Every great once in a while a manga comes along that upends the community. I am talking about heavy hitters that define seasons, instantly becoming classic sometimes before they are even adapted. Series like Attack On Titan, The Promised Neverland, or My Hero Academia. Joining those ranks is a single arc 2018 series penned by the ever so talented Tatsuki Fujimoto, a sensational tragedy that embodies all the highs and lows of a Shonen classic.
Getting an adaption in the works by studio MAPPA, Chainsaw Man quickly climbed the ranks achieving a ton of praise and fame. So when I sat down to read this 97 chapter ‘masterpiece’ I had my doubts. Look, I am going to be real for a second, I am not big on a lot of heavy-hitting mangas. Attack On Titan and My Hero was kinda meh to me, The Promised Neverland is fucking amazing so I can’t really add that in there but the point is I had my doubts when I started reading Fujimoto’s, Chainsaw Man.
I also want to point out I adore his other works. Look Back is without a doubt one of the hardest-hitting one-shots I’ve ever had the pleasure of experiencing and I even enjoyed his more odd works such as Imouto no Ane, a weird tale about a younger sister painting her older sister nude for the school art competition. I haven’t read Fire Punch but it is highly regarded in a lot of ways as well but none of these remotely compare to the behemoth Chainsaw Man would become.
So the story follows Denji. Saying Denji is down on his luck would be a massive understatement. Inheriting his father’s massive debt after his suicide, Denji finds himself without a home, without food, and at the complete will of the Yakuza. Partnering with canine devil Pochita, an odd-looking red dog with a chainsaw coming out of his head, Denji scraps by hunting devils in an attempt to pay off the massive debt.
This suffering is all he knows, Denji is quite simple in what he wants out of life. He wants a warm bed, food, and a general sense of belonging. To be blunt, he wants the most basic of human needs and the single thing all humans should be entitled to. When I first read through the series that was something I overlooked, in hindsight of the second read it became apparent that is a massive plot point for the story as a whole. Denji never having the most simple and basic needs allows his straightforward desires to really make sense.
He has never had anything, ever, so when the Yakuza turns on him, ending his life, and Pochita giving him his heart binding into him allowing him to become Chainsaw Man. It’s completely understandable but equally heartbreaking he quickly and eagerly takes up Makima’s offer to join Public Safety Devil Hunters. Her terms, like most things, are simple, do what she says, he will be paid and taken care of, don’t, be killed.
This choice would lead Denji on a roller coaster ride as he is introduced to the ragtag special team under Makima. Power, a fiend cat-loving extraordinaire becomes Denji’s partner alongside Aki, as they all move into the same place. Mostly so Aki can keep tabs on the other two, making sure everything is on the up and up.
Suddenly, just like that, Denji had the single thing he always wanted. He had a place to stay, he had food, he was hopelessly in love with his boss Makima and, though it took some time, he had friends, Power and Aki becoming value companions as they go through trails slaying devils, protecting the people.
Within these trails, he, and the crew are tasked with hunting the gun devil. The single devil that has alluded but murdered countless people all over the world. It is a massive task but one Denji accepts as the reward of such a feat is one wish, anything at all, at the request of Makima. This set’s up what most of the narrative becomes as arc after arc the group fights gun devil partners, growing closer to one another while also suffering loss, sharing grief.
Eventually, Denji runs into my personal favorite character. A high school girl/part-time waitress, Reze. Reze shows interest in Denji, and slowly, he starts to share the same feeling. But as in the words of Denji, all the women in his life eventually try to kill him, and it turns out Reze is much the same.
Really I just liked her character. I found her charming and I really enjoyed the whole bomb arc, something about her stuck out to me much more than any of the other heroines in the series, but I can’t say she is the best girl.
Power is best, bless Power.
Chainsaw Man is, in every sense of the word a modern classic. It takes everything that makes current Shonen what they are, makes it more brutal and sexy drafting a story that is every bit as funny as it is merciless. I think that is one of the things that really stands out about Fujimoto’s works, all of them. He has a way to create this dialogue and situations that are a mixture of badass and hysterical, but never really turns away from the depressing undertones.
When it comes down to it I think Chainsaw Man is a perfect show of that. Within the art, the world, the characters, and how they interact with each other time and time again I found myself laughing at Power’s antics or Denji’s moronic simpleton ideals. I mean the guy gets worked over by so many girls it becomes a running joke between him and Aki, but since he has never really had love of any kind, it makes sense.
My thoughts of this series come down to the fact I mentioned before. Denji had nothing, and within the humor, action, insane world-building, that is the tragic truth. He isn’t the typical I will do it with the power of friendship, or a hero that has no power but wills himself through it anyways. He does what he does because he has to, not because he wants to and I think that is where the true wonder lies, within Denji, within Makima, within Power and Aki. How they act, how their relationships are built out of nothing, and how they end.
As always, thanks for the read!