The Manga readers’ finest dream in the first half of the year 2022 was the anticipation of the Chainsaw Man premiere. After what seemed like a moderately better-than-average Summer Anime season in 2022, the fandom was greeted with an array of amazing shows lining up in Fall 2022. Chainsaw Man episode 1 premiered this Monday and made rounds on the internet. When I first stumbled on the Manga, something felt oddly missing. It was greatly done, the illustrations: the gore and blood and the chainsaws. Yet what resonated more was the author’s hurry to get into the main storyline, rushing through the introduction of Denji.

Praises were sung as fans were quick to ask if Mappa is okay, given the fantastic animation and impeccable soundscores. Of course, chants were also heard that complained of the CGI in which Denji was shrouded; as such we bring to you a different take on Chainsaw Man Episode 1.

Simply put, the Anime once again reminds one why Denji’s introduction feels inapt and rushed (both the manga and anime). The following arguments will shed spoilers on the first episode of Chainsaw Man without revealing too much of the Manga.

The problem may lay in Chainsaw Man Manga story itself, and not necessarily an anime flaw

Mappa in animating Chainsaw Man Episode 1
The crisp animation by Mappa studios, courtesy of Crunchyroll

Now heed my words, I don’t see any way that any studio could possibly animate the first episode any better. With the exceptions being there always (a few masterpieces like Attack on Titan Episode 1).

The only aspect in which the eccentric violent horror manga adaptation could have been done better, according to my view, is again the CGI. But given how such a preference is subjective, let us not stray into such muddy water for now.

Chainsaw Man Author must have rushed

Pochita and Denji Chainsaw Man ANIME
Pochita and Denji, snapped via Crunchyroll
  • Shonen anime ride a lot on their main protagonist – who is more or less always a boy (again exceptions include Kakegurui, Soul Eater, etc).
  • As such the weight of the entire world falls upon building a protagonist that is distinctly unique yet understandably complex.
  • Without a foundational protagonist, the entire story seems to crumble.

When I say Denji’s introduction can suck my a**, I say that to point out a more subtle flaw. It is my assumption that Tatsuki Fujimoto rushed to tell the story of Pochita and Denji. 

Glossing over the good things that make the readers/audience connect to Denji’s persona and story

The Chainsaw Man Anime hybrid form
The Chainsaw Man hybrid form, courtesy of Crunchyroll

The episode shines a lot on Denji’s personality.

  • The fact that he sold several of his organs (including his nuts) to pay off his father’s debt with reign in millions brings the audience’s sympathy.
  • The focal attraction of the episode seems to be Pochita, who is oddly cute and dog-like.
  • Denji’s slave persona is remarkably noted throughout the first episode, as the Yakuza leaders point out how he obeys every command like a dog.
  • The story accentuates between Denji and Pochita’s bonding and glimpses of Denji’s impoverished past.

Now, these are the good aspects of the story in Manga that the anime adopts. When the Yakuza leader calls Denji once again to hunt a devil in an abandoned factory, things start going haywire. It is at this point that I must say that the entire introduction of the main character seems to be Fujimoto’s ticket for getting a manga that sells.

The Zombie devil in Chainsaw Man Episode 1 is the plate on which Denji is served to the audience

Zombie Devil in Chainsawman
Denji is taken to an abandoned factory by a Zombie Devil that appears out of nowhere and apparently wants to kill Denji because he happens to be a devil hunter (which he isn’t even officially but whatever). Snapped from Crunchyroll

The thing about this introduction of the story is that it feels like a standalone. A good introduction not only puts the protagonist but also displays the main players of the story. Although the episode manages to do this by the end when Makima enters. Ultimately Chainsaw Man season 1 will inevitably center around Makima. As such it should be noted that Denji’s introduction feels more like a standalone prologue; something similar to Jujutsu Kaisen 0. I say this mainly because –

  • The Zombie Devil feels nothing more than a cheap plot setting for Denji to showcase the Chainsaw devil hybrid form.
  • The zombie devil has no apparent strings attached to the story and only serves as a silver platter in which Denji’s action form is presented. As such the point of the zombie devil really feels like fan service, but for the more gore-loving sadomasochistic fans.
Zombie Devil in Chainsaw Man Episode 1
The zombie devil, as seen in first episode of Chainsaw Man, Courtesy of Crunchyroll

To trade this point to you, imagine Tokyo Ghoul. It did something similar when Rize Kamishiro was introduced only as a means for Kaneki to become a ghoul. Yet Rize was no minor antagonist and continued to have influence on Kaneki’s consciousness. This ensures that the bridge in which the protagonist is introduced is not forgotten. Even in the Manga, the Zombie devil’s presence is hardly anything remarkable.

Taking the examples of other similarly contemporary popular Shonen series

Gojo Satoru
Gojo Satoru in the film Jujutsu Kaisen 0, via Rotten Tomato trailers

Another series that did something similar but succeeded was Jujutsu Kaisen. I will add that Shonen anime must do its best in encapsulating the audience/readers from the first chapter/episode itself.

Yuji holds his ground even before the other players are introduced

  • What really hooks you in Jujutsu Kaisen’s beginning (2 episodes) is the smirk of Sukuna and the battle that ensues between Gojo and the king of curses. But even before that, Yuji’s unusually high physical capabilities given with his moralistically good nature get to you.
  • Throughout the series, it becomes evident that the position of Itadori Yuji is relatively downtrodden but not entirely that secondary. With ominous presences such as Sukuna and Gojo, the world of JJK connects more to you with how Itadori traverses it.

The objective of a well-written protagonist is for audiences to see the story through their perspective

Attack on Titan by Hajime Isayama
Eren Jeager in Season 4, IMDB

As such, the point of protagonists in shonen may be a medium. With this, I mean to state that through the journey that the main character goes through with his/her perspective, we get to immerse ourselves in the fiction of that world. Jujutsu Kaisen is a great story that builds an amazing world and has plenty of characters, including Gojo. But Itadori Yuji is not the strongest attraction from the get-go.

Drawing from this example, let us also dive into other shonen that actually did the main protagonist’s introduction correctly.

My Hero Academia’s introduction induces an emotional attachment; something Chainsaw Man Episode 1 doesn’t do

Pochita and Denji Chainsaw Man ANIME
Denji and Pochita in the first episode, via Crunchyroll

My Hero Academia is immensely popular. I will draw it here that the first few episodes of My Hero Academia are one of the finest Shonen introductory episodes ever. It takes about 2 anime episodes for the first chapter to be covered; which is one of the finer decisions taken by Studio Bones. The first chapter ended with an intensely emotional overtone, where Deku shouts that he too wants to become a hero, as a nodding All Might sees the child on his knees.

In both Jujutsu Kaisen and Boku no Hero Academia, the main characters become pivots to the central storyline. In the case of Itadori, he eats Sukuna’s finger while Midoriya becomes the successor to All Might.

Similarly, the entire point of the series is for us to attach to the main character’s development. As such, each power-up, growth, and development counts. When Luffy went Gear 2, it broke the internet. When Goku first went Super Saiyan, it broke each household watching the darn show on their television. But Denji going hybrid chainsaw man feels despairingly empty. 

Conclusion

Denji being hugged by Makima
Denji being hugged by Makima, courtesy of Crunchyroll

Chainsaw Man episode 1 covered the entirety of Manga chapter 1, which is about 56 chapters long. The reason why both Boku no Hero Academia and Jujutsu Kaisen took its time with the introduction was to establish things rightly.

Mappa animating the entirety of the first chapter is nothing odd, yet given how Denji is introduced it proves another point. Fujimoto knows the formula for the well-received Shonen series. Instead of going slow and building things gently (like Yu Yu Hakusho, a classic example), it is best to give a preview of what the story is about in the first episode itself. Yet in doing so, Denji feels extremely inorganic and unrelatable. 


Also Read: What story will Kaguya Sama Love is War: The First Kiss Never Ends tell?

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Rhytham is a Philosophy graduate who founded a state-level organization that promotes anime and Japanese culture in his home state of Assam India. The org is named Assam Senpai Society. He is also an ardent writer, poet, musician, vocalist, graphic designer, and photoshop artist. He has worked on multiple state and national level conventions. Other than anime, catch him watching western series that really have in themselves the solidity to catch his attention.