Chainsaw Man 015-020 – Manga Review
Synopsis: Meet Denji, he’s poor. Like, sell your body parts poor. But he’s found a gig killing demons with his chainsaw dog. Will it be enough to pay the bills? (Official Shonen Jump Synopsis.)
Warning: Spoilers to Follow:
Hitting Chapter 20 I can’t help but note how awkward Chainsaw Man’s plot progression is, alongside its comedy. That awkward nature works for the humor, often weaving events with surprising dialogue that you can’t help but chuckle at. The trouble is Chainsaw Man’s story is told with that same whimsy, and near disregard for tension building. Chapter’s 15 through 20 mostly focus on Denji and Co.’s struggle with a demon that turns the entire eighth floor into an inescapable mess. There’s opportunity here to expand our understanding of the cast, really hammer home a dynamic, and build tension as the crew turns on Denji in order to secure their own survival. New characters have just been introduced, begging for some fleshing out, but we breeze past a potentially more fleshed out version of events in favor of a couple quick gags and some rushed summery, all while Denji takes a nap. That’s not to say the comedy is bad, but a more meaty version of this 5-6 chapter arc could’ve included so much more comedy while allowing us to delve deep into the rest of the cast. We could’ve gotten to know these characters, really grown to like them. And if our author sees fit to kill them later, it’d only make the deaths all the more painful.
But that’s a grander problem with Chainsaw Man anyway: The cast is paper thin. Denji’s lustful goal for whatever part of a woman he’s yet to experience is funny, but it’s hardly endearing. The same can be said for Power. She’s aloof, silly and a great source of comedy, but we don’t get to feel all that close to her. The series tries to instill some love for the characters through flashbacks early on but it’s often not enough to make each character feel like more than a comedy PEZ dispenser.
Besides offering some chaotic, and welcome, art as Chainsaw Man goes to town on his latest victim, there’s a more epic narrative waiting to bust through. At 20 Chapters we’ve had a major villain introduced through flashbacks and exposition, and we’ve even been given the sense that Denji and his Chainsaw Man form are far more than what was first let on. But these teases are just that, teases. Chainsaw Man seems perfectly content to wiggle its way forward, with awkward comedy and strange characters taking the forefront. Other Shonen, even ones that adhere perhaps too hard to the tried and true formula, manage to instill intense emotion for its cast early on. My Hero Academia is all about getting us to sympathize and empathize with near every character Horikoshi feels like throwing in.
Naruto does much as Chainsaw Man, offering up a tragic backstory for our hero in its very first chapter. But Naruto didn’t stop there. Sure things got light-hearted, even silly, but it wasn’t long before we were again reminded of Naruto’s tragic origins, or the troubles of the rest of its cast. Outside of Aki and his tragic backstory, no one else feels particularly broken or damaged (even Denji seems to have shed everything that made him tragic early on, rarely allowing his cheerful facade to falter and let us see the damaged boy underneath.) Even if we view the series as a comedy, it would still be best if we felt some true emotion now and then.
Perhaps Chainsaw Man has a brighter future ahead, and it’s on the cusp of evolving its characters and narrative to feel like something a little more weighty. But with my plate full as even more new series join the Jump line up, I can’t wait around for it to finally shine through. And that’s a shame because for as rough as Chapter 1 could be, I really liked the style and mood that it originally showcased. It really feels like somewhere after publication the tone of Chainsaw Man shifted away wildly from what we saw early on.
That’s it for today. Please let me know your thoughts on Chainsaw Man in the comments below!
Chainsaw Man is published as part of Shonen Jump.