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The Fall 2022 Preview Guide
Chainsaw Man

How would you rate episode 1 of
Chainsaw Man ?
Community score: 4.4

What is this?

Denji is a destitute young man who lives in a world filled with bloodthirsty monsters called Devils. One day, he befriends Pochita, who is a Devil dog-thing that is also a literal chainsaw. If that wasn't already weird, things take a real turn when Denji is murdered by gangsters, and Pochita fuses with his soul to save his life. This turns the perpetually hungry and horny Denji into the titular Chainsaw Man, who ends up hunting other Devils for the enigmatic Makima, a woman who works for a governmental bureau of Devil Hunters, and strings Denji along with vague promises of sex and fortune, even as she treats him as little more than a dog himself. (from manga)

Chainsaw Man is based on Tatsuki Fujimoto's manga and streams on Crunchyroll on Tuesdays.

How was the first episode?

James Beckett

Was there ever any doubt? MAPPA has assembled such a crack team of artists, directors, and performers to adapt Tatsuki Fujimoto's atom-bomb of a manga that I genuinely don't know how it would have been possible for this adaptation of Chainsaw Man to be bad, or even mediocre. The source material on its own is so goddamned good that I'm pretty sure the only way to completely faceplant an anime translation of it would be to do it on purpose, as a joke. Even a barely animated slide-show version of Chainsaw Man would have to have some entertainment value, because Denji the Chainsaw Boy's Misadventures in Demon Slaughter make for such a ludicrously weird and entertaining foundation.

Thankfully, MAPPA has wisely chosen to do the exact opposite of what I just described, because they animated the everloving shit out of this Chainsaw Man premiere, which is essentially a perfect 1:1 adaptation of the manga's introductory chapter. Denji and Pochita's dingy and blood-soaked dystopia is positively dripping with weight and atmosphere, and even the most incidental scenes are hand-crafted with a cinematic attention to framing and detail. Some fans might be somewhat disappointed that the titular Chainsaw Man has been rendered in CGI, but the effects are pretty well blended together for the most part, and it also allows the team to really add some heft and dynamic motion to the choreography of the fight scenes, like the ones against the horde of zombies that kickstarts Denji's new life as a demon-possessed corpse who obliterates other demons for the low, low price of being the glorified attack dog of Makima and her Public Safety Division. Plus, the sound design of the Chainsaw Man scenes whips ass; I've long since maintained that Chainsaw Man would live and die on the quality of the title character's “brrrrr brrrr vuh-vroooooooom” sounds, and I think the show does them justice.

Hell, if anything, I'd say the one reservation I have about Chainsaw Man is that it might be too polished. Fujimoto's art can be described in a lot of different ways—grungy, manic, deranged, expertly paced—but the last thing I think you'd ever call it is “pretty”. Fujimoto's use of negative space is essential to what makes some of his best compositions feel so visceral and memorable, and I worry that MAPPA's very clean and well-defined style won't manage to capture that critical ingredient of Chainsaw Man's secret sauce. Likewise, so much of Chainsaw Man's charm is derived from the masterful way that Fujimoto blends his exaggerated and often bizarre set pieces with deceptively straightforward scenes of hilarious black humor; the comic timing of the manga is often reliant on jump cuts and the perfect placement of a repeated deadpan expression. It's the kind of visual stylization that seems at odds with this version of Chainsaw Man, which has felt very grounded and naturalistic for a story about a sex-obsessed teenaged hobo who turns into a flailing mass of chainsaw limbs so he can fight demons which represent the abstract concept of societal fears given flesh.

Still, I'm not going to pretend that this premiere wasn't a badass ride, from start to finish. It has thus far managed to capture everything that makes Chainsaw Man's world and characters so great, and while its aesthetic choices set it apart from the manga, I think that this could still prove to be every bit the world-dominating powerhouse that its source material has become. Long live Denji, may his chainsaws forever buzz, and may we all rejoice and dance beneath the splattered guts of anything unfortunate enough to get in the way of our king and his unquenchable thirst for girl-hugs and junk food.

Nicholas Dupree

Well, it's here. After nearly two years of anticipation, with certain fans literally barking for it, the most hyped-up title of the season has finally arrived in all its bloody guts and glory. You probably don't need me or anyone else to tell you to watch Chainsaw Man – Crunchyroll will be loudly doing that enough anyway – but just in case you were hesitant about this adaptation, or weren't sure if this show would be right for you as a newbie, rest assured that this premiere is a bloody good time.

Emphasis on bloody, though. Chainsaw Man is a title absolutely caked with gore and viscera from toe to saw-tip, and this first episode fully commits to bringing all that sloppy wet human juice to the small screen. And even if you're up for all the blood spatter, that darkness also translates to the overall tone of this premiere. Denji and his devil dog Pochita live in a cynical, gritty world where just the thought of an extra slice of bread for dinner feels like a pipe dream, and much of the first half of this episode is spent just piling on the suffocating strain of their destitution. Both Denji and the audience can tell he is doomed well before a horde of devil-possessed zombies cut him to pieces, and while it's all delivered with sympathy and sentiment, it's altogether a very heavy setup for the eventual gory climax that is more effecting than it is “fun” to watch.

Denji himself is a simple character so far, but certainly a relatable one. He's a kid who's trying to scrape by under a burden he has no business shouldering, and hearing him list off his simple, mundane dreams is both endearing and heartbreaking all at once. Pair him up with the ugly-cute mascot Pochita and you have an intensely touching boy-and-his-dog setup that really does get you invested in their plight, and invites you to revel in the cathartic violence as they get their revenge at the end. It certainly helps that said violence – and just about every other bit of animation here – is lovingly rendered and directed. When chainsaws start flying, they do so with a palpable weight and vicious slicing power that sends blood flying across every pixel of the screen, and it's an absolute blast. Studio MAPPA have made a big deal about their approach and reverence to the manga, and that's very obvious here in all the flexing their action team does, but is just as apparent in the quieter moments of Denji's story. If anyone was worried about this from an adaptation standpoint, this premiere makes it clear the material is in good hands.

That said, as somebody who's quite a big fan of the manga, there are some chipped blades on this chainsaw, at least from my perspective. For one, I'm not really a fan of the washed-out color pallet this premiere is working with. The story doesn't call for bright colors, exactly, but Tatsuki Fujimoto's art had a fantastic grasp of contrast that just isn't apparent in the greyish blacks and concrete sunlight here, and it takes away some of the impact. I'm also not wild about the music so far, as the soundtrack features a lot of frankly generic electric sounds that just doesn't work with the grimy, distinctly analog world of Chainsaw Man, and combined with the color work it makes this opening salvo feel a little underwhelming. Granted that's only noticeable because of how close they get with everything else in capturing the energy of the original, but it's still something that stood out to me on first watch.

On the whole though, this is still appointment television for anyone who can stomach a pint or two of blood every week.

Rebecca Silverman

Chainsaw Man is one of those episodes that I can recognize as good without actually liking it at all. It's got a neat concept: when Denji's luck turns to its worst point yet and he's killed by the yakuza who have basically been keeping him in abject poverty, the tiny chainsaw dog-demon he befriended bonds with him in a literal sense, turning him into…Chainsaw Man! Who can apparently only be de-transformed by the hug of a woman? That remains to be seen, but the symbolism is solid; Denji's life has clearly been devoid of any and all positive human contact since at least before his father committed suicide, and along with food, that's one of the things he's dreamed about. So being turned back into a human by positive behaviors like a requested hug remind him that he's still got things to be human for. His demon transformation is also well thought-out, with a pullcord dangling from his chest allowing him to basically turn on chainsaw form. Add in that this has some really beautifully animated moments (that water dripping towards the end!), and this has a lot going for it.

So why don't I like it? Mostly that's down to two very specific reasons: its bleakness and the excessive gore. The latter is just something I don't enjoy, and it's something that this episode relishes. Not only does Denji die a gruesome death, he then returns to dole out the same to the yakuza (who stupidly bargained away their humanity to the poorly-chosen Zombie Demon), and it just feels excessive. Yes, I know very well that's what chainsaws do to human flesh (there's a reason Mom sold Dad's), but it honestly turned my stomach to see it play out for long minutes onscreen. It also feels like the whole “poor Denji” angle is overdone – selling a kidney I can buy, but also an eyeball and a testicle? And he lives on a piece of bread a day? If the yakuza really want him to make money for them as a demon killer, wouldn't it behoove them to, I don't know, feed the guy? Yes, they're clearly setting him up to fail, but I just had a hard time buying what the episode was selling.

I suspect that I'm going to be in the minority here, because it truly is an episode that sets up what could be an interesting story. But it's too blood-soaked and depressing for me, so I'll pack up my dislike and go home.

Richard Eisenbeis

With all the blood and guts prevalent in the trailers so far, the last thing I expected from Chainsaw Man's first episode was a rather profound look at human nature. When it comes down to it, this entire episode is an examination of human desires. All the characters we meet have what they need to survive (if barely) but are looking for ways to improve their lives. Denji wants a life free from debt—a life where he has enough extra money to have jam on his toast. Meanwhile, the yakuza want supernatural powers—the magic that demons possess.

Of course, this is the epitome of a “the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence” situation. The yakuza have the money for the normal life Denji wants while Denji has the contract with a demon that the yakuza want. The thing is, by allowing their respective envy to control them, both Denji and the yakuza are brought to ruin—the yakuza by making a contract with a demon that turns them into zombies, and Denji taking every job he can without a second thought (leading him into a fatal trap).

Denji, however, has the opportunity to learn from his mistake—and he does so. He realizes after Pochita repairs his body at the cost of his own that he should have been more grateful for having a best friend to share his life with. This is why he is so happy for the simple breakfast offered to him in the end. Not only does it sound like a dream compared to his life so far, he has learned to treasure the good things in life while he has them. After all, there's no telling when they will be suddenly and brutally taken away.

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