3 out of 5
Chainsaw Man is really funny. That’s a simple compliment, but it’s not something that’s simple to accomplish, especially consistently, and without excessive connotations to make sure the humor is framed correctly; Tatsuki Fujumoto’s world and characters and dialogue pretty much had me immediately smiling, and slickly maintained that mood throughout the book. The casual, conversational mingling of devil hunting and teenagers is reminiscent of recent hit Jujutsu Kaisen, but Fujimoto’s book is even more easy going than that. Which can be for better in a way, as it’s much less complex in its structure – we have a team of devil hunters, some kind of shadowy organization running them, and our lead just-bonded-with-a-chainsaw-demon hunter recruited into their ranks – the flip side of that is that there’s not nearly as much investment: Chainsaw Man is also a really easy read, and, at least at this point, there’s not really much in terms of stakes.
Given its focus on humor, though, that’s fine: Denji has a cute pet with a chainsaw face, he merges with it, and then we have fish-outta-water type chapters as he gets used to working a job with “responsibilities” and “partners,” with the art occasionally exploding in bloody havoc. Fujimoto’s style is fascinating: there’s a heavy American sensibility in the framing and pacing, with anime-style character models and action; occasionally, his lines seem loose to the point of amateurish, but then he deliver fine-lined detailing on backgrounds and other characters, suggesting it’s an affectation for mood. Indeed, when we dive in to the chainsaw fare, his lines grow jagged and ragged, really delivering on the intensity of the scuffles. The art, in short, ends up being a highlight.
While the laughs are good, the lack of much meat to the story (or character development beyond some tropes) prevents Chainsaw Man from being the new all-star on the block. However, the quality of those laughs, and the notable artwork, definitely makes it a strip to watch.