Review: CHAINSAW MAN, Volume 1

Tatsuki Fujimoto’s Chainsaw Man is an exciting new Shonen manga that just released its first volume. While the series has upwards of 80 chapters available on the Shonen Jump app, this volume includes only the first seven and provides a stable foundation for readers to latch onto and for Fujimoto to build on.

(Note: I haven’t read anything beyond the first volume, so this review doesn’t take into account any insanity that may occur in the ensuing 70+ chapters.)

Sympathy for the Devil Hunter

The story is set in an alternate universe where “devils” run amok and must be hunted down and exterminated by “devil hunters.” It follows Denji, an amateur devil hunter working for the Yakuza, who works with his own devilish companion, Pochita (basically a balloon-dog with a chainsaw for a nose), to complete his missions.

I would die for this balloon/chainsaw/dog monster.

Early on, Denji’s Yakuza handlers betray and murder him on behalf of a devil, which would be the end of his story, except Pochita merges with Denji to give him a second chance at life.

The selfless act has an unintended consequence, though, and makes the resurrected Denji a human/devil hybrid, able to transform into the gnarly Chainsaw Devil by pulling a cord on his chest.

Denji takes his revenge after being revived, but is immediately discovered by Makima, a Public Safety Devil Hunter (basically a state-sanctioned exterminator) who was hunting the devil the Yakuza were working with. She recruits him to work for her, explaining that because of his unusual status as both a devil and a human she’ll execute him if he refuses.

The series quickly introduces readers to an off-shoot of devils—fiends—which are devils that take over a human’s corpse. Fiends aren’t as strong as true devils but look more human in appearance except for their heads, which take on distinctive shapes (growing horns, etc.).

Denji is paired off with Power, a fiend created by the Blood Devil, and told that if the pair don’t perform to Makima’s expectations, they’ll be put down.

The first volume ends on a cliffhanger as Power and Denji face off against the Bat Devil (literally a giant bat with the body of Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson)—setting the stage for Volume 2 and leaving readers hungry for more.

The Devil is in the (Really Cool) Details

Fujimoto’s character design is stellar throughout this first volume, mixing more traditional Shonen character designs with gruesome monsters.

The Chainsaw Devil character design is a particular standout, functionally turning Denji into a walking metal band album cover. His face becomes a chainsaw and chainsaw blades grow out of his arms, all of which together can be combined to wreak unholy havoc on his enemies.

It’s not an overly complicated design, but Fujimoto executes it perfectly, striking the right balance between badass and weird, while leaving the door open for enhancements to the character later.

(I don’t know if that happens or not, but this being a Shonen manga, I’m assuming Denji finds a way to level up his devil form eventually.)

Flawed, But Functional

The series isn’t without its flaws, of course, especially in these early chapters.

Denji’s obsession with touching a breast is par for the course in Shonen manga, but won’t charm everyone. Beyond that, the book’s breakneck pace may also be jarring for some who want a steadier introduction to the Chainsaw Man universe.

Even moving as fast as he does, though, Fujimoto provides character moments, like Denji’s first meeting with Pochita, that add depth, primarily to our lead, and are hopefully a sign of things to come. It’s also worth noting that the pacing doesn’t make it difficult to follow the story; the book just lays a lot of groundwork relatively quickly and doesn’t provide a lot of answers, not that it should at this stage.

Final Verdict

By and large this is a quirky, action-packed series that takes advantage of its premise to blend the strengths of the action and horror genres to great effect.

While Chainsaw Man has some of the trappings of a typical Shonen manga, it still manages to fill fresh and inventive, exceeding expectations and launching a promising series. The groundwork is laid in this first volume for bigger and better devils and conflicts to come, so I’ll certainly be following along as it progresses.

And, in case you forgot, the dude’s FACE turns into a CHAINSAW!!! That rules!

Chainsaw Man: Volume 1 is available for purchase here.

If you’re interested in the other books we’re geeking out over, be sure to check out Geek Guy Buys: Read!