This is a text version of my recent video about Denji from Chainsaw Man. If you would prefer to watch that instead, here is the link.
Chainsaw Man is a stupidly stupendous manga, and the recent anime adaptation that covers the first half of the Public Safety arc recently wrapped up and fender-bended my expectations for it. As a result, I highly endorse both iterations over the act of breathing, so you should check them before reading this or anything because everything is a spoiler.
For the most part, I think audiences have met the series on its terms and have accepted the ride for what it is, Denji and all. But now and then, I see the occasional person who isn’t entirely sure how to take Denji himself. Denji, after all, has some inappropriate behaviour and views, yet he is the story’s hero. And when I was watching the anime earlier on, I did start to wonder what the logic was behind me unconsciously accepting Denji the way he is as opposed to other protagonists who might be considered similarly inappropriate.
So here are eight ways to understand Denji better:
1. Firstly Denji, unlike, say, Rudy from Mushoku Tensei, is not a piece of shit. Instead, he is a dirtbag, specifically a teenage dirtbag, perhaps the ultimate teenage dirtbag out of all media. By the way, I would highly recommend checking out The Take’s video on dirtbags, as I think many of the points made in that video apply to Denji. But to make my point on this, Denji is malleable, not someone who needs to change but is still in a state of development.
2. Secondly, it probably helps that, in this case, the story allows for equal opportunity across genders on who gets to be a dirtbag, particularly by contrasting and paralleling Denji to Power, who arguably outdoes Denji a lot of the time and is widely beloved by the fanbase as a result.
3. Thirdly, while Denji is presented as a bit off-putting and a bit weird who won’t shut the hell up about his motivations to get some, a lot of that behaviour and mindset are contextualised by the fact that he is feral. Think about it. Denji is orphaned, has never been to school and has never received any meaningful adult authoritative guidance in his entire life. He’s had to sell off some of his body parts, and his only…