Art & Story by: Tatsuki Fujimoto
First issue: December 2018
Genres: Action, Horror, Supernatural, Gore, Black comedy
What it's about: Denji is so poor, he once sold a testicle to pay off his debt to the yakuza.
His main source of income is working as a devil hunter, alongside his trusty chainsaw devil-dog Pochita. But when the yakuza turn on Denji, Pochita fuses with Denji's corpse, resurrecting him as the devil-human hybrid Chainsaw Man. Now an official devil hunter, Denji grapples with his new powers, his new job, and a sea of villains out to get him.
First impressions: Tatsuki Fujimoto's earlier work, Fire Punch, doesn't exactly scream 'family-friendly'. I have no idea what Jump's editors were thinking when they decided to publish Chainsaw Man. It is easily the most dark and inappropriate work to ever be featured in the pages of Shonen Jump. And I love it.
Chainsaw Man is aggressively irreverent. It rips cliches and conventions to shreds and throws them in the toilet before proceeding to take a nice warm shit all over them. I didn't know what I was getting myself into. I certainly wasn't expecting this:
Chainsaw Man revels in its own immaturity at times. It throws gag after vulgar gag at the reader, all the while bathed in its own blood (and vomit). This isn't for the faint of heart.
Surprisingly for such a manga, the female characters are strong and well-written. They're firmly in control of their own sexuality, which they use to get men to do their bidding. It's a refreshing way of placing power in their hands.
It's not all sex, violence, and toilet humour though. As I mentioned before, Chainsaw Man aggressively breaks cliches. Denji is the perfect example of defying cliches. Uniquely among shonen protagonists, he is defined by his total lack of ambition. His trivial 'dreams' (such as wanting to have jam and bread for breakfast) are fulfilled rather early on. And then what? What drives you to live your life when you don't have dreams? Is it normal to be so empty, to desire nothing? Between all the bawdy jokes, Chainsaw Man asks these hard questions without actually asking them. Show, don't tell.
And one can't forget the action, which is off-the-charts insane. Fujimoto is a fantastic artist. He cites famed mangaka Hiroaki Samura as his favourite artist, and it's easy to see the influence. The detailed and pencilly Samura-esque style lends itself very well to the manic action scenes. The art is very good at conveying movement, force, and impact.
The gore is messy yet incredibly detailed. The ludicrous ultraviolence is often downright hilarious at times, especially when accompanied by the demented Denji's commentary:
Perhaps Chainsaw Man's biggest problem is how it struggles to balance all these aspects. The plot has the attention span of a squirrel, being unable to decide what to be: are we raunchy comedy, splatter horror, dark fantasy, or noir drama? It can't decide.
Chainsaw Man is nothing too deep. It's just a talented up-and-coming mangaka having a bit of crazy fun. And I'm totally here for it.
Who will enjoy this: Anyone who can stomach all this extremeness. Fujimoto's Western inspirations give the manga a rather 'Western' feel; fans of more violent and disturbing American comics will be in for a treat. This is one for older readers as opposed to the core shonen demographic.
Similar manga: Chainsaw Man's closest cousin is probably Dorohedoro — both are visually gritty, gleefully violent, and more than a little insane. Outside of manga, Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon's comic book series Preacher also shares a lot of the same features with it, especially the devil-fused protagonist and the disgusting humour.
How long it will last: There's no telling. Chainsaw Man is surprisingly popular despite the content, so there's no real danger of getting axed, but how long it will go on is entirely up to Fujimoto. An overarching plot is yet to emerge. For now, just enjoy the wild ride.
And that's it for now. In Part 2, I will look at the Shonen Jump manga that survived 2019. How do they compare against the top-notch class of '18? We shall find out. Stay tuned!