When you hear the phrase Chainsaw Man, what comes to mind? Perhaps you think it’s referring to a man who just really loves himself some chainsaws. Maybe it’s a person whose parents hated him and decided to name him after a power tool. Conceivably it could be the next big superhero come to save the day. Or, if you’re in the know about the upcoming anime series, you know that it is about a young man who forms a bond with the adorable chainsaw devil pup Pochita (Shiori Izawa) that enables him to turn parts of his body into chainsaws. If this is news to you and you’re thinking ‘what the hell are you going on about?!’ let me fill you in on all that you need to know about this bonkers show that tosses all order to the wind.
Developed by the acclaimed anime studio MAPPA, the story centers on teenage Denji (Kikunosuke Toya) who is a sadboi of epic proportions. Saddled with the debt left to him by his departed father, he has been forced to survive by taking odd jobs and selling off parts of his body (including one of his testicles). His only companion is the aforementioned Pochita who he meets in a very moody flashback when he mourns over the grave of his father in the pouring rain. The two then form an agreement that they’ll help each other out, spending their days hunting down what they refer to as “devils” for whatever cash they can get. It is a hard life, but one that he is making work for him even as he bemoans not having a woman in his life to play videogames with before falling asleep in each others’ embrace (again, sadboi). However, not all is lost as he does have his incredibly cute companion who will turn out to be his salvation when he finds himself up against the wall with no one else around to help him.
Over the rest of the show’s premiere episode, he will find himself thrown into an unexpected trap that will test the two of them like never before. When all the dust settles, Denji will then go through a transformation that turns him into the titular Chainsaw Man. A spitting image of the character from the original manga series written and illustrated by Tatsuki Fujimoto, the moment soon marks the beginning of the floodgates of bloodshed being opened. While there had been a handful of gruesome and gory moments leading up to it, nothing compares to what happens when this new form bursts free in all its glory. With a chainsaw on his head and one on each arm, he makes short work of a horde of mind-controlled enemies before taking down the Zombie Devil controlling them. Taking part in a ballet of brutality, it is a fleeting sequence that approaches being a little rushed and reliant on over-explaining via narration what was already made apparent via a striking visual sequence. It spells everything out a bit too much when we already had begun to understand.
Of course, this is all meant to give the character an interior monologue in keeping with his moody disposition. Thankfully, these somewhat unnecessary asides all fade into the background when we hear the chainsaw beginning to faintly rev up before reaching a zenith of sound and fury. This makes the reveal all the more fun as we hear his transformation before we can fully see it. The crazed persona Denji then takes on when he breaks free, laughing and killing with ease, makes it all the more fun to see him really let loose. Then, when all that remains of the bodies are strewn about him, the juxtaposition of him being more silent and uncertain once more provides a fittingly silly punchline. It provides a humorous establishment of how, inside the brutal killer we just witnessed unleashed, there is still an awkward and dorky kid who isn’t certain about what to do with himself. While there is plenty to appreciate in this moment of action, it also is refreshing to have the show carry over the darker moments of humor that had been such a prevalent part of the source material as well. It all makes for a well-animated introduction that is certain to capture the imagination and attention of the many legions of anime fans that are on a hunt of their own for the next show to watch.
With that being said, this is merely the opening chapter to the series and there is still a long road ahead. There are multiple characters that we still haven’t even met yet and entire storylines that will be introduced that will leave much of this narrative foundation behind. It leaves a sense that this is all essentially an appetizer for the main course that still has to prove itself as being worth continuing on with the macabre meal. The episode does offer a glimpse of the path that Denji will take to becoming a part of the Public Safety Devil Hunters and the many adventures that are certain to come next when he does so. Thus, this simple yet solid introduction is one that still can’t take away from the healthy amount of skepticism felt about the rest of the series. This is only the opening act and everything from here forward will have to up the ante of what was experienced only in the last part of this first episode. The brutality we have seen was certainly effective, though it will soon become blunt if not expanded upon from here forward. There remains a need to continue to build upon all of this rather significantly if Chainsaw Man is going to continue onwards and leave the impact on audiences that its source material did. However, this certainly makes for a strong start.