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First episode of 'Chainsaw Man' anime revs up with zombie guts and devil dogs

Denji (voiced by Kikunosuke Toya) wreaks havoc in <em>Chainsaw Man</em>, streaming on Crunchyroll.
Studio MAPPA/Crunchyroll
Denji (voiced by Kikunosuke Toya) wreaks havoc in Chainsaw Man, streaming on Crunchyroll.

Chainsaw Man is a much-anticipated anime about a guy who turns into a living chainsaw and hunts devils. As awesome and gnarly as it sounds, that's all there is to it, at least for the first episode.

Like a lot of anime openers, this one focuses on world-building and setup. There are devils and their devil hunter counterparts. There are shady underworld yakuza (Japanese organized crime) dealings. And there's our main character, Denji (played by Kikunosuke Toya in the Japanese dub), who's... how can I put this delicately? Simple.

Denji has the makings of a stock anime protagonist. Tragic backstory with a dead parent or guardian? Check. Chasing a dream in spite of dreadful circumstances? Check. Improbable way of obtaining powers? You bet. Still, you can't help but root for him.

He's down on his luck, living in deplorable conditions, and hunting devils to pay off his late father's debts. And as a teenage boy, all he wants to do is eat good food and get a girlfriend. Can't really argue with that. It also helps that he has such an endearing relationship with his devil-dog, which, by the way, has a chainsaw protruding out of its face.

When the Chainsaw Man finally makes his grand entrance and lets it rip, that's really the highlight of the episode. We see zombie-devil guts and limbs splatter across the screen, accompanied by the sound of heavy metal and gnashing of chainsaw blades, and you can tell the show's artists put some thought and care into the violence.

It's no surprise that MAPPA, the studio behind acclaimed titles like Jujutsu Kaisen and the last season of Attack on Titan, delivers on the animation. There's a sort of soft, filmic quality to their style, which is really pretty to look at, and interesting to see against the harshness of the fight scenes. They employ a fusion of traditional 2D hand-drawing with 3D computer-generated character models, which may not be everyone's cup of tea, and admittedly it looks out of place sometimes. But in the midst of the chaos of shredding through bad guys, it blends well.

So far, the story is just an excuse to see Denji eviscerate monsters, but that's not to say it'll always be this way. The creator of the manga (Japanese comic), Tatsuki Fujimoto, is known for his absurd, volatile, yet compelling storytelling, and if the show stays faithful to its source material, this episode is just a setup for the punchline.

The anime offers nothing wildly impressive for now, but it's just enough of a tease in a 24-minute package to hook me. If you like the carnage you see in the first episode, then you might want to stick around to see where the story goes.

Chainsaw Man is now available to stream on Crunchyroll.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Maison Tran