First Look: Chainsaw Man

Manga Adaptation by Mappa
Streaming on Crunchyroll


Devils, the physical embodiments of mankind’s fears, terrorize humanity. Devil Hunters are tasked with combatting them. Denji, a young man who’s known nothing but the rock bottom of society, becomes Chainsaw Man, a human with a devil’s heart and the unwitting protector of the human race.

Gee’s verdict: Cinematic

I suppose it’s fitting, that the highly anticipated Chainsaw Man anime, should have an opening that references a baker’s dozen of famous films ranging from The Texas Chainsaw Massacre to The Big Lebowski. After all, Tatsuki Fujimoto, the author of the manga, has admitted he’s a gigantic film nerd. I suppose then, that it’s also fitting that Mappa decided to take such a cinematic approach to Chainsaw Man’s presentation. Let it be said, Chainsaw Man is a beautifully shot anime, with some unbelievably eye catching compositions. And yet in spite of, or perhaps because of Mappa’s almost deific worship of the source material, I can’t help but feel something is missing in this first episode. Perhaps it’s that Chainsaw Man doesn’t find its stride until more of the primary cast are introduced. Or the understandable but still lamentable use of a CG Chainsaw Man for the action sequences which are otherwise quite impressive.

If I were to attempt to diagnose it as an armchair art director, I think it’s that the source material is very manic and high energy. Much of Chainsaw Man’s appeal relies on its impeccable sense of timing, uncompromising black humor, and the personal delight it takes in its own absurdism. Mappa’s highly polished cinematic approach, which leans more into atmospheric mood setting and naturalistic character acting, almost feels like a mismatch at times. Mappa decided to focus heavily on highlighting the crushing poverty Denji lives in. You can feel the listless grind of Denji’s life with Pochita as they struggle from one job to the next, barely staving off the material conditions that threaten to obliterate them entirely. Regardless of whether it tonally lines up or not, there’s an obvious passion for the craft at display here.

I think the true test of Chainsaw Man as an adaptation will be to see how it handles the more comedic and pulpy moments. Good animated comedy is often as much the timing and delivery as it is the content of the joke itself and I wonder if Mappa has the chops to handle that kind of pace. In spite of my trepidation, I truly do want Chainsaw Man to succeed. Tatsuki Fujimoto’s original manga is maybe one of the single best things I’ve read in years, and I think that past his veneer of lackadaisical absurdism, Fujimoto is a tremendously effective storyteller. Whether Chainsaw Man actually deserves the red carpet treatment or not, I can’t help but be happy that something so unique, personal, and bold, is being treated this way. As a creator myself, I hope all of us should some day get such an opportunity.

Artemis’ verdict: Tarantino Meets The Walking Dead, But Anime

This isn’t just one of the most-hyped anime of the season, but probably also one of the most honest in terms of getting exactly what it says on the tin. If you watched the trailer for this series then you almost certainly know what to expect and whether or not it’ll be for you: a ton of blood, gore, and violence of the splattery body-horror variety. If you happen to like Tarantino films, you’ll almost certainly at least be able to appreciate what’s going on in Chainsaw Man, which pulls no punches and clearly has a lot of fun with its premise. This latter point is key, as it makes all the difference between an anime that’s all self-serious edgelord material and one like this, which actually has a sense of humor and enough self-awareness to make the storytelling… well, good.

Also on the plus side, Chainsaw Man both looks and sounds fantastic. This is top-tier MAPPA work (so yeah, the animators are probably being worked to the bone), and as a big Yonezu Kenshi fan, I’m always tickled to hear him perform in an anime OP. Long story short, this is an extremely visceral show that will almost certainly be one of the best of the fall season, but it’s not for the squeamish or faint of heart.

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