Anime has had the world hooked on it for a long time now. We all love to see worlds where teenagers have the ability to save the world, an unhealthy amount of fixation on boobs, characters yelling out their attack names, enemies explaining their plan in great detail to the protagonists and an unusual absence of parents. What’s not to love about these “Japanese Cartoons.”
Recently, largely due to the pandemic, anime as a medium saw a gargantuan increase in viewers all over the world, especially in India. It changed from being something only a handful of people watched in secret due to the fear of being ridiculed to being a part of the mainstream. People of all ages declared themselves as ‘weebs’, anime forums and discussions are seen everywhere.
People can identify fellow enthusiasts from all the anime merchandise being repped, and platforms like Netflix and Crunchyroll have large libraries of anime to make it more accessible. In recent times, shows like Demon Slayer, Attack on Titan and Jujutsu Kaisen have been the talk of the town. Fans of these shows are found in every corner of the world. However, there is one anime that is going to start airing in October 2022 (hopefully), and that’s going to take Anime to a whole new level: Chainsaw Man.
Chainsaw Man is a manga written by Tatsuki Fujimoto and is already very popular in the manga and anime community. The announcement of the anime saw a lot of hype and fans are eagerly waiting for its release. It was the 5th bestselling manga of 2021 and has received a lot of critical acclaim.
In my opinion, the world is not ready for Chainsaw Man.
It is unlike any other shounen anime that has ever come out. It plays beautifully with the concept of good and evil, right and wrong and character motivations. Fujimoto’s storytelling abilities shine through as he creates a very unique world, and the development of characters is done masterfully. The humour of the manga is very unusual and may not be for everyone, but little quips of wit are scattered throughout the rather dark and cruel world, which provide very necessary comic relief.
Even though the manga was published in the Shonen Jump magazine, it deals with very serious and mature topics like death, sex, betrayal, love, etc and is more like a Seinen manga. Chainsaw Man breaks a lot of shounen anime stereotypes and is much more realistic and grounded. This is a refreshing change from the over-the-top anime that have been around forever.
Chainsaw Man is set in a world where devils, who originate from hell, roam the Earth and cause destruction and death. These malevolent devils are born from human fears and their powers are proportional to the fear they incite. This means that the Death devil is going to be extremely powerful while the Guitar devil is weak.
Death is one of the most feared things among humans and hence the death devil is capable of great destruction, while not many people are scared of guitars I would assume, so the Guitar devil holds little to no power. Human beings can form contracts with these devils to gain a fraction of their power in exchange for something significant to them. Devil Hunters are individuals trained to capture and kill devils to maintain world peace.
Denji is a teenage boy who is our protagonist. He lives in extreme poverty paying off his dead father’s debt to the mafia. He kills devils with his canine friend cum chainsaw devil Pochita. When the mafia no longer sees a use for Denji, they kill him brutally. However, in his dying state, he forms a contract with Pochita and becomes Chainsaw Man, a human-devil Hybrid, under the condition that Denji shows his dreams to Pochita. Denji massacres the Yakuza and is approached by a team of governmental Devil Hunters, the Public Safety Division, led by Makima, who persuades him to join their ranks. Agreeing, Denji is partnered with Power, the Blood Fiend, and Aki Hayakawa, a self-destructive Devil Hunter. Makima promises Denji any favour, provided he kills the Gun Devil, the perpetrator of the greatest massacre in human history.
A wide array of things separates CSM from other run-of-the-mill shows. The draw is the dichotomy of the ridiculous and funny characters and their dark and gloomy environment. One panel of the manga could be about the brutal death of one of the most beloved characters in the story, and the next could be about the hazards of not flushing your shit. One word of caution while reading CSM would be to not get attached to characters in the story. Fujimoto does not shy away from killing his best-written and loved characters. There are deaths in every other chapter and little to no time to mourn them.
The manga is brilliantly paced, with each chapter carrying weight and significance. There are many twists and turns, expectations are subverted, savage betrayals and unusual friendships. The art of the manga is breathtaking with extreme attention to detail. Since Mappa is going to animate the show, fans are hoping that they do justice to this beautiful manga.
Fujimoto dives deep into intrinsic character motivations and how the human mind is fickle and indecisive.
The motivations may look superficial but on closer inspection, are much more layered and deep. For example, Denji joins the Public Safety Division because the head of the division, Makima, promises him that she would let him touch her boobs in return. I mean, that does look like a pretty good deal considering how the mangaka designed her character. Denji is also shown to be easily influenced by sex appeal and seduction from many female characters.
However, once we delve deep into this, the reason Denji shows these characteristics is his intrinsic need for love and intimacy. He has never been loved or been close to anyone emotionally in his entire life, having to fend for himself since a very young age. Hence, he is attached very quickly when someone shows the smallest bit of interest in him.
Chainsaw Man embraces the concept of ‘show, don’t tell.’
Fujimoto makes use of vivid visuals and good dialogue to move the story. He doesn’t treat his readers like idiots by adding unnecessary expositions and flashbacks. The story flows very smoothly because of it. The dynamic between the characters is depicted in a way where it seems painfully real, exploring the characteristics of the human psyche. Hatred and love are important themes and the characters are relatable. CSM also boasts a large female cast. These women are brutal, evil, powerful, flawed and not just mere eye candy. CSM makes use of sex appeal in an unorthodox way and the strength of human desire is depicted very well. It also uses symbolism to explore concepts like fascism and nazism.
This is all I can say about this brilliant manga without giving too much away. I believe that anyone who is a fan of good storytelling, expert world-building, goosebump-inducing art and action sequences, unexpected twists and superb writing should give the manga a go before watching the anime. Chainsaw Man is the kind of story that stays in your head for a long time and makes you question the fabric of society.
Hidden messages and symbolism are spread throughout the manga, and multiple readings are needed to comprehensively understand the author’s vision. It is going to have you rolling on the floor laughing one minute and then bawling your eyes out the other. If this doesn’t sell you on the manga, read it just to understand all the memes and fan fiction floating around on the internet. I am sure you won’t regret the experience that is Chainsaw Man.