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by Matthieu Pinon,

Look Back

Anime Film Review

Look Back Anime Film Review
Ayumu Fujino pleases her schoolmates in every single issue of her elementary school's magazine. Soon enough, this pretentious student meets a very skillful rival: Kyomoto, who is a far more talented artist than her. Despite all her efforts to become as good as her, she seems to always stay stuck behind. However, everything changes in middle school: Fujino has to bring Kyomoto a school diploma - Kyomoto suffers from such a severe agoraphobia that she can't leave her room. This unplanned encounter leads both girls to work together and venture into the professional manga industry - for the benefit of Fujino, who ends up being the only one credited for their works. This exhilarating adventure comes to an end when Kyomoto expresses her intentions to drop everything in order to attend Arts School. This decision is going to heavily impact her fate, as well as Fujino's...

Creating a manga is like creating a TV series: every week, readers wait for a new chapter to be published in their favorite magazine, and then they can also buy a full "season" when a compiled volume is published. Tatsuki Fujimoto is very familiar with this process as he serialized two titles: Fire Punch and Chainsaw Man. When he published Look Back on the Shonen Jump+ website in July 2021, he gave up on that process and delivered what would be closer, if we keep up with the analogy, to a long-feature project. The story goes on for 143 pages, all delivered in one go, and was devoured by no less than 2.5 million people on the day of its release. Free from convention, Fujimoto made the best of this unusual format to explore the meaning of manga. Through this, in both form and content, he expressed very opposite feelings, torn between love and hate, experimenting with all the narrative codes he could.

So it's unsurprising that his one-shot was adapted into an anime film. The film is very short—compressing even more of the feelings Fujimoto conveyed in the original manga. Young gifted animator Kiyotaka Oshiyama (whom Masaaki Yuasa asked to design monsters on DEVILMAN crybaby) led this adaptation dedicated to Japanese comics. Oshiyama successfully met the challenge of this adaptation on two levels: it offers a faithful adaptation while still carrying Fujimoto's personal ambitions.

Some of the film's shots are directly transposed from the manga, which seems to be used as a storyboard. Fujimoto's passion for movies shows in how he lays out his comics. One can't help but be impressed by the editing performance delivered by Kiyoshi Hirose (INU-OH, Mob Psycho 100, DAN DA DAN). The direction is also aligned with Fujimoto's artistic methods, respecting how shots are spatially combined, as well as the different zoom-in and-out effects.

On top of that, Oshiyama displays many other skills–like the technically impressive shot where Fujino is running. The scene opens with a zenith angle, swapped to a long traveling shot leading to a panoramic view. We could also mention a very soft use of a blur (out of focus) on Fujino's hair when she learns about the tragedy that struck her old friend or even the subtle use of a split-screen, evocating a patchwork of various manga panels. Oshiyama conveys his intention to deliver an animated film while staying true to the original manga. This is clearly understandable from the get-go, where he transposes the messy sketch from a 10-year-old Fujino into a very bright-colored short-feature film that seems to be directed by a novice.

The rest of the movie contrasts greatly with this real-fake "novice film," especially regarding the character's movements. In just a few shots, without any dialogue, Fujino's pride and Kyomoto's timidity are clearly expressed and understood by the audience. The animation finds its climax when both young women are in harmony, running hand in hand—a particularly notable shot for its use of lighting and colorization.

There is another element that distinguishes Look Back from other anime movies: sound. Or, shall we say, the lack of sound? The music composed by haruka nakamura is nonetheless fantastic–sometimes reminiscent of Yoko Kanno's musical musings–but it's the final, rather long scene that is deeply affecting. Without a single note, without a word, without a sound, it astonished everyone in the audience at Annecy, where the film was shown for its world preview. Before the screening, Kiyotaka Oshiyama apologized for delivering a non-finalized version of the film –which is still undergoing editing. Even if some small details are still missing, Look Back was warmly received by the (very demanding) audience of the biggest animation festival in the world. The finished film should, without a doubt, be acclaimed by most people.

Overall : A
Story : A
Animation : B+
Music : A-
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Production Info:
Director: Kiyotaka Oshiyama
Screenplay: Kiyotaka Oshiyama
Music: haruka nakamura
Original creator: Tatsuki Fujimoto
Character Design: Kiyotaka Oshiyama
Art Director: Kiyoshi Sameshima
Sound Director: Eriko Kimura
Director of Photography: Kazuto Izumita

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Look Back (movie)

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