Demon slayers, curse chasers, and devil hunters may be the most popular jobs for heroes and villains in adult animation right now.
It’s remarkable that any animated protagonists are employed at all, given the recent butchering of HBO Max’s library. But while western animation plays it safe with superheroes, anime is reaching surreal — and bloody — new heights of creativity.
Demon Slayer was a surprise U.S. hit in 2021 with its big-screen manga adaptation, which made box office history. Later that year, Jujutsu Kaisen 0 told the story of a student who trains as a sorcerer to control an evil spirit. It also crushed at the box office. But in 2022, the subgenre of demon-fighting anime belongs to one clear standout: Chainsaw Man.
Here’s why Chainsaw Man is worth your time, what you should know before you watch, and how to stream it here in the U.S.
Just three episodes in (Episode 4 premieres today), the anime series has already amassed an almost cult-like following. But it’s no surprise Chainsaw Man appealed to so many so quickly. The series has so much to offer, including:
- An infectious soundtrack composed by Kensuke Ushio
- Engrossing, blended animation techniques
- Characters who can be equal parts cutesy, funny, and capable of stomach-churning bloodshed
- An alternate timeline where the Soviet Union still exists
Chainsaw Man is produced by Studio MAPPA, the mega-animation house behind hits like Attack on Titan, Jujutsu Kaisen, and Evangelion: 3.0+1.01 Thrice Upon a Time. MAPPA has a penchant for fluid imagery and strong storylines, and Chainsaw Man is no exception.
The story begins with Denji, a 16-year-old orphan who owes his deceased father’s huge debt to the Yakuza. Street-smart but grappling with poverty, Denji survives by slaughtering a wide array of grotesque devils for the mob while aided by his sidekick, a demonic dog named Pochita. The Yakuza eventually betray Denji, and Pochita sacrifices himself to save his former master. Their blood pact causes Pochita to become part of Denji, transforming him into a devil-human hybrid known as... the Chainsaw Man.
Though technically now a devil himself, Denji is recruited by the beautiful and manipulative Makima, a high-ranking Public Safety Devil Hunter, to, well, hunt devils. There’s a War Devil, a Zombie Devil, a Gun Devil, a Future Devil, an Octopus Devil, a Doll Devil, a Darkness Devil, a Blood Devil... you get the point.
The Chainsaw Man is a bloodthirsty force, highly dexterous in hand-to-hand (and saw-to-flesh) combat. When Denji transforms, he grows retractable devil-slicing chainsaws from his arms, legs, and head. He can also manifest short chainsaw spikes under his feet, which are used to stick onto walls and climb buildings, and he can recover from amputation and even decapitation as long as he consumes blood.
However, Denji isn’t the cleverest hero. His simple desires (girls and food!) make him one of the more unique and entertaining shōnen heroes to root for, while his supporting cast offers some nuances and smarts.
In an interview with Crunchyroll, screenwriter Hiroshi Seko emphasizes just what makes Chainsaw Man so different from other similar anime.
“The most shocking thing I realized when I read Chainsaw Man first was seeing Denji as a character, a main protagonist of a story, having this very honest and raw need and want: He makes money in order to gain food and women. That's something that's very different in titles like this. You don't see that in a main protagonist character. Having that sort of raw need as the driving force of the character's attributes is very unique.”
Chainsaw shenanigans and gut-bursting twists abound between Denji and whichever poor Devil gets in his way, revealing a story far more intriguing and funny than the average slasher. Chainsaw Man even has moments that are heartfelt amid all of the blood-dripping horror, too.
In the same interview, Manabu Otsuka, MAPPA CEO Manabu Otsuka, explains the show’s surprising depth.
“On the surface of the story, you see things like violence and action, which is definitely a charm of the series. But if you go deeper into what's going on, it really is about family and bonds between those people and the relationships those people hold with each other.”
Chainsaw Man is currently crushing it on Rotten Tomatoes, IMDB, and MyAnimeList, and we expect those numbers to hold as episodes continue to roll out. If Chainsaw Man can retain its current level of animated excellence, we’re confident that fans will continue to be entertained (and disgusted). With plenty of source material to work with, this series will likely be around for a while. So do yourself a favor and start watching now.