Denji’s life is simple. It has to be, because he’s going to be paying off the debts his dad left behind for the rest of his life. But it’s okay, because he has his pet chainsaw devil dog, Pochita, and bread. Then a devil mortally injures both Pochita and Denji. As Denji is dying; Pochita offers his life to keep Denji alive so he can accomplish the dream of living a normal life. Now Denji can turn into the Chainsaw Man and fights devils as a public safety devil hunter. What more could he want? As it turns out, a few things.

Fair warning: Chainsaw Man is pretty graphic. We see and hear mention of a suicide in the first few pages, Denji recounts the body parts he’s sold to help pay off his debt; and in general it’s a pretty gory manga with some strong body horror elements. 

In a lot of ways, the story reminds me of manga like One Punch Man, where the gore level isn’t questioned, and the story has incredibly mundane moments and surprising amounts of humor. When Denji’s skin isn’t splitting open to release chainsaws, he really does lead a very simple life; partially because he knows very little about the world. This is both a strength and weakness of the manga, because at times it’s great for exposition, but at others it can make Denji irritatingly dense. From the growth we see by the end of the first volume, I’m hopeful he’ll continue to learn and grow, getting more personality and backbone. 

While the art is distinctive and detailed, there are quite a few panels that have zero backgrounds, not even sketches of location behind characters. It works sometimes, and it can be a nice break from the blood splatters, but that’s also what makes those blank panels stand out more. Characters, main or otherwise, are all clearly individuals rather than all kind of blending together in a parade of similar haircuts and body shapes, something I always appreciate. Also the cast isn’t all the same age. We see older people as well as children, and even a bearded character. The devils are both funny and grotesque, with names that are based on their physical presence, like the Tomato Devil, or their abilities, like the Zombie Devil. 

The premise of Chainsaw Man is so simple that it really leaves the story completely open in direction; Denji is now both man and devil, and he has very simple desires. There’s a setup at the end of the volume for some bigger plot concepts, but it seems like a long game that won’t directly affect Denji for a while. Similarly, it’s hard to pin down the genre of Chainsaw Man; my instinct is to say it’s a parody, because of its resemblance to series like One Punch Man or Kill la Kill, but it has some of the incomprehensible nature of FLCL that means it doesn’t feel like it’s directly poking fun at any one type of story, but rather at a lot of the tropes of manga in general. Either way, it’s a great addition for a library collection with a strong readership of more mature stories. 

Chainsaw Man vol. 1 Review 01
By Tatsuki Fujimoto
Art by Tatsuki Fujimoto
ISBN: 9781974709939
VIZ, 2019
Publisher Age Rating: T+ (16+)
Series ISBNS and Order

Title Details and Representation
NFNT Age Recommendation: Adult (18+), Older Teen (16-18)

  • Shannan

    | She/They Teen Services Librarian, San Antonio Public Library

    Features Writer

    Shannan waffled between English professor and librarian as career choices for all of college; eventually librarian won. She is a Teen Services Librarian with the San Antonio Public Library. When not running TTPRG games for their teens or teaching them how to bake, she's doing what she can to promote comics to anyone who will listen. At home they're likely deep in the middle of their latest cosplay project or watching B movies with her husband, while generally pushing the cats out of the way.

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