Hit the “Random” button and see what comes up! In this feature, we take a look at whatever manga the Random Number God decides to throw at us and find out if it’s worth your time.
This time: Negative Happy Chainsaw Edge, with art by Junichi Saiki and scenario by Tatsuhiko Takimoto
It’s been a while, hasn’t it? Due to various issues, the Random Manga Theatre was closed down for two weeks, but now we’ve re-opened for what might be our final season! The random button decided to be somewhat merciful and throw me something that wasn’t too long or too short, and with a title like Negative Happy Chainsaw Edge, I couldn’t help but take a look. Unfortunately, what I hoped would be silly and fun turned out to be self-indulgent and disappointing.
Our “hero” is Yamamoto, a bored high school kid with no goals or aspirations (Gosh, where have we heard this one before?) who sees life as pointless, blah blah blah. And, as I say every time because it’s applicable every time, we can’t start an anime without the protagonist meeting a pretty girl. So, of course, Yamamoto meets a pretty girl who goes by the name of Eri. Turns out she does battle every night with a hulking, hooded stranger who wields a giant chainsaw, and Yamamoto jumps at the chance to get in on the action. A simple enough setup for a short series, right? Well…
Yamamoto is a profoundly unlikeable protagonist, jumping into the fray because he wants to put some meaning into his life. A cute girl to team up with, and a clearly evil opponent to fight? What more could a bored high school student want to do with his after-school evenings? It reeks of the same sort of escapism that drove me up a wall when I had to cover Sword Art Online. It’s only made worse by constant fanservice shots of Eri’s panties and a few even more explicit imagine spots that truly serve no meaningful purpose. I watch a fair amount of anime, and it’s been a while since any fanservice shot made me actually feel disgusted at the work, but this manga managed to do that. Thanks, Negative Happy Chainsaw Edge.
As for the plot, it turns out the Chainsaw Man is actually the embodiment of despair, or something equally silly. He appeared when Eri became depressed after her family died, he got weaker when she started falling in love with Yamamoto (for no reason, considering he’s a pretty terrible person, but it’s anime so of course the generic boring guy gets the girl anyway), and he gets super strong when Yamamoto has to transfer schools. And then he simply disappears at the end, because Yamamoto realizes that he wants to live life, or something? It never really approaches making logical sense, and comes across more as ramblings of someone who really wanted to make a meaningful work, but failed. Everything falls flat on its face.
If I had to pick a word to describe Negative Happy Chainsaw Edge, it would be this one. I’m sure I would have loved it when I was 14 or something, and I”m sure all the 14-year-old chunibyo kids who read it now think it perfectly encapsulates their worldview. If you want to read something with a similar theme but actually good, Inio Asano’s Solanin did a far better and more meaningful job of capturing the ambivalence and listlessness of being a young adult. In fact, considering some of the plot elements in Negative Happy Chainsaw Edge, I’m almost tempted to say they read Solanin and decided to deliberately rip off parts of it. Hrm. Troubling.