The first episode of Chainsaw Man was released on October 11, 2022. Among various other anime releases in October – My Hero Academia Season 6 and Mob Psycho 100 Season 3 to name a few – Chainsaw Man has managed to stand out against the crowd.
Chainsaw Man tells the story of a dissatisfied and poverty stricken teen named Denji, who works as a freelance devil hunter to keep himself afloat. Devils are monsters who manifest into existence due to human’s fear of a specific concept. He works alongside his pet, the dog-like chainsaw devil who he named Pochita. Denji works in ambition of a dream that seems as distant as the moon to him: to live a comfortable life alongside a woman who loves him.
All is relatively normal for Denji until the Yakuza members he works for make a deal with the zombie devil, who wishes to eliminate Denji and take Pochita for itself. They attack Denji, nearly killing him in the process. Before he dies, however, Pochita merges with Denji’s heart, thus giving him the regenerative abilities of a devil.
In addition, this fusion allows Denji to transform himself into the titular chainsaw man. Upon killing the zombie devil and the now zombified Yakuza members, the pilot episode ends with Denji being confronted by the leader of an organization dedicated to devil hunting, a mysterious woman known as Makima. Makima becomes the first woman to take an interest in Denji, and with the first spec of Denji’s dream in life being fulfilled, the pilot episode ends.
A very prominent aspect of Chainsaw Man is the seemingly chaotic pace in which the story is told. Vladmir Lenin once said that “There are decades where nothing happens; and there are weeks where decades happen.” This is what watching Chainsaw Man feels like.
While this style of pacing may be a turn off to some viewers, I think it fits the story perfectly.
Chainsaw Man is a story which, despite its simplistic main character and premise, is incredibly complex as it delves into themes like manipulation, autonomy, and control.
Denji often sees himself and his will being manipulated by other, more powerful forces. After he is freed from the Yakuza’s debt, he is forced to work for the devil hunters under the threat that Makima would kill him as a devil if he failed to do so.
That idea, that our dreams and autonomy are ultimately at the behest of forces much greater than we can possibly comprehend, is something which makes Denji relatable in a way many other protagonists fail to do.
The story also delves into themes of family and the basis of human connection, as Denji forms bonds with two devil hunters he is forced to live with, the stern and skeptical Aki Hayakawa and the chaotic pathological liar, Power.
In a genre filled with mindless conflicts of spectacle, Chainsaw Man proves itself to be a very human story.
This is no surprise considering its author, Tatsuki Fujimoto, is someone with a great love of human psychodrama. He also has a great love for cinema, with one episode in particular alluding strongly to Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining.
Speaking as someone who has read the manga this anime is based off in its entirety, I can confirm the moving, powerful, and emotionally profound artistic merit of this beautiful story. I strongly recommend Chainsaw Man to anyone who respects the art of character drama intertwined with beautiful action and artwork.