In December, the Japanese magazine Weekly Shonen Jump saw the start of the publication of a brand-new series called Chainsaw Man. Created by Tatsuki Fujimoto, Chainsaw Man’s first part, “The public safety arc,” would last from December 2018 to December 2020. Then, in July of 2022, the second part of the Manga “the school arc” would begin publication. The series saw a massive rise in popularity during this year and-a half-break, and right when part one ended; furthermore, there was an announcement that Chainsaw Man would be getting an Anime adaption; in this review, I want to tell you why you should both watch and read Chainsaw Man.
Chainsaw Man tells the story of Denji, a 16-year-old who is in poverty and lacks any education, and lives full of devils, which are creatures born out of fear that humans have. Denji has inherited his father’s debt from the Yakuza and spends his days as a devil hunter to pay off this debt. His only companion is the chainsaw devil, which has taken the form of a dog and is called Pochita. However, his life of Denji shortens when the Yakuza family he works for betrays him. Left completely dismembered in a dumpster, Pochita makes a deal with Denji that will have Pochita become Denji’s heart, and Denji will inherit Pochita’s powers. Denji, now back from the dead, now has a cord on his chest that, when pulled, turns him into Chainsaw Man, a hybrid of a human and devil, where Denji’s arms and head take the form of chainsaws. Denji, with this new power, disposes of the Yakuza that betrayed him and crosses paths with a woman name Makima, that leads a particular group of devil hunters funded by the government known as the Public Safety Division that is hunting a devil called The Gun Devil, a powerful being that emerged 13 years ago and within five minutes ended up killing 1.2 million people.
Just by the description alone, you can tell that Chainsaw Man is a violent series and pulls no punches. Fujimoto created an unforgiving world where one could see a character meet a violent end. However, Chainsaw Man isn’t just a violent for violence’s sake series or one where its deaths are just shock value. Chainsaw Man is a series full of heart and rich character development. Take Denji; Denji is a 16-year-old who often comes off as an emotionally immature brat who only desires to get with women. But early on, it becomes clear that he acts like this due to his upbringing, where he never went to school, made any friends, and lived on the streets with his dog.
Furthermore, Denji interacts with the various devil hunters, such as Power, a devil inhabiting the body of a dead teenage girl and is even more emotionally immature than Denji. Then there is Aki, who is often the straight man to Denji and Power’s antics. The dynamic between these three and the rest of Chainsaw Man’s cast, like the mysterious Makima, the crybaby Kobeni, the veteran devil hunter Kishibe, and the upbeat and flirtatious Himeno, create a fantastic cast of characters full of great characterization and development. That said, do not get attached to anyone in this story; Fujimoto is not afraid to suddenly kill off a character, and at no point in the story anyone, including Denji, felt safe. Chainsaw Man is also a story full of insane plot twists and developments; this is a story that I am willing to bet you won’t be able to predict what comes next. Part one alone went in various directions than I expected, and as someone who caught up on Part one about a third of the way through, I kept coming back each week to read what happened next, and ever since Part two back in July, I’ve read those new chapters as soon as they drop.
Regarding action, Chainsaw Man is insane in that department regardless of if you read the Manga or watch the Anime adaption by studio MAPPA. Both mediums of the story contain their stylistic action. In the Manga, panels full of great choreographed fights flow together very well. In the Anime, they had this very cinematic flair to the battles, which is fitting since Fujimoto’s films have heavily influenced Fujimoto’s writing and art, as shown with his previous work Fire Punch. The final fight in the Anime itself makes clever use of its angles and, due to its use of CGI, uses things such as tracking shots. The production value of the Anime is just on a whole other level and stands strong compared to other top-tier action series like Demon Slayer and Attack on Titan.
The entire production of Chainsaw Man’s Anime feels like a passion project of MAPPA with how they handled the Anime; while there was editing, they added plenty of little things to the series. One of these little things is the ending credits to each episode, where all 12 episodes have different credit sequences with vastly different animation styles and songs. Then you have the opening credits to the series, which hint at future plot points and contain references to films like Pulp Fiction, The Big Lebowski, No Country for Old Men, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, etc.
In short, Chainsaw Man is an absolute must-read Manga and must-watch Anime. The Anime’s first season is 12 episodes and adapts roughly the first five volumes of the series, nearly half of its first part. You can find the Anime on Hulu and Crunchyroll. In addition, the Manga can be read physically or online on Viz Media’s website with a Shonen Jump subscription, with new chapters posted roughly every other Tuesday.