A bloody good time
Probably the first thing to go viral about the recently released TV adaptation of Chainsaw Man (CSM) was its opening. The first thirty seconds give us a quick cut volley of movie references, in which we see the anime’s characters in scenes from The Chainsaw Man, The Big Lebowski, Reservoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction and more, all rendered in exquisitely fluid animation that blends the best qualities of both traditional drawing and CGI. It’s the kind of cinema send-up that might make Scorsese or Tarantino shed a tear, but also sets the tone for the kind of anime that CSM is. It’s a thoughtfully crafted work of art disguised as a chaotic romp with gallons of blood in it.
Chainsaw Man—like many shonens—happens to have a very vocal and very online fanbase, so you’ve probably had the plot explained to you by someone very excitable, but let’s refresh. CSM is an anime about a man who can grow chainsaws out of his head and hands. The character in question is Denji, a young man who grows up into extreme poverty before gaining his powers through a contract with a dog-like devil, Pochita. He then becomes roped into working for a government agency called The Public Safety Devil Hunters, which fights devils as cartoonishly edgy and violent as Chainsaw Man himself.
The Chainsaw Man manga was written and illustrated by Tatsuki Fujimoto, and quickly gained a following for how much emotional nuance lies beneath its absurd, cartoonish presence. Fans of action-y shonen anime will find themselves more than happy with CSM’s fight scenes on the surface. But as the story progresses, viewers may find how psychologically dark the anime can get.
Fujimoto-sensei’s writing for Chainsaw Man kind of runs counter to what we expect from standard shonen fare. Denji is portrayed as a little pathetic, desperate for the touch of a woman and therefore mostly happy to let other people walk all over him. The characters that he is surrounded by are selfish and manipulative, in a way that makes villains in other anime seem a little more diplomatic and sensible. When a fight scene isn’t happening, an undercurrent of darkness runs through in Chainsaw Man’s quieter moments. No spoilers, but man, things get deep later in the story.
Add to that the firing-on-all-cylinders animation courtesy of studio MAPPA, which has handled titles like Jujutsu Kaisen and Attack on Titan. Beautiful colors, textures, and shading absolutely pop out in every frame and make CSM high caliber TV.
Many have hyped Chainsaw Man to be the new GOAT, sharing its spot at the mountaintop with other exemplars of the genre like Jujutsu Kaisen and My Hero Academia. That’s exactly what it is. Entirely worth the Hulu, Crunchyroll or Prime Video subscription, Chainsaw Man will go down in anime history as one of the best to ever do it.
Those outside looking in might have certain impressions of Chainsaw Man, likely due to the way the meme landscape portrays certain aspects of the show. Does it have a pathetic protagonist that simps for women in the worst way? Kind of, yeah. Is the fanbase super duper talkative about it? Some of them, yeah. But will we still stay stuck on our screens watching Denji let it rip? Hell yeah.
Words Jam Pascual
Art Alexandra Lara