With Tatsuki Fujimoto’s Chainsaw Man blowing up in popularity, it’s time to return to its dark, crass world. The first volume showed a lot of potential despite some growing pains and iffy choices. How does its second outing fare as things start heating up?
According to the official description provided by Viz Media:
In order to achieve the greatest goal in human history—to touch a boob—Denji will risk everything in a fight against the dangerous Bat Devil. But will getting what he wants actually make him happy…?
The first volume of Chainsaw Man was promising, showing a manga that had a lot of careful thought put into its story, characters, and writing. While it was a bit too immature for its own good at times, there was a potential in it that had me curious. That potential and promise has now bloomed, delivering one of the best new Weekly Shonen Jump titles to come out in a long time.
The main thing that jumps out in vol. 2 how the writing feels even better, or is now getting to show how strong it truly is. The feeling of aimlessness is gone. The story has now settled into a real goal and direction with the introduction of the Gun Devil and Denji learning what he truly needs to strive for, even if he fully doesn’t realize it. It works great in two ways, setting up a major, devastating threat, while also allowing for a very personal character arc. This is what the story had been lacking up to this point, so it’s great to have it.
From a technical standpoint, this is probably one of the smartest and most carefully written mangas in a while. The pacing is on point, balancing both the action and downtime well with intense, fast encounters and epic fights, alongside slower, more intimate moments between the cast that feel natural. There’s rarely a moment that was dragged out or sped over, everything fitting together like a jigsaw puzzle. For instance, the use of flashbacks are perfect. They are always introduced in ways that naturally fit the scenario and are noninvasive, like Aki and Himeno’s past interactions or the Gun Devil’s debut. They don’t last too long, but they are expertly effective and to the point in showing the trauma and pasts of these characters.
And the strong writing lends incredibly well to its characters. Denji is possibly the most improved of the cast in a very important way. One of the main things about him from the first volume was his desire to touch a woman’s breasts. Most of his life has been harsh and with no hope for a future, so when his new job finally got him stability, he wanted to move onto something more adult. It was an annoying feature, incredibly self-indulgent and a focus that got in the way of the tone and mood of the series.
And this volume explored that when he finally got his wish. The feeling of touching breasts… it means nothing. He thought his life would change or he would reach some new point. However, it’s nothing without the personal, intimate connection with a partner he knows well. It is incredibly refreshing to see such a new take on this tired old trope and explore what it truly means for such an action to have meaning. Now he knows that and, having been given a slight taste of real intimacy with Makima, his character and his journey can truly start.
And with a stronger lead comes a stronger cast around him. Makima is not as prominent as the first volume, but when she appears, it means so much. Her attitude and words to Denji are helpful and strangely close, but also bring an eerie air that shows how much she is able to play with someone to get what she wants (whatever it may be). Aki and all the flashbacks surrounding him were great in establishing why he is the way he is, really shedding a light on his hatred for Devils and why specifically he can’t stand people like Denji and their nonchalant attitudes about the job. Power herself is growing to slightly trust humans (well, just Denji) and the final moment where she flashes back to looking for a way to save her cat was just the perfect ending to her introduction arc.
A few new characters were also introduced, but the one that shines the most is Himeno, Aki’s mentor and partner. She comes across as a very jovial, playful individual who likes teasing Denji and others, maybe even going a bit too far. Though she wouldn’t be like that if not for Aki. She was initially an incredibly gloomy, dour individual who barely seemed to care anymore, having buried another friend when Aki was first brought to her. That side still remains into the present, but it seems to be covered under her bright personality and her own scariness with just how serious she can be.
If I had to identify any weaknesses in the writing, they come in two small forms. One, Denji’s perverseness is still a bit aggravating, especially early on before he has his realization. It really can interfere with the tone a bit too much. The other is the Leech Devil’s appearance, since in such a tightly written story, it sticks out like a sore thumb. Its appearance feels so out of place and abrupt, like it was made to pad out the story for an extra chapter or two since it doesn’t really contribute anything to the plot. Sure, it leads to an impressive fight and Aki’s introduction, but it just didn’t sit right. Though, again, this is me stretching to find some problems.
Like with the writing, the artwork felt better than ever in volume 2. All of the strengths of the first book are here, with its grimy style and sense of energy, but with more. The action last time was all right, but a bit stilted at times and didn’t really shine. Here, the action moves so much better and feels more dynamic. The fights with the Bat and Leech Devils were grizzly, but so satisfying to read.
What I especially liked were the layouts. The first book was fine there, but here, it felt like Fujimoto went a bit further. It’s hard to explain, but there is something about how some scenes read with how the position of the characters, action, and points of interest flow into each other. For instance, when Denji gets into a bad situation to when Kon appears just has this natural movement that makes following along and turning the page more engaging in how dynamic it comes across. Same with the single page of Aki checking out a hotel’s bedrooms. There’s something really special in the art here that gives the book something extra.
Chainsaw Man Vol. 2 is a marked improvement over the first volume. While the sexual and crass side does not always blend with the serious and poignant moments, the writing is sharper than ever. The characterization and writing are excellent, while the art is even firing on all cylinders, delivering amazing action and engaging characters. If you were iffy on the first volume, you owe it to yourself to check out the second one.
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