Imouto no Ane by Tatsuki Fujimoto

Considering that we’re talking about Tatsuki Fujimoto, I feel compelled to bring up Chainsaw Man. The fact that I bring this soon-to-be-animated manga up should surprise no one. It would be absurd of me to claim, perhaps even imply, that anything other than this Chainsaw Man could be considered his magnum opus. Throughout the course of this relatively short but successful career, Fujimoto has produced a number of high quality works — one-shots included.

I first want to make it known how bizarre and puzzled I was during my first experience with Fujimoto-sensei’s work. My introduction, like many others, was Chainsaw Man. The intermingling of brutality and comedy is not exactly uncommon, but it isn’t something that appears all too often in WSJ. The dark, violent humor makes for an enjoyable read; and, obviously, it helps a story set itself apart from the typical mold. This is what stirred the pot for me during my first experience with Fujimoto.

Apart from that which I have already called attention to, I cannot say for certain what exactly it is that makes Fujimoto’s work so compelling. Yes, the art is good — the style maintains a peculiarly potent quality, and it remains unique while also implementing general stylistic choices. In addition, Fujimoto has a solid grasp upon the comedic, as his humor weaves in and out of his narrative(s) with genuine fluidity. Regardless of whatever it may be though, it’s at least clear to me that Fujimoto’s signature is immersed within each and every page — in each and every line.

I was impressed with this one-shot, and I felt that thematic depth was rather unusual for the format. Some may be inclined to disagree, which I would not blame anyone for doing so. Regardless, I feel that the key to discovering (and thereby receiving) the message of Imouto no Ane is siphoning through the lewd overtones while minding the realistic undertones. As its story unfolds, this one-shot reveals that there is more to it than meets the eye. We should neither judge a manga by its cover, even if it contains a nude girl, nor shall the characters judge and/or chastise the individual found therein. At least that is how it should be.

The action and conflict within the narrative of this one-shot rises to the surface when the conditions of the protagonist’s current state of being are made known:

The MC is a student at a high school which specializes in art. After expressing regret for attending such a school, the winning art piece of the aforementioned contest is revealed: a painted figure of a girl in the nude. This alone would not exactly warrant a ton of concern — though, I am not ashamed to argue that such a painting is ethically ambiguous at the very least. Though I would not say that it is merely the principle of the nude painting being called into question; rather, it is the question of the individual who is found within the painting.

It would not take much for someone to guess that the nude individual found in the painting is the protagonist. This produces a deep sense a shame within herself, along with more than enough attention from her peers as a result of noticing that she is the school’s centerfold. Understandably growing weary of the routine (being recognized and having constant remarks about her nude self thrown in her face, etc.), the MC complains to a teacher. As opposed to providing her with the help she seeks, he tells her that the rules are the rules; the rule is that the winner’s piece will hang in its place for an entire year until a successor takes its place the following year. She has to take her concerns to the artist.

In short, the MC’s younger sister was responsible for the artwork. The painting of the MC taunts her, and it causes palpable anxiety for her. This is made known to the readers, in typical Fujimoto fashion, as the discomfort is exemplified in both the artwork and dialogue, along with various other subtleties. All of these factors combine with one another for the sake of developing a sinister mood within the flow of the story.

As I was reading, I couldn’t help but wonder just how the MC planned to retaliate against her younger sister. Speaking from my own limited experiences, it is an accurate depiction of how it feels when a younger sibling inadvertently shows how talented they are. When someone younger than us does this, it is not uncommon for it to produce feelings of self-doubt within ourselves. Particularly when it comes to watching younger siblings grow up and into their own, it can be difficult to process the conflicting feelings that we experience as a result of this process of growing into adulthood.

As an older sibling, you feel the incessant need to not only protect your younger siblings but also to prove your own abilities and aptitude. This need, in my opinion, is more of an unconscious drive than something that sits at the front of our minds. It is something that we feel the effects of on a daily basis, but it is not a perpetual conscious experience. This phenomenon is what makes it part of seeing younger siblings succeed: it causes us to take a look in the mirror. When we see our little brother or sister achieve their goals, it causes us as the older sibling to examine areas in our lives where we have fallen short.

I am not saying that this is something that eats me, or anyone else for that matter, up. This is not something that I struggle with, but it is a feeling that I have experienced on a number of occasions. It is human nature, and it is illustrated throughout the pages of Fujimoto’s one-shot. By the time of Imouto no Ane’s conclusion, readers can rest easy in knowing that these feelings of inadequacy can be turned around and used as a source of inspiration. Regardless of our age and who was born first, siblings are siblings until the end. Imouto no Ane is a story about this unbreakable bond, truly.

Concluding Thoughts

What this work measures out to be is that of a compelling tale that accurately portrays the inherent complexity of the sibling dynamic. Based off of what little I know, being in a similar position as the MC (at least in terms of my filial/sibling status), I find that this work captures them in an ultimately fulfilling and worthwhile way.

Imouto no Ane is merely another cog in the machine that is Fujimoto’s corpus. It is quintessentially Fujimoto, in that it is able to dig itself into the hearts of readers while intentionally implementing elements of the lewd and humorous. This is a tale that provides readers a glimpse into the comradery and the ultimately dichotomous relationship that exists and persists between siblings. Given its nature as a one-shot, I feel that it is worth the rating. Personally would not go anywhere below a 7-8/10 on this one. Not that it matters.

At any rate, as someone who has siblings of my own, this is something that I was able to appreciate it and relate to. It checked all the boxes for me. Solid read.

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