What you should know about Crunchyroll’s newest anime

What you should know about Crunchyroll’s newest anime

Chainsawman.
Photo: Crunchyroll

A new anime this season has all the ingredients for fun Halloween viewing. Demons? Check. Dark humour? Check. Deadly power tool? Never leave home without it, especially if it’s literally fused to your body. This isn’t a Sam Raimi project, it is Chainsawman, a new series poised to shred an anime season already stacked with highly anticipated action titles. Despite several long-awaited returns to television, from Mob Psycho 100 and My Hero Academia to the giant robot grandma franchise Mobile Suit Gundamthere is arguably no bigger premiere this season, or even this year, than Chainsawman.

No matter how familiar you are with this title, or even anime in general, chances are you’ve come across Chainsawman. Every trailer for the anime adaptation has garnered ratings on par with juggernauts like the last season of Attack on Titan, all without a single episode having aired. This is a show that had people singing at conventions. While Western television spun into a frenzy looking for a replacement to fill Game of Thrones– Size void after the show ended in 2019, the action anime world is going through a similar search for its next Attack on Titanand it can only find it in Chainsawman.

If you’re on the fence about the show or have only heard tidbits about it and want to know what the big deal is before diving into the season — which now has an English dub set to premiere on October 25 — here’s why Chainsawman could be your new obsession.

Photo: Crunchyroll

Based on the manga of the same name by Tatsuki Fujimoto, Chainsawman takes place in a world where human fears take physical form and become dangerous “devils”, who give humans their powers to wreak havoc across the earth. They can take many forms: A tomato devil, a weapon devil who has terrorized the world for the past decade, and a primordial dark devil, among others, all exist in this universe – an alternate history where the Soviet Union still exists and World War I never happened.

We meet Denji (voiced by Ryan Colt Levy in the English dub), a destitute 16-year-old drowning in a debt he inherited from his father and forced to sell parts of his body and work as a devil hunter for the yakuza to pay it off down. His only friend is a cute little devil dog (they also take dog form!) named Pochita (Lindsay Seidel), who fuses with Denji’s heart to revive him after being murdered by gangsters. This makes our young, dumb, horny protagonist the titular Chainsaw Man, a powerful being who becomes an official devil hunter for the police-like Public Safety Organization with the promise of a decent meal and an actual bed to sleep on.

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Chainsawmanthe violence certainly lives up to the title. Despite the fact that it is published in Weekly Shōnen Jumpthe long-running magazine aimed at teenage boys – or “shonen” – with stories of heroism, optimism and friendship (see Naruto, Dragon Balland My Hero Academia)Chainsawman is closer Attack on Titan. It is a “seinen” series, aimed at an older audience, with extreme action and violence. Again, the main character transforms into a demon with chainsaws coming out of his head and arms.

But it’s not just violence, because Chainsawman is also funny as hell. A hormonal teenage protagonist drives the tone of the story, and the humor is rough and dirty, more like raunchy teen sex comedies than, say, a Marvel-esque stream of one-liners and jokes. When Denji’s job as a devil hunter earns him decent food, he makes it his goal in life to touch the breasts of any consenting woman. From there, the story becomes what Anime News Network’s James Beckett described in his review of the first volume of the manga as “a mixture of raunchy teenage sex comedies, Hellboyand The wicked died.” Much of the appeal of the early chapters of the manga is the juxtaposition of extreme violence and crude humor belonging to a series published in the same magazine as the home of family-friendly icons such as My Hero Academia and One Piece. Luckily, Chainsawman is more than just a parody or a shock-worthy carnage. It is a commentary on the modern working class.

Photo: Crunchyroll

First, Denji comes across as much tougher than the bright-eyed, optimistic child heroes of popular shonen anime and manga-like My Hero Academia or supernatural live-action series such as Stranger Things. Denji does not set out on a noble mission, nor does he have a support system to help him defeat evil. Instead, he is driven by the simple need to not be executed for harboring a demon, and his desire to live a normal life without hunger or poverty. Denji doesn’t care about saving the world or innocent lives, and he doesn’t mourn the enemies he kills, but rather enjoys their deaths.

This is the heart of Chainsawman manga and Tatsuki Fujimoto’s writing. Its world is a horrible, absurd, bleak, illogical place, and we can do nothing but relieve the tension by embracing the stupidity and making fun of it. When we first meet Denji, we learn how many body parts he’s sold to try to pay off the debt he inherited from his father, and how little it actually mattered, as he tells himself that he’ll probably die before paying it all off .

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The story is more than a little Dickensian, all about the pains of the working class and the effects of late-stage capitalism on the young, about the way we sell our souls to jobs that don’t care about us and exploit us until we drop to death. . IN Chainsawman, the moment a devil you bargained with loses power, your job forces you to sell yet another part of your body or soul to another demon. As soon as Denji kills the zombified yakuza who betrayed and killed him, the Public Safety Division tells Denji that he has two choices: He can either be euthanized as a dog for his demon powers, or work as a demon slayer for them. Regardless, he is under constant threat of being killed.

At every turn, where other manga would give our heroes a victory, a power-up, or a new ally, Chainsawman delivers another heartbreak, a massacre, a senseless death or a betrayal. The world Denji lives in is bleak, and likely to get worse, but at least you can tell a crude joke, or eat puke or fart, and make your friends laugh. All the irritating humor and bloody violence act as a respite from the darkness of the story. Unlike other popular action anime, it skips the usual tropes of tournaments, mentors, and training segments in favor of showing the personal growth of our characters and their evolving (usually for the worse) world view.

That focus helped make the manga a hit. Before part one ended earlier this year, Chainsawman hit 11 million copies in circulation worldwide – far more than the 8.5 million copies reached by the last big new manga hit, Jujutsu Kaisen, had right before the anime adaptation aired. The Jujutsu Kaisen the show ended up being incredibly popular, while the prequel film went on to gross nearly $200 million worldwide. To Chainsawman, the numbers are only expected to go up as episodes start airing and a new audience becomes curious about how the story continues beyond the anime. (The Chainsawman (The manga has been collected into 12 volumes so far, since its debut in 2018, and hasn’t ended yet.)

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Two words: Studio MAPPA. Even if you’re not familiar with that name, the Japanese animation house has produced some of the most creative and popular titles in recent years, from Jujutsu Kaisen to Attack on Titanits final season. MAPPA has taken a series of unusual production moves for such a large and highly anticipated anime.

First, the company committed to handling the series entirely on its own—as opposed to the usual anime practice of creating a production committee made up of various companies and stakeholders. For Chainsawman anime, every decision is made between MAPPA and the manga’s publisher, Shueisha, giving the studio much more risk-taking than if there were multiple parties involved. This may have helped the show lean more into the gnarly violence of the manga’s battles, as seen in the trailers and the first episode, which faithfully recreates the gore, fashion, and violent tension of the manga’s opening chapter.

Second and more importantly, the studio tapped Ryū Nakayama, who directed the 19th episode of Jujutsu Kaisen — who was lauded for balancing a fan-favorite bromance with some of the most dazzling anime fight sequences in recent years — to make his series directorial debut with the show. It’s rare for an adaptation of such a popular manga to be directed by a newcomer, but as the studio’s CEO, Manabu Otsuka, told Anime News Network, the team wanted a younger generation to lead this story. “We wanted to make sure the team matched the original author’s age,” Otsuka said. Nakayama and Fujimoto are both millennials born in the early 90s. The show also tapped the screenwriter who turned Attack on Titan into a global phenomenon, Hiroshi Seko, to write the first season. Seko is older than Nakayama, an experience Otsuka believes Nakayama can draw on as a first-time series director.

For a story about the younger generation colliding with the decaying world left behind by the old, this is an exciting move. Will this experiment work? There is nothing to do but sit back and enjoy the carnage.

Chainsawman premiered in Japanese with subtitles on October 11 on Crunchyroll at 9 a.m. PT/12 p.m. ET. New episodes come on Tuesdays at that time. The English-dubbed episodes will be released a few hours later, at 12:30 PM PT/3:30 PM ET.

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