Since the late 19th century, comic books have been a staple in popular culture. Once characters like Superman and Batman were introduced in the late 1930s, this point was ingrained even deeper. Japanese comics, or “manga,” are also increasingly gaining popularity. Once a manga is successful enough, it will get an animated adaptation, otherwise known as an “anime.” Franchises like “Dragon Ball,” “Death Note” and “Demon Slayer” are just a few shows that have exploded in popularity over the years, and you might have heard about them due to their notoriety.
A recent manga and anime series that has also skyrocketed in popularity among fans is writer Tatsuki Fujimoto’s “Chainsaw Man.” This series is an action manga with comedy and horror elements. It follows Denji, a young teenager who forms a friendship and contract with a chainsaw devil, turning him into the titular Chainsaw Man, an urban legend who fights malevolent devils. This series is incredibly recent, starting in late 2018. For such a recently released series, it has become an incredibly beloved series by many worldwide fans alike and is still seeing new weekly chapters released to this day, advancing the series’ story and characters. What makes this series so beloved are its realistic characters, the fast pacing of the story and the horror and film-inspired artwork.
The cast of characters in “Chainsaw Man” is no doubt the main draw of the series. All of the characters are expertly written and feel unique. The main character, Denji, is a lot unlike his contemporaries in other Japanese comics. Many main characters in manga have a virtuous or respectable motivation, like wanting to be the strongest fighter on the planet or to save or avenge a loved one. Denji, put simply, is purely motivated by his lust. He’s a teenager after all, but his main motivation is to get laid, which is hilarious because of how seriously he takes it. He puts himself in life-threatening battles with demons way out of his league just to try to impress some girls he likes.
These same girls are well-written too — Denji’s friends, like Himeno, Power and Makima, are all incredibly aware of Denji and subvert anime tropes by actively manipulating or going along with how buck-wild and crazy he is. In most anime, the female characters would slap a character like Denji across the face and never speak to him again. These girls accept him for who he is and, regardless of their ulterior motives, work with and spend time with him. This style of writing is so refreshing since many other series reuse the same tired ideas when it comes to similar character archetypes, but Chainsaw Man’s cast flips those archetypes on their heads and punts them to hell.
This comic is infamous for its pacing. This series is so fast-paced, it’s indescribable. At the time of writing, a total of 126 chapters have been written — each chapter is around 20 pages, but even with this page count, one can read the entirety of this series in a weekend if they take their time. If one wanted to, they could even knock out this entire series in one night. This pacing is due to the series’ vast amount of action scenes. For an action manga, there is a fight in what feels like every other chapter. Fujimoto expertly puts in brief points of exposition right before a major plot reveal, and this keeps the story going at a breakneck speed. The crazy amount of action makes the story a blast to read, and the overall pacing of it makes it even more of a thrill ride.
Fujimoto’s love of film bleeds into every single one of his works. From his first published manga series, “Fire Punch,” all the way to “Chainsaw Man,” this man loves cinema and everything to do with it. His character’s designs, clothing and dialogue allude to various classics such as “Pulp Fiction,” to name one. Visually, many comic panels will feel framed similarly to how a director will frame a movie scene. Fujimoto takes the saying “every frame a painting” to the next level with how much detail he puts into his drawings, whether it’s a splash page in an action scene or an emotional moment between characters. This film-inspired look gives his comic a style that is inherently inspired but also unique. No comic on the market looks like, feels like or reads like “Chainsaw Man.” It’s an absolutely magnificent story that is still currently going — the manga was even adapted into an anime recently. This series has a healthy life ahead of it, and it deserves it due to its sheer quality.
Nicolas Scagnelli is a junior majoring in English.