I didn’t think I would like Chainsaw Man. I expected it to be one of those hyper-masculine, toxic shounen shows that consistently sexualized and disrespected women.
And while that may apply to the fanbase – it doesn’t apply to the show.
I wouldn’t have watched this show on my own – but my boyfriend wanted to see it and our weekly watch became one of the highlights of my week. It’s a smart show, with a very ridiculous premise but it manages to keep things interesting with amazing fight scenes and unique, well-rounded characters.
In a world where devils run rampant, Public Safety works to protect civilians. After Denji, an orphaned teenage boy fuses with Pochita, a dog-chainsaw devil – he joins Public Safety. Under the tutelage of Makima, he is tasked with hunting down the Gun Devil alongside Hunter Aki and Power, a Fiend – a devil who took over a human body.
For 12 episodes, the season covers a lot of ground (38 chapters) though barely the first arc of the manga. I expect that Chainsaw Man has a bright future.
We can’t talk about the awesome parts of the show, without first bringing attention to the opening. An animated montage chockful of references to classic movies that basically tells you nothing about the plot – but sets the tone perfectly.
We get wild visions of the cast interacting in ways they never do in canon – but sets up their characterization. We get breathtaking, trippy visuals of Denji’s transformation. It’s honestly brilliant.
I really thought I would hate Denji. He seemed dumb, perverted, and not compelling. After the first episode? Mind changed. Denji’s backstory gives him dimension and explains perfectly why he is the way he is. It also makes him sympathetic, that he is an emotionally neglected, traumatized boy without shying away from the fact that he’s a horny teenager.
Is his main motivation food and boobs? Yeah. It definitely appears that way – but…it still manages to work because we know why he wants those things. He just kind of wants to be normal and he wants what he thinks is normal.
His stupidity is mostly connected to book smarts. Denji is street-smart but not really strategic. He tends to rush into situations head-on and use his Devil powers whenever possible. The strategy…mainly works for him. He has other teammates who are able to pick up the areas he’s weak in…But sometimes, you just need brute force.
One Dysfunctional Found Family
Though it seems like Power is going to be one of Denji’s love interests (along with Makima, but that’s a whole other story) after he gropes her, the two end up having a more ‘siblings who share one brain cell dynamic.’
Power is egotistic, impatient, impulsive, and has poor hygiene but is so much fun to watch. When she’s with Denji, the two bicker a lot but ultimately, it seems they have each other’s backs. Both know what’s at stake if they fail their mission and step out of line (their lives.) And while in many ways, the two are mirror images of each other – down to the animal they’re associated with – dogs for Denji and cats for Power – they seem to be willing to die for each other.
Aki is usually the one seen with them. They both seem to live with him. And though he’s probably not that much older than either of them – he has to be the responsible one. They exhaust him, but even though his life isn’t at risk, he keeps them motivated and in check. They respect him.
For a violent shounen, the show actually has a pretty good and diverse representation of women. While, yes, they’re all relatively conventionally attractive and most play a romantic role – they all have different looks, different personalities, and different motivations and they aren’t defined by their relationship to men.
Kobeni, for example, is a character that interesting to me. She doesn’t want to be a Devil Hunter – but was forced into it by her family, And yet, she might be one of the more powerful characters in the show. Pretty much all Devil Hunters have a contract with a good Devil, which gives them certain abilities.
We don’t know who Kobeni has a contract with or her power – which is odd compared to the other characters. Considering the positions she’s put in throughout the season, it must be a pretty powerful one.
Makima is a mystery – but is shown from the start to be a manipulator. While Denji sees her as a love interest and a prize, it’s clear to the audience that she is manipulating him. She’s an adult, and he’s a minor…but she doesn’t see an issue with being sexual with him…
There’s Power – who looks conventionally attractive and feminine but whose terrible hygiene and table manners are a huge part of her character. She’s boisterous and proud as well.
There are a number of other female characters – Himeno, another Devil Hunter, who wears an eyepatch. There’s Akane, who opposes Makima…And I’m sure there’s more to come. Is Chainsaw Man feminist?
But it gives us a nice variety of female characters whose actions don’t fully revolve around men or their romantic interest in them. Which is a lot more than I can say for other popular shounen.
I mean the bar is literally in hell when comes to depicting women in shounen – so good job, on doing the bare minimum.
And then there’s the matter of the end credits. Each episode has a different animation and song, which is not something you see in most shows and requires a lot of extra time and effort. The fact they were able to do this really shows that the whole crew cares about the product.
Am I allowed to say the fanbase? Because the male fans who complain about manga accuracy are the worst. I need to read the manga admittedly and from what I know there are some slight changes in characterization, particularly with Denji as well as some translations they didn’t like.
Translating Japanese to English is hard. You’re not going to get line-for-line accuracy. Sure, it’d be great if it was closer to the manga…but sometimes things do need to change when you switch mediums.
But there are a few lines, that I won’t mention, that got translated a bit oddly that change some of the contexts…But, I don’t think that’s going to change the events of the anime – but it might make some situations odder in hindsight.
Don’t Get Attached
It’s an anime called Chainsaw Man. People are going to die. Spoiler, not a single person in this anime has plot armor. Except for maybe Denji – but even that’s debatable. It is a bit frustrating realizing that you have to worry about any character dying – which for some might make it hard to care about any of them.
Why care if they’re probably going to die?
I’m not quite there yet. I don’t love all the death because, at a certain point, the emotional impact of a known character dying is just gone. But at least there are some goddamn consequences.
I can’t really do shows or movies where death is cheap; characters can miraculously recover from fatal wounds, time travel to stop a character’s death, or go to another dimension so you have functionally the same character still in the mix.
Kid’s shows get more leniency for obvious reasons. But Chainsaw Man is not a kid’s show.
What else is there to say? This show is good. It’s not going to appeal to everyone, and I understand if you want to avoid entirely based on its fanbase alone – but if I like it, maybe it’s worth checking out.
But if you don’t like blood, gore, or graphic body horror transformations, definitely skip it.
And that’s the scoop.
Release Year: 2022
Length: 12 episodes
Manga by: Tatsuki Fujimoto
Directors: Ryū Nakayama and Masato Nakazono
Scripts: Hiroshi Seko