WARNING: This post contains spoilers for Chainsaw Man, Volume 1, which contains chapters 1-7 on the Viz app.
Chainsaw Man is a new series by Tatsuki Fujimoto, who you may also know as the creator of Fire Punch. With an intriguing storyline, likable characters, and a mischievous attitude, Chainsaw Man is one of the best new manga to come out in quite some time and it is a comedy horror that will tear its way into your heart.
Chainsaw Man's main character Denji is positive despite his rough upbringing. Not only was he left with his father's debt to the Yazkuza, but he has been forced to pay off that debt by doing anything they request, labelling him their "dog". In the beginning, he talks about selling off his body parts and taking on odd jobs, like cutting down trees. But the best way for him to make money? Killing off some devils as a Devil Hunter. Denji will do anything to make money, even eating a cigarette. This paints quite a desperate picture for Denji and shows just how gullible he can be, but on the flip side, you see just how loyal he is, even to a fault.
There is a lot of adolescent-level humor in the series, but I think this adds to Chainsaw Man's charm. It especially makes sense given the personality of Denji, who's cheeky and mischievous in a lovable way. While forced to grow up at a young age, he still maintains some child-like attributes that also function as coping mechanisms. Humor is something he uses to get through the day and to forget just how stressful his life is, and this makes him a highly relatable, likable character.
As of now, Denji's goals aren't lofty, and in most people's eyes, are actually quite attainable. But to him, a normal life seems impossible, so he only longs for the simple things. What that entails isn't all too much to ask for; All he wants to do before he dies is hug a girl and eat something other than plain bread, and while it seems that's something he could easily achieve, for Denji it's not all that easy to obtain. That is, until he meets Makima, who checks both his boxes of hugging a girl and eating some good food, even if that food is soggy udon.
From the very first moments you meet Denji, you are sympathetic of his situation, but it's his relationship and connection to Pochita that had me hooked the most. Pochita is a devil dog with a chainsaw protruding out of his head, but he is better described as Denji's best friend and companion. Since Denji saved his life, Pochita grew a liking towards the human. He likes hearing about his dreams, and they both really look out for each other. It's touching to see their relationship together and to see just how bound to one another these two souls are.
Just like Denji rescued him, Pochita returns the favor when he is stabbed in the back by the Yakuza, who made a deal with a devil in exchange for power. The situation leads to Denji getting torn to pieces by devil zombies, but Pochita makes the ultimate sacrifice by giving him his heart, and he is brought back to life as the "Chainsaw Man". This sets him up to be the one that brings together the two worlds of humans and devils, because he now exists in neither, but in both. This is somewhat similar to how Kaneki in Tokyo Ghoul is torn between the two worlds of ghoul and human. Denji is bound to be a voice that speaks for both, and I find this to be an extremely interesting concept, especially given that he is a jokester with small aspirations. Even so, he has a big heart, which while can get him into trouble, makes him a powerful character, who has a lot of depth and is bound to grow stronger in the volumes to come.
This is a horror manga, so it gets downright bloody and grisly in some scenes, but as a fan of the genre, I really enjoy just how graphic these moments are and how they are illustrated. And I have to say that as illustrations go, the ones in Chainsaw Man, like the one seen below, showcase some badass imagery. It doesn't come across as too dark in any way though, because Chainsaw Man is also a comedy, which allows this series to strike the perfect balance. It's completely absurd at times, but it never loses that element of fun, which reminds me a lot of cult comedy horror movies, like Ash vs Evil Dead.
In another way though, it also reminds me a lot of Tokyo Ghoul:re; Mainly in the way that The Public Safety Devil Hunters remind me of a group like the Quinx Squad. They are a group of individuals who've received powers from outside forces, and are using those very powers to fight the beings that they derived that very power from. Much in the same, I also question the Public Safety Devil Hunters intentions for the use of individuals, like Denji, and exactly what Makima's true purpose for recruiting him is.
Some of the hunters join because they lost everything at the hands of the devils, others because they want money, while some are forced into it because they have no other choice. This creates an extremely diverse group of characters that, while different, are working together for the same cause; Somewhere along the line though, differences in personality are bound to happen and you always have those two characters that butt heads, which happen to be Aki Hayakawa and Denji. These two characters highlight the difference of people, like Denji, who believe that good devils, like Pochita exist in the world, and Hayakawa, who believes that all devils are bad and deserve an excruciating death. So far, the dialogue and interaction between the characters in Chainsaw Man is done well, and I can't wait to see more about these characters as they are further developed in the coming volumes.
Denji's goals change over the course of the volume. First he wants to hug a girl, and the minute he achieved that, he moved on to wanting to touch boobs. While I found this somewhat cheap and predictable, it serves a purpose. It's meant to show you the low expectations that Denji has for his life, but I'm sure his dreams will only continue to grow as the series moves on. As of now, he still doesn't expect much to happen for him, but that's sure to change.
There's a narrative in this series that all devils are evil, but as Denji shows you, just like their are good and bad people in this world, there are also good and bad devils. This is one of the most exciting elements of Chainsaw Man, but it's its absurdly entertaining approach that makes Volume 1 a true standout. It's full of action and is wild, but it has a ton of heart and emotion packed within it as well.