Fire Punch is a Japanese manga series written and illustrated by Chainsaw Man author Tatsuki Fujimoto. It is serialized through Shueisha’s Shonen Jump+ from April 2016 to January 2018, with a total of 83 chapters divided into eight volumes. With the final volume of saga releasing on October 15, 2020, So let’s see the dramatic debut.
Chainsaw Man Author’s Fire Punch Manga
Fire Punch isn’t a saga meant for the faint hearted. The series goes from 0 to 100 in a flash and the reader is left dumbstruck trying to process what’s actually going on. The series starts off with a scene of a child severing his own arm with an axe. This is just the beginning… Elucidating further, there is incest, rape, slavery, torture, murder, suicide, etc. to say the least. However, the overarching story of Fire Punch is remarkably bleak and hollow.
The story takes place somewhere on Earth that experiences eternal winter, supposedly because of an evil figure named the ‘Ice Witch’. The Ice Witch is one among the ‘Blessed’ who populate and make later appearances in the story. The protagonist or our main character is Agni, another Blessed with regenerative powers. He lives with his similarly gifted sister in a small village where they use their regenerative powers to feed the villagers with their own flesh.
Things start to take a turn for the worse when soldiers from a city called Behemdorg, led by a Blessed named Doma come to know about the village and its cannibalistic ways of survival. Disgusted by the same, Doma sets the village ablaze with his fire powers that do not extinguish until their fuel, in this case, human bodies, turns to ash.
Agni somehow manages to survive Doma’s never-ending flames. With the entire village massacred and his sister turned to ash, Agni vows revenge while his body continues to burn and that’s how Fire Punch is born.
How does Fujimoto balance the darkness of the story?
Readers of Chainsaw Man know how Fujimoto tries to remedy his relentless darkness in a tale with crude humor. In Fire Punch, humor sets in when Agni meets Togata, a sadistic, perverted character who is obsessed with movies. She supposedly lost her mind after being alive for over 300 years. She too has regenerative powers like Agni. Togata and Agni’s antics give a cheerful boost to the otherwise overwhelming darkness as humanity struggles with the question of its ongoing survival. Togata’s character manages to save the story from turning into a self-righteous edgefest.
The story also presents a tasteful take on LGBT and Trans issues, which pump in more life into the otherwise heartless story.
Agni: A self-proclaimed Hero?
After the destruction of the village Agni held dear at the hands of Doma, Agni had only one purpose in life: Kill Doma. But things change pretty quickly and aren’t as simple as they seem.
It takes Agni eight years to hone his regenerative powers to the point that he can bare and control Doma’s never-ending flames, which constantly tear his body apart.
On his way to Behemdorg, he meets an electricity-type Blessed named Sun who tells him that Doma is now an old man and his haunted by his past atrocities on people, including destroying Agni’s village. Rather than put up a proper fight, Doma now begs Agni for forgiveness. At this point, killing Doma would neither satisfy Agni nor the readers as Doma clearly regrets his actions. However, Agni kills Doma to fulfill his motive. This is quite similar to Attack on Titan’s Eren Yeager who also has an interesting moral trajectory.
But the dilemma that plays out in the story is kind of enjoyable and meaningful at the same time. It helps us realize that morality is always subjective and the idea of a righteous hero props up from certain ideological and subjective viewpoints. Given this context, Tatsuki Fujimoto also makes the very smart choice of combining Fire Punch’s meditation on the shonen protagonist and subjective morality with the idea of projected and assumed roles, suggesting that the hero is only heroic because those around them, including the reader, assume them to be. If Agni wasn’t a blazing ‘matchstick man’ among a frozen landscape, it’s therefore unlikely that he would have become the hero that the story and the characters both need him to be.
Chainsaw Man vs Fire Punch
Fujimoto’s art in Fire Punch is drastically different from the more conventional artwork of Chainsaw Man. His composition in Fire Punch is genuinely breathtaking and captures a real sense of artistry that someone wouldn’t expect from a series otherwise so brutally violent and deeply twisted.
However, it is crucial to remember Fire Punch is drastically and radically different from Chainsaw Man. The latter doesn’t exactly cover the same type of dark subject matter that the former covers.
While Fire Punch lacks the same amount of structure and careful balance of Chainsaw Man, it surpasses it in terms of visceral emotion and raw atmosphere. In many ways the series feels like an unchained Fujimoto; less refined and coherent but also infinitely more distinct and innovative. Fire Punch is quite a gripping read from the start to the end as it revolves around the idea of what makes a hero and how the society pushes a person into roles that might not suit them.