This young mangaka, exhibited this week at the Angoulême Comics Festival, reveals on BFMTV the secrets of his tortured and melancholic universe, which tramples on the codes of traditional shōnen and leaves nobody insensitive. Unknown to the general public until six years ago, Tatsuki Fujimoto has established himself in a few years as one of the most essential mangakas currently working. Only 28 years old, the author is going through the craziest months of his life. The first part of Chainsaw Man ended with a final chapter of unexpected cruelty and melancholy. He then took his fans and peers by surprise with the heartbreaking one-shot “Look Back”, that has just been published in France by Kazé. The exhibition organized this week at the Angoulême Comics Festival confirms his international achievement, very rare for such a young author. He is the first surprised. "It's true that a lot has happened in the last few months!" he said in a rare interview with BFMTV, despite the fatigue readable on his face. "I can't look at what's going on with hindsight. Maybe I'll manage when I'm old, when I retire." This first, French, retrospective, which runs from March 17 to 20, provides a first assessment of an already perfectly coherent body of work, marked by visions of destruction of our world and nihilistic, depressive characters. By calling him a "hero of chaos", Frederico Anzalone, the curator of his exhibition, hit the nail on the head. "It suits me just fine!" he enthuses, sporting a T-shirt during the interview that reads "We scare because we care", the motto of Pixar Studios' Monsters & Co.'s children’s screams processor factory. Breaking the codes of shōnen Manga fans discovered Tatsuki Fujimoto with Fire Punch (2016-2018), the story of a man of fire, Agni, who becomes the messiah of a post-apocalyptic world. But it is thanks to Chainsaw Man (2018-), a more aggressive story than traditional shōnens, about a demon-hunting chainsaw man, that he has established himself as one of the new masters of the genre. In Japan, Chainsaw Man has sold 12 million copies. In France, nearly 500,000 volumes have been sold. Heir to mangakas who cannot be categorised such as Shintaro Kago (Fraction), Hiroaki Samura (The Dweller of Infinity) or Sui Ishida (Tokyo Ghoul), Tatsuki Fujimoto has been praised for his freedom of tone and his ability to imagine extremely devious scenarios, which thwart the codes of shōnen. Chainsaw Man particularly mocks the "naive and pretentious" heroes of these initiation stories for young people, "who spend their time chasing a goal that is beyond them." Fujimoto's heroes are always motivated by vile ambitions. Denji, the hero of Chainsaw Man, dreams of fondling a woman's breasts. "I wanted to do something very different from classic shōnens," the author confirms. "But the fact that my characters have very low ambitions is not related to the desire to break the codes of shōnen. When you look at the current young generation, they're kind of like that. They're not looking for a very high salary. They are content with 350,000 yen a month (or 2,734.70 euros). They try to live in a simple way, day by day. I don't criticize them. I think it's very good to live like that. That's why I created the character of Denji, whose ambition is extremely mediocre." "Inspired by how I feel." Fujimoto, too, has no disproportionate ambition. He does not seek to revolutionise manga. The idea for Chainsaw Man even came to him almost by chance. "I first had this visual idea, of a man with a chainsaw coming out of his heart. From there, I came up with a story following the advice of my editor." Fujimoto, however, aspires to help his readers better understand the world around them with his stories. A profession of faith that he made the character of Togata express in Fire Punch, an immortal film buff who dreams of staging the end of the world: "I used to watch my favorite films all the time to draw meaning, keys for my daily life", confides this character, one of the most complex and fascinating of his body of work. Tatsuki Fujimoto's stories evoke in a roundabout way the ambient chaos while testifying like a diary of what he feels at the time of his creation. His characters are thus solitary and immortal beings on the verge of madness, whose life is a Way of the Cross full of suffering. A metaphor of his condition as a mangaka. "I have never thought about this aspect of my work, but it's all inspired by how I feel, that's for sure," he says, analytic, with a touch of bitterness. "Maybe it's a reflection of my daily life. I work alone, for a weekly magazine. It's extremely hard work and I don't want my series to end! So I never stop working." But a cartoonist is not immortal, unlike his characters. Fujimoto knows this well. The author, who has no story in pre-publication at the moment, is taking it easy and is currently working on the sequel of Chainsaw Man, scheduled for this summer. Double Face With time, his stories and his line seem to soften. The last two volumes of Chainsaw Man, released last year, reveal a melancholy hitherto unusual in his work. "I always look for contrasts in my story. When there is a moment of great despair, I always try to change the mood in the next scene. That's why there's more melancholy in the last few volumes of Chainsaw Man. I also wanted to prepare the reader for the more tragic scenes at the end." In Tatsuki Fujimoto's stories, tragedy and humor are always mixed, as in the contemporary Korean cinema (Memories of Murder, The Chaser, The Wailing) that he is so fond of. "Every work needs these two aspects, a funny side and a serious side," he insists. "If a story doesn't have those two complementary elements, it can't hold up. Just look at the movie Parasite. The beginning is very funny and the second part is more serious. Every work has to have those two sides." That's what he tried to do in his latest story, Look Back, which is loosely based on his early manga work. In it, Fujimoto tells the story of the intersecting fates of two young women, Fujino and Kyômoto. One is destined to create stories and draw characters and the other to make background art, and eventually working in animation. Two characters who represent two complementary facets of his personality. And two paths between which he hesitated. "It is right. These two facets are slumbering inside me", recognizes the author who voluntarily maintains the mystery around his life. "I admire a lot the people who work in animation. They are always very good at drawing. I wish I was as good at animation as I am at manga." Threatening Letters Look Back also hints at the July 18, 2019, arson attack at Kyoto Animation Studio, in which 36 people died. Did he know any of the victims? The author refuses to speak on the subject. In general, Tatsuki Fujimoto never appears in public and never takes a stand on current issues - even in his manga. A caution related to the threatening letters he received. "I don't show my face for fear of being killed." This sword of Damocles nevertheless inspires him in his work. In Chainsaw Man, Fujimoto evokes this omnipresent fear of death, which he materializes in the gun demon, a monstrous creature capable of decimating half the population of a country in a matter of seconds. His editor Shihei Lin cynically believes that these threats are also proof of the success of the series, which has become a must-read: "In Japan, some extremely sensitive fans often react very badly if a character they love suffers atrocious things. They may want to take revenge. To avoid any risk, Fujimoto-sensei refuses to show his face, to keep his anonymity." Lack of time In Look Back, Tatsuki Fujimoto reveals herself with great sincerity and accuracy on the torments of artistic creation. "Creating a manga is extremely difficult, even painful," he confirms. "You start being a mangaka because you like to tell stories and draw. But once you practice this profession, you realize that you have to do everything yourself!" The insane pace of Japanese publishing often leads him to have to improvise. "When you work for a magazine that's published weekly, you don't have time. The pace is too intense and you have to work very fast. We refine the pencils, but when it comes to inking, there is always some improvisation to save time." This issue of lack of time distresses the author, who would like to be more involved in all areas of creation of his work: "I would like to be able to work on both the characters and the sets. Today, unfortunately, the work is so busy that I have to leave my sets to my assistants. To take it easy, Tatsuki Fujimoto favors short series and one-shots. "I love one-shots. It's a bit contradictory, but when I work on a series, I really want to work on a one-shot and when I work on a one-shot, I really want to work on a series!" Soon, the "Chainsaw Man” will reappear. If Look Back shows an author who has fully matured, who has completely assimilated his influences and now allows himself very bold framings, Tatsuki Fujimoto does not necessarily feel more comfortable with the codes of comics, a decade after his debut. "I still don't feel used to this job. In fact, I refuse to get used to it. You always have to feel like a beginner, in order to progress further. That's how a mangaka should live." But Fujimoto is no longer a beginner. Even his former assistants have become stars. Tatsuya Endō and Yukinobu Tatsu, who helped him on Fire Punch, are now successful with Spy x Family (Kurokawa) and DanDaDan respectively. The last title, which has been the subject of a fierce battle between French publishers, will soon be available in our bookstores. With a series adaptation of Chainsaw Man in preparation by Mappa studio, the Tatsuki Fujimoto phenomenon is not about to stop. Meanwhile, a color version of Chainsaw Man has just been released in Japan. "It's not my decision! It was the Shueisha’s (his publisher). But he is satisfied with the result. "They knew how to respect the colors that I could have used." ON THE SAME SUBJECT Tatsuki Fujimoto should still surprise with the second part of Chainsaw Man, about which he prefers not to say anything at the moment. "I know exactly what I want to do, but I can't reveal anything. I want the reader to discover this second part without any information."