At long last, Chainsaw Man episode one has been released subbed, and I had to watch it. And considering what it’s about, you can easily guess why it’s still on the theme for this month and why I may want to discuss it. As I still want to uphold some consistency this month.
Firstly Chainsaw Man is about a teenager named Denji and his doglike chainsaw devil Pochita who is a pet/companion to him. And together, they work as loggers and devil hunters, hoping to pay Denji’s debt to the yakuza that his dad left him before committing suicide.
To say Denji’s life starts roughly is a severe understatement. One of the most memorable things about the opening scenes from both the anime and manga of Chainsaw Man is Denji talking about how he’s already sold parts of his body. And yes, I have read the entirety of what is known as the Public Safety Arc of the manga for Chainsaw Man, which is part one of the story that this anime is adapting. So I will be discussing this anime as a manga reader.
In the manga, there is a weight to Denji talking about selling off his kidney and eye, but also some humour or just levity when he mentions selling one of his testicles for not that much money considering the steep debt. Looking back, I think I found that moment funny because it was early in the first chapter before any considerable violence occurred. But also, I think the levity might have come out of the absurdness of the situation. That Denji was forced to go so far for so little. When reading manga, I think there’s much more room for how the story feels in your head. Whereas when it gets adapted for an anime, many elements get controlled that now dictate how the story feels. And I think that’s why many manga purists tend to get a bit antsy about adaptations because there’s a certain subjective feel that doesn’t get recreated.
From my perspective, watching the first episode, I feel it didn’t tap into the same absurd levity that I read into the manga, particularly during this scene. But it did have the weight to it that I found in the manga. In fact, I think this adaptation has presented Chainsaw Man to me in a much heavier way. And we haven’t even gotten to the really insane parts of Chainsaw Man. I almost feel like my manga reading of Chainsaw Man has been dwarfed. Saying that, I know there are some scenes later in the manga that I swear are meant to be comedic, so I’ll be curious to see how those moments get adapted. But otherwise, in general, I really like the mood they’re going for with Chainsaw Man.
The animation is done by studio MAPPA, and previously they have made several of my favourite anime, including Yuri!!! on ICE, Terror in Resonance, Dororo and the final parts of Attack on Titan. And there are several other shows by them that I’ve been meaning to check out, such as their adaptations of Banana Fish, Inuyashiki and Jujutsu Kaisen. Not to mention they are also an offshoot studio of Madhouse, who helmed a lot of my favourite anime from back in the day, and horror, action and thrillers are very much their jam — so having MAPPA make Chainsaw Man anime made all the sense in the world. And it is very high-quality stuff so far, in my opinion.
But there is one teeny tiny problem: the use of CGI. Or at least it may be a problem for some who really really care when they can tell an anime is using CG. I was a bit worried about it for months as I have not been a fan of their use of it previously, such as their adaptation of Dorohedoro, which was still fun and watchable despite that and no second season. But now that I’ve seen it, I think it can be appropriately and inappropriately jagged. The variety is good enough to offset any potentially perceived badness of CG. In terms of the overall quality of the CG, in this case, I think it’s just above average. And I don’t mean above average for what MAPPA has achieved previously; I think it’s above average overall, which is excellent.
Obviously the only ones that probably could have done a better job with the CG would have been Studio Orange or ufotable. But I think the roughness, jaggedness and messy violence of Chainsaw would not have suited the smoother repertoire of those studios. I believe there is something about Chainsaw Man where only MAPPA could have been capable of adapting it. Maybe not to its absolute fullest potential, but realistically this was more than I could have hoped for.
Now there’s more to Chainsaw Man than just violence. Its protagonist Denji has some pretty unique motivations. Well, they’re not actually unique; his circumstances are what makes them unique. He simply would like him and Pochita to eat bread with jam one day. But because of his debt, he can’t afford that and has never been able to experience just that. To Denji, normalcy is an extravagant and unattainable luxury. And that on its own is very compelling. He also mentions wanting a girlfriend, which isn’t discussed in too much detail in this episode, as his living in poverty is the primary setup here which kind of gets resolved by how he and Pochita become Chainsaw Man together. But later on, Denji’s one-off line from this episode about wanting a girlfriend is going to play a massive part in his character arc over the story.
Other things of note Pochita, in terms of design, reminds me of Maromi from Paranoia Agent. And also, from what I understand, this series is going to be about twelve episodes altogether, which means it’s probably more or less only going to cover the first half of the Public Safety Arc. In a way, it’s less of a season and more of a first cour. I hope. So if there is news of a second cour, that would be great. Because ultimately, this arc is almost self-contained with an open-ended ending. And from what I understand, Denji is still a character in the second arc, but the series has pulled a JoJo and has a new protagonist, which, if true, is fascinating.
So, in short, I think you should check out Chainsaw Man. And my current impression is that if you get into Chainsaw Man, you can’t really go wrong with either the anime or the manga. You now have two very good options for entering the story. But do consider reading the manga in case waiting for episodes weekly is maddening. This, for me, is not the case so far because I already know what’s going to happen, which, honestly, I find an odd enjoyability.
And apologies for stuffing up my original plans of putting out a review of a horror movie every day for this month. I’ve been working on a YouTube video at the moment and that’s what’s been taking priority time-wise. Hopefully one day I can pull that off. I may talk more about Chainsaw Man this month or perhaps gets some more horror reviews out before the end of October. But otherwise I hope you are all having a Happy Halloween.