By Dustin Cabeal
I judged Fire Punch by its cover… and the name. Even as a reviewer, as someone that’s constantly surprised by the things he reads, I still judge books by their cover. The thing I have going for me is that I don’t stop there, and still give it a shot. Sometimes I’m right; sometimes I’m wrong. I always want to be wrong, and I’m glad to say that in the case of Fire Punch, I was very wrong.
Fire Punch is not for the faint of heart. There is a level of maturity to this book that is beyond graphic violence or sex. Strangely enough, those two items are mentioned and never really show. No, the maturity comes from a place of survival in a world that’s dying… so take notes, this could be on test in a few years.
After a quick and needless intro, we find a boy named Agni getting ready to have his arm chopped off by his sister Luna. He tells her to get it in one swing this time, and sure enough, she chops his damn arm off. Agni is what they call “Blessed,” he has the power to regenerate his body, and so his arm quickly grows back. His sister has the same power, but her gift isn’t as strong. Her regeneration takes over an hour, while he is within seconds. Now, you might be wondering why the hell they’re chopping his arm off… well, the world is frozen. A Blessed referred to as the Winter Witch has made it an eternally frozen world and so there are no crops, and everything dies easily. If you haven’t guessed already, Agni and Luna keep the village fed… with his arms. They’re cannibals to an extent. They don’t brag about it, but it preserves their lives in a frozen wasteland. Not all of them give in to the experience, but the ones that do are getting by in a harsh, cruel world.
One day a plane lands in the village. A dickhead gets out and announces that they’re fighting a war against the Winter Witch and that they’ll be taking their supplies. Agni puts up a protest and the dickhead Doma gets excited to see a young person. He tells him to come join them in the city that his king has built. Everything comes crashing down when the cannibalism is discovered. It turns out Doma is Blessed as well and can create a fire that burns until it’s consumed everything it’s touched.
Doma lights Agni on fire.
Now, I’m sure some of you reading this are comic book readers. Imagine if Wolverine was lit on fire by an eternal flame? A fire that would burn until he was a hush of a person and if he regenerated, it would continue to burn. That is what has happened to Agni. He spends years on fire, just trying to control his regeneration. This is of course after he watches his sister die, she suffered for a while in the same state, but due to her lowered regeneration, eventually, she gave out. Now, all Agni wants it to find and kill Doma.
There is a lot more to the first volume, but that one little aspect should be enough to entice you to read more. It’s not that the characters are deep. Agni and Luna are the most well-rounded, with a third character named Sun, being up there as well. They’re all underdeveloped at the moment, but the concept and plot make up for it. There is an incredible amount of world building done in this first volume and with that out of the way, there’s room for more character development. The maturity of the world is something that makes this manga stand out. I’m not even sure what I could compare it to given it’s meshing of genres. It’s weird at times.
The artwork is not a style that I usually gravitate towards. Though I enjoyed it for this story, I still don’t see myself going for more titles done in this art style. There’s a clean look to the designs; everyone is almost a little too similar looking at times, with just different hairstyles. Agni stands out though. Not only is he just walking around naked with his “Dick on fire” as others describe him, but he moves and adjusts the flames so that he can function. It's interesting to see creator Tatsuki Fujimoto draw something so challenging as constant fire. It’s not as if it can always look the same because it’s fire. It’s believable and hell, it could almost have more panels dedicated to its movement, but that would be tiring to illustrate, and I’m sure other readers would be bored by it.
Fire Punch surprised me. I’m very curious to see what happens with this story because it sent my imagination on fire. That’s a good and bad thing because I have to reign it in and not go ahead of the story, but it makes me want to read more… and now!
Fire Punch vol. 1