chainsaws have an interesting place in pop culture. Whether movies or movies, they’re one of the handiest tools to have on hand during a zombie apocalypse (or supposed to be, anyway). video games like armament of war and dead risen further transformed the power tool into punchlines where the joke is a nonsensical demonstration of murders. The new anime Chainsaw Man raises another question: what if your chainsaw was also your dog?
Based on recently returned manga of the same name by Tatsuki Fujimoto, Chainsaw Man takes place in a world where monstrous beings called Devils exist on Earth, and Devil Hunters are tasked with eliminating them. One such hunter is Denji, a teenager who was forced into this lifestyle after being tasked with paying off his father’s massive yakuza debt. Helped by a devil-dog with a chainsaw on his head named Pochita, the two have spent years gradually reducing Denji’s debt while the teenager continues to live in poverty and yearns for a better life. When a Routine Devil Hunt Happens extremely to the south, Denji now finds himself with the power of Pochita and can transform into a human-devil hybrid who has chainsaws on his head and arms.
An easy-to-follow setup, right? As Chainsaw Man also features a teenager who dreams of living a full life suddenly getting thrown into a supernatural hero organization, it’ll easily feel like the show is set in the same space as last year’s shonen Jujutsu Kaisen. (It doesn’t hurt that both shows were made by animation studio MAPPA either.) But that’s about where the similarities end, at least based on the single titled episode. “Dog & Chainsaw” – provided for review. Chainsaw Man starts out with a slower, almost wistful mood rather than the often playful (but no less wistful) vibes that Jujutsu operated successfully during a one season and prequel movie. Surprisingly, this more subdued tone works to the show’s advantage.
For much of its runtime, the episode has no problem presenting Denji’s struggle as one that will forever hold him back from the future he would have if he wasn’t busy cleaning up the mess. from his father. One moment he’ll be actively trying to figure out how to feed himself and Pochita throughout the month, and the next he’ll be describing the various non-essential body parts he sold just to get by. The episode highlights Denji living a dull and unfulfilled life, and co-directors Ryū Nakayama and Makoto Nakazono bring that dullness and longing for something more fulfilling into the visuals. Through different camera angles and shots of the city, Denji and Pochita can’t help but feel small and insignificant as they stroll through the city, which itself is often portrayed as idyllic and the type of place where you can create your own future. The colors are muted for much of the episode’s duration, as if to reflect Denji’s exhaustion and despair, but they blossom towards the end during two key conversations between him and Pochita.
Making a dog (or cat) a human’s only companion is something that’s been done countless times in hundreds of shows and movies. But in the same way that the show is brutal when it comes to its protagonist’s debt, Chainsaw Man don’t try too hard when it comes to Pochita. He’s a good boy, yes, but the show makes no effort to make him anything more than a dog with a chainsaw for a face. And because of that choice, the decision he makes towards the end of the episode is all the more touching due to how long Denji has operated believing he’s spent the last few years with a pet. company (admittedly deadly).
It’s not hard to see how American superhero comics have influenced recent shonen stories, and Chainsaw Man it seems to be inspired in some way by Venom. Denji may not be brain-hungry or desire to take control of random people like Marvel’s Symbiotes, but his glowing orange eyes and monstrous long teeth certainly make him as scary to watch as Marvel’s deadly protector. ‘Eddie Brock. So it’s a shame that the CG used to bring Chainsaw Man to life (and used earlier throughout the episode) can sometimes feel out of place. Because the rest of the show is 2D, a Chainsaw Man CG that’s also running at a different frame rate than the rest of the 2D world looks out of place, especially when in minimal motion.
Even with the weirdness of CG, Chainsaw Man isn’t the weirdest thing the episode has to offer – it would go to the devil who sent a horde of zombies to chew him to pieces – but MAPPA’s talent for Bringing monstrous manga designs to anime life shines again. After some initial stumble as he adjusts to the added weight that comes with his new form, Denji begins to move across the battlefield like a bloody force of nature. (And let it be said that even before Chainsaw Man appeared, the series had no shortage of blood.) around close. Seeing him rumble on camera, it’s hard not to feel sorry for whoever is going to be the recipient of the chainsaws. And the show knows it, because the joy of watching him carve through the zombies soon gives way to horror as he chuckles in delight as he finishes his job.
Closing the premiere is the appearance of Makima, a girl who operates as a Devil Hunter for the government. After determining that he is a human/devil hybrid, Makima gives him the choice to join her in hunting other demons or die, and he easily accepts. Considering the proximity of the debut of this show to the start of Gundam: Witch of Mercury, I couldn’t help but see this first episode as Episode 0 of the real story that will begin in the weeks to come. Whatever MAPPA does with the first season of their debut series, Chainsaw Man has already carved out an impressive and bloody niche for itself.
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