Anime streaming service Crunchyroll aired the final episode of the first season of Chainsaw Man on December 27. The manga, which tells the story of a young man who brutally kills demons, attracted attention even before the release of the film adaptation and won the prestigious American Harvey Award for Outstanding Comic.
What is Chainsaw Man about?
Denji is an orphan, ready to do anything for a piece of bread. His father died leaving a large yakuza debt to his son. In order to somehow pay the money, the boy sells his eye, kidney and eats cigarette butts for the amusement of the bandits. And recently, the boy became a hired killer of demons.
On one of the missions, the young man is framed by his own boss, and the zombies tear off his head. His only friend, the saw-demon Pochita, whom Denji once saved, repays the boy’s debt. In exchange for his life, he resurrects Denji. From that moment on, the guy becomes a half-demon, which immediately attracts the attention of a state organization for the capture of paranormal creatures. Arriving at the incident, the charming head of the hunters Makima gives the young man a choice: die right now as a demon or work in her experimental squad. But is it a choice? The young man has just been offered food, and a real beauty runs everything. For stupid Denji, everything that he loves came together in an instant at one point: food and girls.
Reason 1: A realistic hero in an atypical shonen
The first thing that attracts the “Chainsaw Man” is the main character, namely his motivation for exploits, which is atypical for shonen heroes. Most often, the protagonists of this genre are good-natured shirt-guys who are ready to give their lives for their friends. For the sake of the common good, they fight against world evil and seek the recognition of society. So Midoriya from “My Hero Academia” wants to become the most powerful superhero, Asta from “Black Clover” plans to become the king of magicians, Tanjiro from “Demon Slayer” hunts monsters in the hope of returning his sister to a human form.
While in other shonen characters follow a dream that is incomprehensible to the viewer, Denji lives on the desires of a simple earthly person. He wants to eat tasty and a lot, sleep on a soft bed and touch a woman’s breasts. Such worldly desires seem pitiful and unworthy. And this is the main difference between this series and many popular anime. Denji is not a clichéd hero to look up to. This is a tactless redneck-cynic. He had nowhere to take high goals, which his gloomy partner Aki Hayakawa constantly talks about. Aki had a loving family, and Denji grew up practically in the garbage, eating what he could find and only occasionally dreamed of becoming a normal guy who had a girlfriend.
The author of the story, mangaka Tatsuki Fujimoto, gave Denji what the guy dreamed of. But in a twisted way. His lover is a cruel, manipulative beauty. His first and so desired kiss was remembered by the taste of someone else’s vomit.
At the same time, such a low moral start opens up great opportunities for the growth of the hero. If Tanjiro, Midoriya, Naruto, and Ichigo have only one way to go: getting stronger, then Denji can really get better. And this is much more interesting and unusual. The young man very quickly realizes that the fulfillment of his base desires does not bring the delight that he was waiting for. Therefore, in the course of the series, the guy not only epicly dismembers the demons, but also wonders about the nature of his desires.
Reason 2: Sincere Peace
The authors managed to shoot a fantasy series, the world of which looks true. Demons are not only cruel in words, as they are in many shonen. In Chainsaw, they really kill. Even significant characters get hit. In the same “My Heroic Academia”, the creators emphasized the uncompromising nature of the killer of the heroes of the Spot and, as a result, could not even sacrifice minor characters.
“Chainsaw Man” keeps the tension at bay by realistically illustrating a cruel world. Hunters not only risk themselves fighting monsters, but also give up part of their lives in exchange for superpowers. Injustice changes the local inhabitants, making them cynical and apathetic. And from this the universe looks sincere, and the characters are alive. Demon hunter Himeno finds herself in an existential crisis due to the frequent deaths of her teammates. And the shy Higashiyama is ready to sacrifice her comrade-in-arms in order to stay alive herself. When one of the characters dies, the hunter close to him really worries about the loss for the rest of the season.
Reason 3: Cool character design and mix of frenzy with routine
Mangaka Tatsuki Fujimoto was able to come up with such charismatic and vivid characters that they immediately began to cosplay en masse, and the craftsmen made the chainsaw head costume with their own hands. It is simply impossible to pass by a hero who literally saws his enemies with his head. But besides Denji, another demon-weapon appears in the series – Katana Man, from whose face and hands swords protrude. And it’s even cooler that such an obvious similarity of rivals is not accidental, as is said in the course of the manga’s plot.
Along with the crazy design of Denji, the artist depicted real beauties, the attitude towards which is ambiguous. One of them is Power. At first, this energetic girl with demonic horns is sympathetic. But it soon turns out that she is a sociopath who can betray her comrades or simply leave in the middle of a battle. To create her character, Fujimoto was inspired by the selfish schoolboy Eric Cartman from the animated series South Park.
The character design looks really unusual. But not only because of the saw sticking out of his head. The artist painted the characters as if they were not demons, but ordinary civil servants. They work for the Public Safety Bureau and therefore walk around in formal suits, like the cops from the dystopian Psycho-Pass.
Reason 4: MAPPA’s epic “dirty” fights
This is one of the rare bloody shonen of recent years. Yes, there is violence and dismemberment in Demon Slayer too. But in Tanjiro’s battles, there is no “dirt” that “Chainsaw Man” stands out for. And that style suits the series perfectly. It’s hard to stay neat when sawing demons with chainsaws sticking out of your hands.
Studio MAPPA, who worked on the series, perfectly understands how to work with violence on the screen. It was MAPPA that released the ending Attack on Titan, Dorohedoro and Jujutsu Kaisen. The latest young franchise has even been compared to Chainsaw. Even before the release of the film adaptation, the mangaka noted the stylistic similarity of his creation with these studio projects.
This time, MAPPA did more than what was expected of them. The picture looks so smooth, and the battles are so exciting that it is simply impossible to stop watching. In Denji’s fight against the giant Devil Bat, it’s clear that Attack on Titan scout Levi Ackerman’s experience in staging battles was not in vain. In a similar way, the young man runs into a large monster and cuts it with chainsaws along the way, as Levi did with the Beast Titan.
Reason 5: References in the opening song and a new ending for each episode
The title song in the opening of KICK BACK was performed by Japanese singer Kenshi Yonezu (he also wrote the opening of “My Hero Academia 2” and the ending theme of “March Lion”). On the official channel, the video for the song scored fifty-two million views. But besides the energetic musical part, the introduction attracts with numerous homages to American pop culture. The fact is that mangaka Tatsuki Fujimoto is a well-known fan of Western films and TV shows. This is evidenced by the already named reference to Eric Cartman. In the opening song, some scenes are frame-by-frame replicas of cult films.
Danji, while bowling with his friends, cleans the ball with a white rag just like the characters from The Big Lebowski did. The devil-angel sits on the stairs as Gabe Singer (Macaulay Culkin) does in Jacob’s Ladder. And the protagonists’ mentor, Kishibe, points a gun like Samuel L. Jackson’s (Jules Winnfield) character from Pulp Fiction in the famous diner scene.
The series also surprises with the number of closing songs. If usually the creators choose a maximum of two endings for twelve episodes, then after each episode a new track awaits the viewer: from Maximum the Hormone (“Death Note”) to TK (“Tokyo Ghoul”).