state of reality. It was a wonderful distillation of all the things I like about Fujimoto as a creator and the final page is so extremely something he would do. Really great stuff. 

Warmadillo On the Left
I don't think Fujimoto gets enough credit for is his talent for writing jokes and just how funny he is in general. I'm aware that all of you want mommy Makima to step on you and a good chunk want to bang Kobeni's car but there is more to manga than pretty waifus. The chapter Love is Blind is really a 31 page long joke. A joke that starts out not being funny but becomes absolutely hilarious as Fujimoto commits more and more to the bit. In the afterword, Fujimoto mentions that his editors complain that he says in 31 pages what everyone else can do in 16 and to that I say; his editors need a better sense of humor. 

Warmadillo After Dark
It's been interesting to hear you all talk about the other chapters because it sounds like it definitely felt like his work, whether it was actually good or not. In my chapter, Shikaku, the visuals are there, it even has a Diet Makima; but the feel was that this was created by someone else. The premise is straightforward and not very interesting, it has an extremely out of place fan-service moment, and the ending is just boring. Fujimoto explains that he created the rough draft when he had a 102 degree fever to see what he would make in that mental state. Just goes to show that you shouldn't work while sick.

Gentlemen, thank you for your thoughts. Allow me to close us out. 17-21 is a mixed bag in terms of the quality of its individual chapters. However, the entire selling point of the book is that it's a collection of Fujimoto's early work, not necessarily his best. This is really meant for completionists or for people that are so interested in Fujimoto as a creator, that they want to see how he evolved. If you just want more Chainsaw Man, Fire Punch, or Look Back tier content, you're not going to find it here. That being said, we're all big Fujimoto fans so I speak for all of us when I say that 17-21 is Warmadillo Inc: Recommended.
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This is a collection of short stories Fujimoto wrote early in his career, and while the stories are pretty varied, they all display his unique brand of humor.  The art style varies a bit as well, you can tell in some of the stories that Fujimoto was trying new things with his style before settling into what we see in Chainsaw Man.  The stories are all absurd, featuring humans hiding from aliens by wearing chicken masks, a teacher claiming to be a god, and an assassin hired to kill an immortal vampire.  The vampire one was easily my favorite, the story was solid, the art was great, and I found myself wanting more when it was done.  The others were ok, but I did think it was interesting that they included some notes from the author at the end of the stories explaining where the stories came from.  If you're a fan of Fujimoto's tone and art style, this is a must read, though don't expect consistency from all the stories.
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I went into this work completely blind to Chainsaw Man. As of this review I have neither read or watched the series everyone has been talking about. This collection was a curiosity for me, what would I find in this collection of early one-shots? Honestly, I was very impressed! Fujimoto has a clear and distinct flare to his work. This collection shows off a handful of genres, all done well, with a mix of interesting story beats and irreverence. I really liked everything I read in this collection. I think I'll finally get around to reading Chainsaw Man.
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While on the surface, this seems like a typical collection of 4 one-shots, the stories in Tatsuki Fujimoto Before Chainsaw Man: 12-21 serve as an important look at the creative development of one of manga's newest masters. 

While some of the stories are undeniably rough around the edges, they each still have the charm and character of Fujimoto's later works like, yes, Chainsaw Man and Look Back. For example, the relationship in Shikaku feels like it has a natural through line to ones in Chainsaw Man. 

This volume is essential for any fan of Fujimoto and his work.
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Tatsuki Fujimoto Before Chainsaw Man: 17-21 is a charming collection of Fujimoto's early comic works. As the title suggests, he made these comics between the ages of 17 to 21, and it was fun to read his early works to see how he's gotten to where he is now in his comic career.

The stories are mostly silly fun with leaps in logic peppered throughout, yet at their core, they all explore what it means to be human and what it means to live. Many of Fujimoto's characters in this collection act like partners in a comedy duo, playing off of each other and moving the story forward with their often nonsensical motives. 

Amanda Haley's translation is a joy to read, and Sabrina Heep's lettering skills are wonderful to see.

Story and Art by Tatsuki Fujimoto
Translation: Amanda Haley
Touch-Up Art and Lettering: Sabrina Heep
Design: Julian Robinson
Editor: Alexis Kirsch
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