Chainsaw Man is now streaming on Crunchyroll, Hulu, and Prime Video.
It’s easy to forget just how highly anticipated Chainsaw Man was. Even before a single frame of the anime had been shown, fans were already predicting it would be an instant classic. Now that the first season is over, it’s clear that Studio MAPPA’s adaptation did not mark the beginning of a new era for anime, and it did not change the game for shonen action shows. Still, Chainsaw Man delivered an incredibly effective first season that married one of the best shonen manga of the past few years with a prestige TV-like eye for the cinematic — all while having chainsaws go brrrrrrr.
The first season of Chainsaw Man adapts the first 38 chapters of Tatsuki Fujimoto’s manga, which is essentially all about establishing the characters, their dynamics, and motivations, as well as the main conflict and villain. Despite a short episode order, Chainsaw Man covered a lot of ground at the pace of a fully powered chainsaw. The show introduces something new every few minutes, whether it’s a funny joke, a gross visual gag, a new interesting character, a bloody fight, or just a small emotional moment.
And it is these emotional moments where the show shines the brightest. I said in my initial premiere review that one thing that truly makes this story stand out is its approach to mundane displays of feeling. Chainsaw Man is filled with gore and guts, has a horror-inspired world with intricate lore, and has action sequences to die for, but what truly makes it special is that it understands the power of silence in a way that resembles cinema more than anime. Like Odd Taxi, it fits right at home with today’s prestige TV landscape more than it does the Jujutsu Kaisens and Demon Slayers of the world, with a knack for creative camera angles, POV shots, clever editing, and more techniques that make it feel visually unique. Take a simple scene of Aki in the hospital, for example: the camera lingers on his still face, letting us sink into his emotions, with the animation being as fluid and detailed as it is during a fight scene, all before he finally releases his anger and grief and starts crying.
Chainsaw Man is a workplace comedy, horror, and action series, and it works like gangbusters.
And yet, the fact that the show often goes from a moving scene like that to an incredibly dumb and hilarious one with Denji and Power goofing around is a testament to the masterful balance of trashy and artful tones that it achieves. In any other anime, the juvenile, 2000s sex comedy humor of Chainsaw Man would be gross and off-putting, but here it works wonderfully because of the world that Tatsuki Fujimoto created. A young millennial author, Fujimoto captures the bleak outlook many in his generation have on the world (with good reason), and Chainsaw Man constantly shows why it is necessary to have any kind of release from the cruelty of the world, even if it’s just joking around like an idiot with your roommates.
Unlike the vast majority of shonen shows which are set in high school, Chainsaw Man is more of a workplace comedy, horror, and action series, and it works like gangbusters. Fujimoto knows how hard it can be to make friends as an adult, to click with someone beyond just being coworkers, but also just how special it is when it happens. The dynamics here are not that of best friends or soulmates, but that of coworkers, partners, and roommates even. Seeing Denji, Power, and Aki slowly grow to like and rely on one another genuinely and not just because their work forces them to hang out is quite satisfying.
Of course, it’s still an action show, and Chainsaw Man more than delivers on that front. The fight scenes are stunning, dynamic, and filled with guts, but they also have an eye for the cinematic, with the choice of camera angles aiding in making this more than just a punch-fest. They also subvert expectations by avoiding stretching fight scenes across multiple episodes, instead delivering just enough to create excitement without deflating the tension.
Is Chainsaw Man peak fiction? No, not yet. But every episode of the show is peak Chainsaw Man, and that’s all we can ask.
Chainsaw Man Season 1 brings one of the most popular manga of the past few years to the screen with a fantastic adaptation that not only does justice to the source material, but actively adds to it with cinema-inspired visuals that make this absurd, gory, dumb, and hilarious world feel incredibly real and relatable. Well, as real and relatable as the story of a man with chainsaws for hands can be.