Welcome to another installment of 31 Days of Halloween! This is our chance to set the mood for the spookiest and scariest month of the year as we focus our attention on horror and Halloween fun. For the month of October we’ll be sharing various pieces of underappreciated scary books, comics, movies, and television to help keep you terrified and entertained all the way up to Halloween.
Another new title to blow up in recent years at Shonen Jump has been a manga called Chainsaw Man. From mangaka, Tatsuki Fujimoto, creator of Fire Punch, this series has finally had its first volume published. As such, let’s take a look at this carnage.
According to the official description provided by Viz Media:
Denji’s a poor young man who’ll do anything for money, even hunting down devils with his pet devil-dog Pochita. He’s a simple man with simple dreams, drowning under a mountain of debt. But his sad life gets turned upside down one day when he’s betrayed by someone he trusts. Now with the power of a devil inside him, Denji’s become a whole new man—Chainsaw Man!
Looking at Chainsaw Man initially, there’s an expectation or thought about what you may have going into it. Looking at the title and seeing that cover, you could easily expect a wild, over the top action-fest with tons of crass, gross-out humor. It would be like some kind of exploitation flick but in manga form.
And there’s certainly plenty of that to be found here. There’s a lot of crass and gross humor from bodily functions to the main character internally going on about wanting to touch boobs for once in his life. There’s intense, violent action that can be really over the top and gory at points. What you may expect from Chainsaw Man is certainly here.
But the thing about this manga though from this first volume is that it is oddly and refreshingly mature and smartly written at times. This is a series with a lot of thought carefully put into it regarding its world, rules, and the characters themselves. For instance, the idea of Devils and where their name comes from. These are monsters that are born from or at least strengthened by the fear of something. The stronger humanity’s fear or mental image of something is, the stronger the Devil can be. It helps flesh out a rather interesting universe for the series to live in.
The same thoughtfulness extends to these characters, in particular, Denji. There are frustrating parts with Denji that can be very annoying, in particular all of the extra, intense focus on his sexual wants and perverted thoughts. However, the rest of him is very good. He’s a teen who has been debt-ridden almost all his life due to his father dying, leaving him with no comforts or a future. All he has had is Pochita, his pet devil dog, and dreams for what may seem trivial to us. This backstory informs and develops his character, what he does now that he has achieved what he wanted (basically stability and financial security), his desire to have companionship, and his view on other Devils and humans. He is a very well-rounded, fascinating character, who I hope the creator dives into more instead of just his constant sex and boobs thoughts.
The rest of the characters aren’t as well-defined but do have their own quirks and personality to make them stand out. Makima is the Public Safety Devil Hunter that Denji first runs into that gives him a reason to live. There’s not much known about her, but she has this off-putting persona that makes her hard to gauge. Is she a good person or is she bad? Whatever she is, she has a lot of control over others that makes her intimidating. There is Aki Hayakawa, another devil hunter who takes his job very seriously. He hates Denji for having shallow reasons to join given to his own serious ones and history. It may seem cruel or mean, but his views are understandable and valid, but so are most of Denji’s own.
Then there is Power, a Fiend (devil that possesses a human corpse), a very loud, abrasive, full of herself character who has a distaste for humanity. She only likes cats and only works with the Public Safety Devil Hunters, because, otherwise, they would kill her. She has the most character of the supporting cast, especially towards the end when the manga gives the readers a look in her mind. She also provides the most laughs, being genuinely funny in her brash, over the top way, like taking out the Cucumber Devil.
The writing overall can have some weaknesses despite its thought-out nature and maturity. The plot is a bit light early on and some bits feel rather aimless, like a lot of the second chapter. The sexual humor can be very obnoxious and distracting, especially when the book is trying to have serious moments. Again, Denji’s self-indulgent attitude as the story goes on further can be really annoying, especially since it feels so heavily focused on. None of this hurts the story too bad, but hopefully, the next volume is when things really pick up.
For a gritty, messy series like this, you need equally gritty and messy artwork to do it justice. Luckily, the mangaka has that nailed down. His art is rough and detailed in just the right ways, making for a harsh, intense-looking book. The action is vicious, the world looks dirty to its core, and the characters just blend in perfectly with it all. The artist also has a great sense of flow and movement in his panel work, making the book feel very dynamic and energetic.
Is it good?
Chainsaw Man Vol. 1 is a brutal, gory, crass, but surprisingly thoughtful and human beginning. While it may not always blend its two sides well, it is an enjoyable, thrilling time that is full of potential and intrigue. If you like action series with rather good writing and an immature, visceral side, Chainsaw Man is very much worth your time.
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