Tatsuki Fujimoto's Just Listen To This Song Is A Lesson In Love And Buddhism


Form Is emptiness.

July 13, 2022

If I had to describe the literary style of the manga artist Tatsuki Fujimoto in one word, it would be ‘Genuine.’ His famous serialized manga ‘Chainsaw Man’ has been taking the world by storm for some time now, but his serialized One-Shots (One Chapter Manga Works) are equally impressive in a different way, and each of them feels like they contain a hint of the true him, the genuine Fujimoto, and his new work ‘Just listen to this song’ is no different.

‘Look Back,’ published on Shueisha’s Manga+ service in July 2021, has a strong message about Fujimoto’s growth as an artist, while ‘Goodbye, Eri,’ published in February this year, was more about the author coming to terms with his own family, life, and the inevitability of death that rules over everything. ‘Just listen to this song’, released earlier this month, continues the trend of the author speaking from his own heart to the readers. This time, however, he is sending a clear message about the reception of the fans to online stories and media, among other themes that are worth exploring.


Just Listen To This Song

The start of the story is simple and cliched enough. A high-schooler who loves playing guitar is trying to win the heart of his crush by playing a song, and recording it on video for her to watch. He would have landed a hit if it weren’t for him uploading the video to Youtube, causing himself to become mocked by the entire school, and later the whole country and the world itself. Furthermore, he got turned down very harshly by the same girl he was infatuated with.

The boy had one simple wish, as he stated in the video: ‘Let these feelings in my heart be understood, by the one who I love best.’ Nevertheless, no one really understood his true intentions. Everyone in the world saw the video differently, and perceived it as a form of political or religious criticism, among other outrageous claims. The boy got disheartened and quickly wanted to delete it. Despite that, he held back after someone warned him not to, saying “Form Is emptiness”.

He could not quite grasp the meaning of these words, but regardless, he composed himself and uploaded a second song, this time called: ‘Just Listen to This Song’. Even though this one contained his true and genuine feelings, no one bothered to watch it, and it was universally ignored. He later gave up and deleted all his videos. Yet still, the ending sends a warm message that if a feeling is truly from the heart, it will resonate with the heartstrings of the one it’s aimed at.

There is a lot to dissect from this story about modern trending topics and how they are perceived, and what the author wanted to say by writing it.

Death Of The Creator

Modern communication is a wonder. There are a lot of barriers that could prevent you from understanding the true meaning of things. Whenever a new book or a movie is released, you are bound to find endless discussions and theories about what the creator was truly aiming for. The death of the author is a recurring daily subject when trying to appreciate fiction.

Most of Fujimoto’s works are surreal and symbolic, that’s why they always spark a discussion about what could be the true essence of his stories. At first glance, you can feel that he is using ‘Just Listen to This Song’ to call out his fans. The ones that are invested in figuring out deep meanings and messages behind his works, and boast about their superior intellect. In reality, and with reflections from his earlier works such as ‘Goodbye, Eri’ and ‘Look Back’, he has always been just getting by, trying to be himself, and having fun. Nothing more.

But this latest manga suggests that the author is at a stage in life where he is satisfied with the conclusions he reached, the peace of mind he has longed for. He wants to inspire other readers to feel and do the same; to be true to themselves, and never have doubts when they are doing the things they love. That’s why ‘Just Listen to This Song’ was not only about the boy’s feelings, but also about his own hesitation.

The Heart Sutra

It’s easy to miss the true significance of the advice the boy got from another school girl when he was confused about what to do after the video went viral. She said these words: Form is Emptiness. This is actually a direct reference to the Heart Sutra, a popular sutra in Buddhism. It does not mean that you should relinquish the constraints of form to reach the state of emptiness, but describes “Form itself as emptiness”.

Let’s say you want to define something as good or bad. The mental process of doing that depends on you ‘distinguishing’ that something between what it is and what it is not. If you like a color, it’s because there are colors you don’t like. If a certain smell evokes good memories, it’ll be different from the smells of other things that you associate with bad memories. In other words, we put things in pre-established forms to define them, according to our fixed self-identity and how we define things.

We ignore their own individual nature because we inherently discriminate against the things we are not familiar with. Happiness in our minds is tied to a specific form. That form has to have specific logic and connections, but that’s not necessarily true. Buddha calls this the reason for humanity’s suffering. The boy’s suffering was because he was fixated on his preconceived notion of how his confession should have gone. Other people’s confusion is also tied to the form they chose to apply to the video he uploaded, with that form changing as the trend kept going.

The origin of suffering was that the boy didn’t want things to change. He was afraid of that change. ‘Emptiness’ on the other hand, does not refer to a space or a void in space, but to the true nature of all things. That there is nothing in this world that doesn’t have a single fixated existence. Everything is in constant change. Therefore, it’s wrong to assume happiness will come if abstract things are given form, or even if we reject form for emptiness as the better truth of the world. Happiness will only come if we accept both form and emptiness as one unified reality.

Once the boy decided to upload his video on Youtube, he should have accepted immediately that his confession will take any form in people’s minds and that’s okay. At the same time, he should have not waited for his feelings to reach the girl, but instead for the girl herself to perceive his love in her own way. Then after that, she would decide to accept his love, in whatever form it may take. Even the word ‘Cringy’ which she used to describe his confession, was used again towards the end in a different context, showing that even her own perception of what is ‘Cringy’, has changed over time.

Of course, all that is just my perception (my form) of what could Fujimoto have wanted to say through his new one-shot ‘Just Listen to This Song.’ Our interpretations of Fujimoto’s works will also keep changing as he releases more serialized manga and one-shots. That’s fine though, because ‘form is emptiness’ after all.

‘Just Listen to This Song’ is now available to read for free on VIZ Media’s partner website MANGA Plus by SHUEISHA.

Mohamed Hassan

Mohamed (He/Him) from Egypt is Interested in gaming as a storytelling medium and how it can give shape to new emotions and life lessons. He is currently learning the Japanese language and is interested on learning more about the Japanese culture and other cultures and how they are represented in gaming. Also a Long term fan of JRPGs, Indie games and VIsual Novels.

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