This would be a good time to reiterate that I’m completely anime-original with Chainsaw Man. For the record, I don’t even read Samu’s contributions to these posts until I’ve written my own, as the whole point of this format is to juxtapose my unspoiled reactions with his. So needless to say, this episode came as quite a jolt – it was unexpected to be sure. I’m still not sure what to make of it to be honest, and by that I mean in purely practical terms. Some of what went down here is going to play out differently than it initially appears though, it seems to me.
Things start off innocently enough, with the comedy-driven aftermath of the noumikai at Himeno’s (pretty fucking nice) apartment. Denji’s initial “Yes!” after contemplating the wisdom of letting Himeno deflower him had me chuckling, but apparently there’s enough of a romantic in him to make him pull the plug. Or so it seemed, anyway – just what went down there wasn’t totally clear (was that offer all a dream?). She claims not to remember any of it the next morning, and in the end she proposes a matchmaking alliance, which makes sense (especially for her). If Himeno can get Makima paired off with Denji, that’s one less obstacle standing between her and Aki.
That’s when the shit really hits the fan, though. First, Makima and her assistant (if he has a name I’ve forgotten it) are popped by assassins while on the Shinkansen bound for Kyoto to meet with the “intimidating” higher-ups. Then the useless twins Arai and Kobeni are gunned down on the street, close enough for Denji, Aki, Power, and Himeno to hear the gunshots while eating lunch. Finally, those four are attacked by a man who appears to be the grandson of the yakuza who tried to have Denji killed in the premiere. And he seems to have a contact with a fairly powerful devil.
This is the only instance where the devil hunters fight back, though only after Denji has been shot in the head and Himeno in the torso. Aki first calls on his fox devil and then his other contract – the one which takes away lifespan every time he utilizes it. The enemy has a friend, a woman (Taichi You) who looks unassuming but is formidable enough that Himeno’s Curse Devil is scared of her. For good reason too, as she seems to have contracts with some pretty powerful devils herself.
Again, I have no inside info on what’s really happening here – and I want to keep it that way. I’ll find out when I find out. That said, given that Denji is theoretically the main character and Makima is stupidly popular with fans of the manga (some exposure to the hype is unavoidable) I have a very hard time believing those two are really dead eight episodes into the series. More power to Fujimoto-sensei if they are – that would take some serious balls. But my working assumption is that one way or another those two will live on, and I just hope it’s not too much off an asspull. As to the others, I’m a lot less confident – none of them are too big to fail, narratively speaking, though I’m still skeptical.
All in all it was certainly quite the turn. I don’t really feel emotionally connected to anyone in the cast yet, so events like this lose some visceral impact for me, but from an intellectual standpoint it’s a fascinating turn of events. The key for me is not going to be those events themselves, but what comes after them – where they take the plot, and how believably CSM can get us to wherever that is.
This episode really is the line where Chainsaw Man crosses what this series once was into what it will come to be – and to many manga fans is what we also came to love.
Similar to episode four, this one knows when to takes its time and when to get lost in the action; it’s the entirely calm first half and its build up feeds so well into the eventual destruction of the somewhat recent status quo we’d come to expect. But this section is not without its dramatics, as the anime extends and makes us relive the ending of last week but this time from Himeno’s point of view to a voyeuristic level. Knowing what happens come the end, that decisions makes sense, but this entire sequences is even more drawn out than it was in the manga. Not much can be said for Himeno’s morals with what she’s doing/about to do with Denji here (she even recognises this after sobering up) but I will say from a visual perspective I appreciate just how fluid her movements around her apartment were, making the scenario feel much more realistic than Denji’s confusing fantasy note we ended on last week.
Overall I’d say this might be the first episode that improved on the impact on the source material, both in moments quiet and loud. The balcony moment was so serene (and knowing what was to come, painful) as well as the little details of the gang eating at the restaurant while a stranger rambles on to them were so much more animated than they needed to be. Even the sequences on the train to Kyoto was improved by the way the bodies around Makima collapsed and how abrupt the gunshots were. That’s the key really: the pacing here was meticulous in every scene and allowed for some serious animation showing off, especially the action came; but even then seeing Aki’s fight felt much more real (desperate) and weighted with every swing. Pair that with the music choices in those dramatic moments and this is the most cinematic the series has been. As a manga fan it’s hard to imagine a better adaptation of this particular arc than what we got, and again I feel relieved that with all the ‘moments’ to come we’re in for this treatment when it matters most.
I’m sure many will be saying something along the lines of “this is when Chainsaw Man gets great”, “that was the prologue, this is where it really starts” or some equivalent (I’ve even done so myself) but I do think there’s a reason for that. In terms of story repercussions this is the heaviest episode so far. Arai and Kobeni were shot point blank by an unsuspecting old woman, Makima has seemingly been murdered in the Shinkansen trip to hell, Aki is seriously struggling after pulling out all his trump cards and being throughly bested and bled out, and even Denji took a blow to the head (but then again, we’ve seen him die before). But it’s Himeno’s sacrifice that hits the most because there’s clearly no coming back from it. Piece by piece she offered up her body as offence for her Ghost Devil as a means to save Aki’s life – the man who she just that morning confessed to wanting to pursue romantically to Denji, and who agreed to set them up. The worst part is it was seemingly all for naught, with another sharply paced moment where the Snake Devil vanishes and the decapitated head of the Ghost Devil – and the clothes of the now gone Himeno – are all that remain that she was ever there. It’s the first time Fujimoto has shown he’s just as willing to be as brutal to his characters in the dangerous world of devil hunting as he is in destroying every milestone of Denji’s own sexual journey.
And that’s not even getting into Denji’s heart king wanted by the Gun Devil, and this new villain having a picture of the very man who was exploring him at the start of the series. Add that to the Eternity Devil also wanting a piece of the Chainsaw Devil and we’ve got somewhat of a pattern emerging.