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Japan Manga Magazine Editors Are Frustrated Because Everyone Wants to Be Fujimoto Itsuki

By Isabella Jiangcheng
Aug. 2, 2023 updated 11:16


New manga artists in Japan increasingly imitating Fujimoto Itsuki has become a problem that the manga industry has had to confront in recent times. The artist who created Chainsaw Man is famous for his quirky personality, which is also reflected in the unique character design and plot development in his works. He rose to prominence with his one-of-a-kind art style, but now, every new manga artist seems to want to emulate his style.

The Shinsekai Manga Award was established in 2017 by JUMP, the most prominent manga publisher in Japan. This monthly competition invites creators to submit their entries through the official JUMP website, with the list of winners subsequently announced on JUMP's Twitter account. The selected artists not only receive substantial cash prizes but also have the opportunity to have their works published in the magazine.

However, the editorial department has recently been inundated with submissions that bear a striking resemblance to Fujimoto Itsuki's style.

For instance, a short story titled "Don't Let the 15-Year-Old Spring Cry" received a commendation, and its author claims to be a 14-year-old junior high school girl. The story shares numerous similarities with Fujimoto Itsuki's pseudo-online persona, Nagayama Koharu.

The narrative revolves around a common plot device: following Koharu's death, she retains her memories and is repeatedly reborn, carrying her past experiences with her.

This premise is quintessentially Fujimoto Itsuki. His works often commence with a seemingly ordinary framework, only to unravel into bizarre and fantastical plots, drawing readers into a surreal world and providing them with a rollercoaster-like experience.

In the manga's opening, the male and female protagonists, both junior high school students, find themselves sitting together on a rainy bus ride. With a smile, Koharu informs her boyfriend of her intention to commit suicide the following Friday. Koharu strikes a pact with her boyfriend to be reborn as their child.

Several years later, the male protagonist's wife gives birth to a daughter who bears a striking resemblance to Koharu.

After a brief glimpse into their daily family life, just when readers anticipate the manga will delve into the nuances of "raising a daughter," the narrative abruptly shifts, and Koharu once again takes her own life.

Over the ensuing years, Koharu continues to be reborn, repeatedly appearing before the male protagonist and meeting her demise in his presence.

To be fair, this manga presents a solid story, replete with plot twists and profound meaning. However, the familiarity of the plot has led many readers to share the same sentiment: when one absorbs too much of Fujimoto Itsuki's influence, works like this are bound to emerge.

Publishers have recently expressed grave concerns over the prevailing trend of new manga artists overwhelmingly imitating Fujimoto Itsuki. Even Matsui Yuusei, the author of "Assassination Classroom" and one of the judges, felt compelled to step forward and appeal to everyone to cease imitating Fujimoto Itsuki:

“While the newcomers' overall standard is commendable, too many are undeniably influenced by Fujimoto Itsuki. The submitted works tend to be episodic life dramas, which can grow wearisome for readers. I implore everyone to enhance their originality and genuinely contemplate how to make their works stand out from the crowd.”


Being unique or having a distinctive style has always been a prominent label associated with Fujimoto Itsuki. 

You might get a taste of that from the ‘infamous’ interview "Q&A with Manga Artist Fujimoto Itsuki," which was published on the Weekly Shonen Jump editorial department's blog in 2020:

Q: Before creating a character, do you usually start with a general concept or do you create a detailed character profile?

A: I just draw.

Q: Your use of colors is always bold and avant-garde. How do you decide on the color palette?

A: I rely on intuition.

Q: Your storylines are always unexpected yet logical. What theory do you use to construct the plot?

A: I rely on intuition.

Q: Any advice for aspiring comic artists? A: Sign up for Netflix!Q: Any advice for aspiring comic artists? A: Sign up for Netflix!

This blog aims to provide guidance and support to aspiring manga artists who wish to forge a career in the field. The specific impact of the "Q&A with Fujimoto Itsuki" on those artists remains uncertain. However, a significant portion of new manga artists have begun idolizing the idiosyncratic demeanor of Fujimoto Itsuki.

Let's rewind to 2020 when "Chainsaw Man" was in its thrilling serialization phase, captivating readers and gaining popularity. Catchphrases like “Awesome!,” "Halloween," and "I'm gradually understanding everything" would trend on social media every week. At that time, the most common word readers used to describe the manga was “freedom.”

With each mind-blowing plot twist, exclamations would flood social media, proclaiming, "Fujimoto Itsuki, my mad hero.”

In an industry saturated with creative conformity, "Chainsaw Man" stood out with its unparalleled and high-quality content. Beyond the work itself, Fujimoto Itsuki's unconventional behavior made him unpredictable. Phrases like "crazy person" almost became a term of endearment from readers, applauding Fujimoto Itsuki's distinctive approach.

Fast forward three years since the completion of the first part of "Chainsaw Man," and during this time, Fujimoto Itsuki has released several short stories, such as "Mouzen Gaeshi," "Sayonara Eri," and "Sui Shin Ichi.”

As these works hit the shelves, readers' teasing of Fujimoto Itsuki shifted from "my mad hero" to "Fujimoto Itsuki, you're so gentle.”

Compared to his two long-form manga, "Fire Punch" and "Chainsaw Man," Fujimoto Itsuki's short stories are grounded in the real world, providing a greater sense of realism. The protagonists in this manga also bear a resemblance to Fujimoto Itsuki himself, as they showcase his most genuine emotions to the readers (although he doesn't openly admit that the characters are based on himself). Fujimoto Itsuki vividly depicts his own emotions, striking a chord with many readers.

In the eyes of many, Fujimoto Itsuki is no longer just the eccentric "crazy person" but has embraced a newfound gentleness.

This new evaluation of Fujimoto Itsuki signifies his ability to strike a balance between personal style and the quality of his works, catering to niche enthusiasts while achieving commercial success. However, it also means that his creative patterns are becoming more predictable.

The juxtaposition of virtual and real worlds, the use of continuous panels to evoke a cinematic feel, and the employment of character deaths to generate dramatic tension—these techniques are becoming commonplace in Fujimoto Itsuki's works and are easily imitated. Consequently, the manga industry has witnessed the rise of numerous "Fujimoto Itsuki-style" authors.

Nevertheless, Fujimoto Itsuki's works are built upon a unique character design, insane plotlines, and cinematic paneling. It is the harmonious combination of these elements that creates his distinct personal style.

As Hattori Hiroyuki, the editor-in-chief of JUMP, once remarked, "Creators who achieve immense popularity must possess talents that are difficult to replicate." 

New manga artists who blindly imitate Fujimoto Itsuki's style without possessing his abilities end up with mundane character designs, incomprehensible plotlines, and confusing panel transitions in their works.

Just recently, the newcomer manga competition in the neighboring Weekly Shonen Champion concluded, and Suzuki Dai, the author of "Kizuna Ichidai" and one of the judges, expressed a similarly "less optimistic" sentiment:

"Due to the influence of a certain magazine, we've received an overwhelming number of demon-themed submissions lately. I urge everyone to have confidence and compete with originality.”


Indeed, the situation is far from optimistic, and it's not just aspiring manga artists who are facing challenges.

Weekly Shonen Jump, founded in 1968, is celebrating its 55th anniversary this year. In any industry, that is no longer considered youthful.

Suzuki Dai, in his judge's summary, also acknowledged that the entire publishing industry is grappling with the profound impact of digital e-books, and comprehensive decline in the sales of physical magazines.

Over the past few years, Weekly Shonen Jump's circulation has dipped below 2 million copies on multiple occasions, which is less than one-third of its peak. This magazine, once perched atop the pinnacle of shonen manga publications, has needed to chart new paths in this era.

In 2018, Weekly Shonen Jump placed heavy emphasis on four ongoing series at the time: "Dr. STONE," "The Promised Neverland," "Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba," and "We Never Learn." They were anointed the "New Big Four.”

Last year, we witnessed the conclusion of these four series without much fanfare. Their endings failed to make significant waves.

Today, while Weekly Shonen Jump continues to serialize many outstanding series, there is scant reader interest in which old series are drawing to a close or which new series are making their debut. It's a rarity to see manga works breaking through and igniting internet trends like "Yare Yare Daze.”

For Weekly Shonen Jump, what is most crucial now is not the emergence of a second Fujimoto Itsuki or a second "Chainsaw Man," but a lineup that can sustain the magazine's popularity, akin to the likes of "Bleach," "Naruto," and "One Piece."