‘Mirai no Omoide’ offers rare glimpse into life of Fujiko F. Fujio

Mirai no Omoide (“Remembrance of the Future”) created by Fujiko F. Fujio and published by Shogakukan

Mirai no Omoide (Remembrance of the Future)
by Fujiko F. Fujio(Shogakukan)

For today’s article, I was preparing to introduce the latest “mangaka manga,” which is to say a manga that depicts a mangaka, or else the drawing of manga. But then I changed my mind and decided instead to introduce another manga, “Mirai no Omoide” (“Remembrance of the Future”) by Fujiko F. Fujio, published in 1992. Generally, this column introduces new publications, so apologies for breaking the rules by taking up a work from the past.

As you may know, Fujiko F. Fujio (1933-1996), whose real name was Hiroshi Fujimoto, is one of the two mangaka who together created many popular manga for children under the joint pen name Fujiko Fujio. The other mangaka was Fujiko Fujio A (1934-2022), or Motoo Abiko.

I think no one will disagree that the bible of “mangaka manga” is “Manga Michi” (The manga way) by Fujiko Fujio A. It is an autobiographical work (with some fiction mixed in) about the younger days of the two mangaka and their collaboration. “Manga Michi” is also the most important record of life at Tokiwaso, a legendary apartment building in Tokyo where many mangaka who would later become famous resided when young. The manga is even being rereleased as a special edition in 10 volumes.

“Manga Michi” is drawn solely from the perspective of Fujiko Fujio A. However, very little autobiographical material remains from Fujiko F. Fujio. “Mirai no Omoide” is one of the few exceptions. It is also known as the last serialized work by Fujiko F. Fujio, apart from “Doraemon.” Upon rereading, however, certain parts of the story made me realize that this may be another “Manga Michi.”

In “Mirai no Omoide,” Rihito Nando, once a successful manga artist, has passed his prime and feels out of touch with the times. He thinks now is the time to draw manga that is uniquely his own, but his physical strength and energy have waned. If only I were 20 years younger, he laments.

Then Rihito suddenly dies while playing golf. When he comes to his senses, he finds that he has returned to his youth, before he made his professional debut. These are nostalgic days of heated discussions on manga with fellow aspiring mangaka, all living in a ramshackle apartment building. In this new chance at life, he hits it big, but then becomes so consumed by success that he loses sight of the joy of drawing manga. He seems to be stuck in a loop, repeating his life over and over again. Will Rihito, who dies and becomes a young man yet again, ever transform himself into an ideal mangaka?

Although the story is basically a time-loop sci-fi, it is clear that Rihito is the author’s alter ego. For example, the apartment building looks just like Tokiwaso, and Rihito smokes a pipe, just as Fujiko F. Fujio used to. “Manga Michi” ends with all the residents of Tokiwaso being recognized as peers by the great Osamu Tezuka. It depicts only the bright side of a story about a bunch of young people. By contrast, “Mirai no Omoide” is striking in that it depicts life after “Manga Michi” with a touch of bitterness. Fujiko F. Fujio, who was already in poor health at the time, might have foreseen that he had little time left. He died four years later, in 1996, at the age of 62.

Recently, an inordinate number of “mangaka manga,” depicting both real and fictional events, have been published. I feel this indicates the manga market has passed its historical peak, and we may be entering a period of reflection to prepare for the next era. At any rate, it is surprising that all the elements of a “mangaka manga” are already found in “Mirai no Omoide,” which came out more than 30 years ago. As a trailblazing work alongside “Manga Michi,” this manga still deserves a read today. The front cover shown in this column is from the original paper edition, but the work is also available as an e-book.