Chainsaw Man – 12 (Fin) – Not a Bad Life

Last week introduced a bunch of new fiends who will surely play a role in any future seasons, but this week stripped everything back to Aki and Himeno and Denji and his wretched childhood—with a bit if Power and Kobeni being themselves for garnish.

First up, the Ghost Devil actually disobeys Sawatari and does not choke Aki to death. Instead it releases him, and in the moments he’s out, he recalls the day Himeno offered him a cigarette for the first time. Since he was under age, she promised to save it for him.

The Ghost Devil reaches out one of its countless arms to produce that very cigarette, with “Easy Revenge!” written on it. How exactly the Ghost was tamed after Himeno died isn’t important; what is is that Aki is able to destroy the Ghost, and he and Kobeni take Sawatari into custody.

Denji and Power really are the brother and sister to Aki’s big brother in their little found family, and even on the elevator ride to meet with Katana Man they can’t help but bicker over something petty. Power then gets off on the wrong floor because it’s full of zombies, and Power fucking loves killing zombies.

Denji carries on to the floor where Katana Man is. Unlike Sawatari, he’s given an opportunity to voice his grievances to Denji. Whatever the circumstances were, he blames Denji for the death of his gramps and others he cared about, and wants satisfaction.

As has been established, Denji himself is a little unnerved by how easily he was able to get over Himeno’s death, as well as all the other terrible things that have happened of late. But in this case? He couldn’t care less. This guy’s gramps tortured and enslaved him as a child just because he could. He can burn in hell. Katana Man don’t like that, Denji’s game for a rematch.

The two blast out of the building, onto rooftops, and finally onto a moving train, making for a particularly fun and cinematic setting for the final big battle of the season. Unlike the dark warehouse there’s plenty of light and dynamic backgrounds to soak in along with all the sparks and blood.

Katana Man also at least tries to understand what Denji is after, and isn’t impressed when Denji tells him it’s simply to preserve his new comfortable (by his standards) life and be praised by his boss. There isn’t enough nuance in their talk for Denji’s opponent to sympathize with his plight and why that life is such a precious thing to him; no doubt Katana Man lived a damned comfortable life as the grandson of a yakuza.

Their fight spills into one of the train cars and the innocent bystanders scatter (since this isn’t guest directed by Paul Verhoeven, they all escape unharmed). Denji has improved, but he’s still supposed to be fighting with Power beside him, and Katana Man still has his samurai move where he wooshes past Denji and lops off both his arms.

When he tells Denji to yield if he wants a quick death, Denji says he still has a chainsaw on his head, and charged him. Katana Man aims for Denji’s head as he rushes him one last time, but that’s exactly what Denji wanted. Borrowing a lesson he learned from Kishibe, he tells a suddenly cleanly sliced in half Katana Man never to trust someone he’s hunting.

Katana Man eventually reverts back to human form, and Denji chains him to the stopped train to await backup. Aki is the first to arrive, and Denji, who is not quite satisfied with having simply captured their target, proposes a contest…of nutshots. Whoever can make the guy scream more wins.

Aki initially seems reluctant to play along—it’s against their mandate and he’s not sure Himeno would want it—then he takes out the cigarette that saved his life, puts it back away, and declares that he’s game after all.

In the beautiful, sublime, cathartic scene that follows, we cut from the aftermath of the successful operation to a positively giddy Denji and Aki kicking the shit out of Katana Man’s nuts. Aki asks if Himeno can hear the nutshot requiem they’re playing for her up in heaven.

After that, Makima delivers her report to the bigwigs: Sawatari was captured, but apparently automatically killed as part of her contract with the Gun Devil before any intel could be extracted. RIP Sawatari; we really barely knew thee, and I still maintain that’s a shame. On the plus side, the 4th Division now has enough Gun Devil flesh that it’s moving towards the main body. So now they generally know where to look.

As the low-key credits are displayed, we watch Denji, Power and Aki simply hanging out together like the three best roomies, chasing cats, swinging on the swings, and going to the grocery store to buy stuff for dinner. There’s no audio to these scenes, only music, which makes them feel more intimate and resonant. It’s also quite heartwarming to see that after all they’ve been through, they can still live life and have fun like three ordinary young people.

After the trio make dinner, eat it, and enjoy some down time around the table, Denji and Power fall asleep, and we get one last zen balcony moment with Aki as he lights up his “Easy Revenge!” cigarette and smokes it, providing a measure of closure and relief from his deep loss.

Denji, meanwhile, dreams a dream he says he always dreams and then forgets: walking through a dingy alley to a door, hearing Pochita on the other side of that door, then going for the doorknob, only for Pochita to say, with finality, he can’t open that door. The final scene is the most cryptic of all, with a heretofore unseen/unheard young woman with dark hair asking Denji what’s better: a city mouse or a country mouse.

Who this mystery woman is, how she’ll fit in to the ongoing search for the Gun Devil, and a host of other matters will provide fertile ground for a second season of Chainsaw Man. While none has been officially announced, I can’t see one not happening. But this was a pitch-perfect stopping point.

Chainsaw Man – 11 – Asking Nicely

“The Future Rules”, says the Future Devil, who resembles the Forest Spirit from Princess Mononoke, but is a lot more happy-go-lucky. The terms of his new contract with Aki are simple: he’ll reside in Aki’s right eye and lend him his power. In exchange, he’ll have a front row seat to Aki’s death, which he promises will also “rule.”

Kishibe’s tough love training of Denji and Power continues to a point where he’s satisfied they won’t embarrass themselves in the next battle, which will be against The snake woman (Sawatari) and the Katana Man (who is called “Samurai Sword” in the episode.

In his meeting with Makima, Kishibe posits that she knew the assault that claimed so many public safety officers (including his student Himeno) was coming and did nothing to stop it. He doesn’t really mind, as long as Makima shares his overarching directive to save as many people as possible in the long run.

I’m not entirely sure why Makima allowed such a devastating assault to take place, but intentionally allowed or not it led to her consolidating her power in Public Safety, amplifying the importance of her surviving underlings like Denji and Power, and revealing the identities of their enemies—among them Sawatari, who unfortunately has no character beyond “slightly bored baddie”. I kinda wish we knew more about her.

After contracting with the Future Devil, Aki gets a ride back to HQ from Kurose and Tendou. Kurose tries to press Aki’s buttons by telling him his shounen manga-style goal to take the Gun Devil down pisses him off, but Aki isn’t phased. If he can defeat the Gun Devil, he’ll be happy. If he dies, Kurose can laugh all he likes. But while Aki pisses him off, Kurose can’t help but root for the guy.

As for Makima, the less we know about her, the more mysterious and awesome she is. I could watch an entire episode of her politely chatting with a yakuza head. She isn’t the slightest bit intimidated by the soldiers surrounding her as she asks their leader to give up the names of the members of other yakuza families who contracted with the Gun Devil.

The yakuza head declines to snitch on his rival families as it would start a war that would destabilize the Japanese mob and invite foreign mobs to invade. That’s when Makima presents a little brown paper bag that she calmly describes contains the eyes of a loved one of everyone in that room. When one of them raises a hand to her, he’s stopped in his tracks, his nose bleeds, and he keels over dead.

After their brutal training, Denji and Power are excited to finally put what they’ve learned into action. Kobeni is not so enthused, but now that we can see what she’s capable of it’s a plain matter of motivation, not ability. Kishibe sends the three and Aki into the building where Sawatari and Katana Man are holed up.

As Kishibe explained to Denji and Power, this is an all-or-nothing, make-or-break operation. Either Division 4 will succeed in defeating Sawatari and Katana Man, or they’ll fail and be destroyed. They’re backed up by four new fiends: Shark, Violence, Spider, and Angel, all of whom feature cool designs and fighting (or in the case of Angel, non-fighting) styles.

While those four mop up the zombie army in the basement, Aki heads upstairs and meets non-zombie resistance in the form of yakuza soldiers. When he ends up in a four-on-one situation, his our opponents all get bloody noses and fall over dead. We cut to Makina striding confidently out of the yakuza head’s house, having gotten what she wanted. That gives Aki a clear path to Sawatari.

If Sawatari has any particular reason for siding with the Gun Devil and wanting to destroy Division 4, she doesn’t share them with Aki. She’s all business, summoning Himeno’s Ghost Devil to fight him, keeping her Snake Devil in reserve. It’s a pragmatic move that’s also definitely meant to rile Aki up, but he doesn’t take the bait.

Instead, he puts his new buddy the Future Devil to use by anticipating the movements of the Ghost’s arms so he can dodge and slice at will. Unfortunately, the Ghost’s arms regenerated and multiply, and Aki loses his time advantage when he starts to slow due to fatigue.

The Ghost eventually covers Aki in arms and grabs him, and Sawatari orders it to choke him to death. But something tells me this isn’t the awesome death the Future Devil foresaw. Will he find his second wind on his own, or will Denji, Power, and/or Kobeni bail him out?

Chainsaw Man – 10 – Toughening Up

In the aftermath of the attack on the 4th Division, Denji and Power are all healed up, and despite insisting otherwise, are by Aki’s side out of solidarity. They are, after all, three of the last surviving members. When the two leave shortly after Aki comes to, he asks the Curse Devil how long he has (two years), prepares to light a cigarette, and then can’t when he remembers Himeno.

Himeno gets her final wish: Aki lives to cry for her. As for Denji, he’s a little weirded out by how calm and cool he’s been about losing Himeno, the first person who wanted to be his friend. He wonders if he’d be just as indifferent if Power or Aki died. He even figures the loss of Miss Makima would only result in about three days of feeling bad, then he’d get back to living his life of meals and baths.

With Makima determined to strengthen what’s left of her now combined division, Denji and Power’s lives are about to get a lot less carefree. Deemed still too weak against the kind of devils they’ll have to hunt, Makima puts Himeno’s old sensei Kishibe (voiced by Tsuda Kenjirou) in charge of training them.

He immediately likes them, as neither are interested in revenge and will side with whoever will feed them (in Denji’s case) or whoever is winning (Power). They’re both the precise breed of fearless crazy needed to be effective devil hunters.

He pulls the two into a hug, and then casually breaks both their necks with his bare hands, leaving no doubt as to his toughness. After healing them with blood, he proceeds to kill or nearly kill the two again and again, deciding the best way to make them tougher is to hunt them until they’re capable of beating him.

While Denji and Power are enduring this, Kyoto’s Tendou and Kurose pay Aki a visit, and tell him it might be best if he quit while he’s still alive, like Madoka did. Unlike Denji and Power, Aki is still very much driven by the need for revenge against the devils that killed his family and Himeno. But to become strong enough to stay in the 4th Division, he’ll need to contract with stronger devils.

After Tendou and Kurose take their leave, a girl whose face we don’t see pays him a visit. While walking home from the graveyard, Denji and Power decide that the best way to defeat their new drunken teacher is to use their brains. Left unacknowledged is the fact that even if they put both their brains together they only end up with two balls of lint.

The next morning, they set up an ambush for Kishibe, all the while displaying a wholly unearned sense of confidence you can’t help but admire—they even wear glasses to look smarter. Kishibe easily defeats their surprise attacks, once again leaving them both on the floor, down for the count.

That said, he admired their attempt, and says he’ll give them the rest of the day off. The moment Denji drops his guard, he gets a thrown dagger to the forehead. Kishibe warns him and Power never to trust the words of someone hunting them. And so, the bloody trials continue.

Aki is escorted to the bowels of Public Safety headquarters by Tendou and Kurose, which serves as a prison for all of the devils captured alive. When Kurose asks if the girl at the hospital was Aki’s girlfriend, he says no; it was Himeno’s little sister, who brought letters Himeno wrote to her for Aki to read. Among them, Himeno discusses her unsuccessful attempt to get out of Public Safety with Aki.

As he contemplates his past, Tendou and Kurose take him to the cell of the Future Devil, one who took the eyes and sense of taste and smell from one human it contracted with and half the lifespan of another. Considering Aki has only two years left anyway (due to the Curse Devil), and his determination to destroy the Gun Devil, I’m certain the Future Devil can ask for whatever it wants, and Aki will sacrifice it.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Chainsaw Man – 09 – Crunch Time

Whoever ordered the coordinated surprise attack on the Special Divisions, it seems to be going going off without a hitch. There’s no time to mourn any of the dead yet, and Himeno’s last order to the Ghost Devil before they both vanish is to pull Denji’s cord. The bad guys, as Denji calls them, may want his head (i.e. Pochita) but they’ll have to fight him for it.

Katana Man is wounded from his scrape with the Ghost and the Curse, and the reinforcements Sawatari (hoodie girl) calls are just ordinary humans. But Denji makes the mistake of thinking Katana Man cares about subordinates, and as a consequence both he and his hostage are halved.

He’s not the only one who makes a fatal error this week. The train crew thinks Makima is dead, and she certainly looks dead, but in an unsettling sequence of shots, suddenly she’s not dead, but standing in the aisle behind them with that serene Makima smile.

Hunters Tendou and Kurose are waiting for her on the platform in Kyoto when they hear that all four divisions have been massacred. When the train arrives and the doors open, all of the passengers run out screaming—all of them, except for Makima, covered in blood but cool as a cucumber.

She assures her subordinates that she wasn’t shot, then orders them to borrow a bunch of life-sentence convicts and reserve the nearest, highest-altitude temple. We witness the product of those requests first, as Sawatari and Katana Man’s underlings suddenly get a weird feeling, then pop like balloons one after another.

At the temple in Kyoto, Makima uses the convicts as sacrifices, asking them to say the names of those she wishes to kill. Once they do, she puts her hands together in various positions, and all the way in Kyoto the enemies die horribly in hideous, concussive bursts of blood and gore. One of the men flees in terror and tries to take a hostage, but he only ends up coating her in…in him.

When all the convicts are dead, Makima tells Tendou and Kurose they can remove their blindfolds, as she’s “done all she can” from there. The three then hop on the next train to Tokyo. But while her part in the counterattack is over, another unexpectedly alive member of the 4th Division shows up where Denji is.

It’s Kobeni, who was saved when Arai took the bullets meant for her. She then killed the shooter and came across Sawatari and Katana Man as they’re trying to get half a Denji in their getaway van.

She doesn’t let them, and even Sawatari’s massive summoned snake can’t stop her advance. She parkours across the snake, dodges bullets, slices off Katana Man’s hand and then shoots him several times with his own gun. With both of him and her in bad shape (losing fingernails like that can’t be fun) they beat a hasty retreat.

Kobeni then starts to cry-laugh with Denji in her arms, a sure sign that she’s losing it. Part of it is the absurdity of apologizing for trying to kill him, but it goes without saying that her actions today make up for it, as he’d 100% be in the enemy’s clutches were it not for her intervention.

I’m sure Makima will thank her when she sees her, which should be soon. Upon returning to Tokyo she’s met by Madoka, who announces that all four divisions will be absorbed into the 4th, that Makima is now in command of the new combined unit, and he is resigning. It’s probably the right move, as he’s lucky he survived this incident and unlikely to survive another.

Before parting ways, he asks Makima if she knew that all of this was going to happen, but as he’s no longer a devil hunter but a private citizen she cannot possibly comment. She heads back to HQ flanked by Tendou and Kurose, who make sure she understands they’re not joining her outfit, but are only in the city to help with training. Without looking back, she says that’s a shame, as the dining’s to kill for in Tokyo.

Chainsaw Man follows up last week’s nearly perfect episode with one that’s as righteous and unnerving as the last one was heartbreaking. Makima and Kobeni have been hiding in plain sight all this time, but now we know what they’re made of—and why Kobeni is probably in the right line of work, despite not being psychologically suited for it.

Himeno is gone, but thanks to her Aki’s not, and thanks to her and Kobeni neither is Denji. Through all of this loss and bloodshed, Makima never changed her composure for a moment. That cool head is what makes her a good leader in a tough job full of bad, bloody choices. The others will need that steadiness as they pick up the pieces and try to move forward.

Chainsaw Man – 08 – Cry For Me

Chainsaw Man seemed to be setting up something quite scandalous last week when a wasted Himeno seemed poised to bed an underage and disoriented Denji. We rewind a bit this week to when she first enters her apartment, and watch it from her POV as she plops Denji on the bed, takes a shower, then grabs a beer.

Denji is conscious and lucid enough to question whether he should lose his virginity to Himeno after she already puked in his first kiss. One look at Himeno’s face after she pulls his shirt off and he decides that yes he should. But when she pulls a Chupa Chuos out his pocket—the one Makima gave him when he was out getting air.

In addition to representing his still-intact virtue, it was also his first indirect kiss, since it had been in Makima’s mouth before his. Thus it reminds him of his vow for Makima to be his first, and passes on Himeno, who promptly passes out.

The next morning, the two have breakfast on her high-rise balcony, another new luxury for Denji. Himeno admits she was so blackout drunk last night she claims not to know if she took advantage of him, and is relieved to learn she didn’t since people can get locked up for that kinda thing.

When Denji insists that he only has eyes for Makima, Himeno proposes that they form an alliance. She’ll help him get with Makima, if he helps her get with Aki. Denji agrees, and just like that, he and Himeno are no longer merely co-workers, but friends.

At this point I’d simply been enjoying the lush camerawork, the gorgeous night and morning lighting, and the overall nice post-drinks vibes. Little did I know this was the final calm before a storm that would turn Chainsaw Man on its head.

From Himeno’s apartment we’re on a train, and the claustrophobic camerawork creates a sense of paranoia. Makima, for her part, isn’t looking forward to meeting with her superiors in Kyoto, but admits she had fun at drinks the previous night.

Then the two passengers in the rows in front of and behind her and her assistant suddenly drop out of view, produce guns, point them at Makima and her assistant, and shoot them both in the head and chest. You can imagine this non-manga reader was quite shocked by this development.

But aside from the near-impossibility a main character like Makima would end up dead in the eighth episode, the fact that her eyes look far from dead when the camera pulled in close on her bloodied face. Rather than fade the way most anime characters’ eyes do upon dying, they seem to smolder. So maybe she’s not really dead?

Arai and Kobeni are also assassinated, seemingly by ordinary people who suddenly have guns and are being controlled by devils—or aren’t, and are simply working together to take out the 4th Division. When the shots that take out the rookies ring out, Denji, Power, Aki, and Himeno are at a ramen joint having lunch, still firmly in calm mode.

Even the vigilant Aki wonders if it was fireworks from a celebration. Then a man starts talking across the restaurant from them, produces a photo of his uncle, the yakuza who Denji worked for, then pulls out a gun and shoots Denji and Himeno. Aki dodges and Power gives the guy an uppercut.

Aki then summons Kon, who sardonically declares that he just made her swallow up something neither human nor devil—in other words, like Denji. But instead of a Chainsaw Man, he’s more like a Katana Man, with wide, razor-sharp blades protruding from the same places as Denji’s.

When Kon is wounded and checks out, Aki turns to Curse, a devil he summons by piercing Katana Man three times. When it comes out, it certainly looks like Game Over for the baddie, as it looks like an instant-kill kinda situation.

And Curse does seem to do the trick, as Katana Man ends up on the ground, motionless and defeated. Then an unassuming young woman with short dirty-blond hair appears, revives him, and asks him why he lost. He says he grossly underestimated Aki. Then the woman tells him to kill him next time.

Katana Man’s next attack is so quick, no one, even Power, sees it. One moment he’s on one side of Aki, the next he’s on the other, and a massive blood flower blooms from Aki’s chest. Himeno, who is gravely injured but still conscious, summons Ghost, who is hesitant to enter the fray as the dirty blond woman is nasty AF.

But Himeno is not about to watch yet another partner (particularly one she loves) die, so she offers everything she’s got so Ghost can give her everything she’s got.

As Himeno’s arms and legs vanish one by one like glitches in a video game, Ghost grows larger, more powerful, and more monstrous. Katana Man seems to be on the back foot once again, but the cost of such a victory was always going to be too high.

In her few episodes, I’d become quite fond of Himeno, and Ise Mariya’s voice work throughout has been outstanding as expected. I’d have never guessed that morning she and Denji had breakfast on her balcony would be her last morning ever, but here we are.

Himeno’s final words are an extension of her previous refrain: “Don’t die on me, Aki”. Among the partners she’d worked with Aki was one who cried for each and every one of the rookies under him who were killed. In her last moments, all she wants is for Aki not to die, so if she dies, he’ll cry for her.

To add insult to grievous injury, Himeno’s sacrifice doesn’t defeat the enemy. Kitana Man may be in trouble, but one word from the blond woman summons a mammoth snake that lops Ghost’s head clean off. When Aki looks over at where Himeno had been, only her suit and trademark eyepatch remain.

I cannot overstate what a gut punch this entire sequence is, or how masterful sunlight, darkness, and silence are employed to create a sense of hopelessness and despair. If it sticks, the butcher bill of this episode, and how it came out of absolutely nowhere, puts it right up there with the Red Wedding for pure horrific shock and distress.

And yet, this didn’t come out of nowhere. Throughout the drinks the previous night there was talk of some hunters who didn’t make it there because they’d been killed. Himeno had already lost numerous partners. We already knew that each day in a hunter’s life could be their last. I knew all that going in. I just didn’t know the end would come for these hunters. All that foreshadowing didn’t lessen the hurt.

Now you’ll excuse me while I go have a cry.

RABUJOI WORLD HERITAGE LIST

Chainsaw Man – 07 – Loosening the Screws

When Kobeni accidentally stabbed Aki, Himeno started to lose it, because she felt like she was going to lose the latest in a long line of unfortunate partners. But while she despaired, Denji scoffed. He didn’t ask Aki to save him, and is done owing anybody anything, so he happily dives into the fell eldritch mass that is the Eternity Devil and pulls his ripcord.

It doesn’t take long for Denji to start losing some serious blood, but once he starts drinking the devil’s blood, he basically becomes a self-healing “perpetual motion machine”, boasting that he, not Power, will be the one to win that Nobel Prize.

In a flashback, Himeno visits her parents’ graves with her master; like Aki, she lost them to the Gun Devil, which is why she joined the force. But her master warns that a devil hunter cannot be too earnest straight-laced—devils know exactly how to fuck with and kill those kinds of people. All of Himeno’s previous partners died because they were too sane, and feared the devils, and devils love fear.

Her master “loosened the screws” by drinking heavily on occasion. Knowing that Aki is another upstanding lad, she tried to get him to quit the force and follow her into the safer private sector, but he refused. But as she watches Denji, Himeno sees what the ideal devil hunter is like: window-lickingly insane, unpredictable, and immune to the devil’s mind games.

When Denji’s motor cuts out, Himeno uses her ghost arm to pull his cord, and for three days he tears at the Eternity Devil until he finally reaches its core. By then, it is pleading for its life, but Denji slices it in two. Just like that, the hunters are off the eighth floor and out of the hotel.

No sooner do they leave the hotel than Denji passes out, but Himeno is there to carry him on her back to the hospital. Later, during a mission with Aki, Himeno proposes the whole squad go out for drinks to break the ice … to loosen the screws. Also, bury the hatchet vis-a-vis everyone trying to kill Denji.

Leave it to Chainsaw Man to make the izakaya where the 4th division meets up look like just the place I want to be on a Friday night. The beers are tall, cold, and frosty, and the snacks look delectable (so much so that Power systematically hoards them).

We meet a couple other division members, one of whom recently lost his rookie subordinate, just like that. A haunted look washes over Kobeni as she reckons with the fact that people in their line of work live short lives.

Denji brings up the kiss Himeno promised, but she tells him she needs to drink more first. Things get complicated for Denji when Makima arrives fashionably late wondering what all this talk of kissing is about.

When Aki asks Makima straight-up why she’s so interested in Denji, she says she’ll answer, but only if he can outdrink her. As expected, he can’t, as both he and Himeno fall to her indomitable tolerance. At this point, Himeno’s screws have been sufficiently loosened that she decides to bestow her promised kiss upon Denji’s lips.

It’s his first kiss, with tongue … and also with Himeno’s vomit. Turns out she loosened the screws a bit too much. Denji swallows some of it and gets ruinously drunk (it shocks everyone to learn he’s only 16). He and Arai have a bonding moment when he helps Denji boot—Arai having experience helping his alcoholic mom.

With the hour growing late and everyone sufficiently lubricated, the 4th division departs from the izakaya. Himeno manages to sneak of with Denji, and when he comes to, it’s on her bed, underneath her. She gives him another kiss—this time of beer, not barf—and proposes that they bone. Denji is growing up fast in the 4th Division.

The soft bluish-purple light, Himeno’s fluid movements, and her seiyu Ise Mariya’s gently seductive voice lend an almost sacred beauty to an otherwise profane scene. But it’s also a sad one, because Himeno is clearly compensating for her crippling grief and loneliness, not to mention her part-familial, part-romantic feelings for an Aki who only has eyes for Miss Makima.

Then again, maybe Himeno just figures she could die tomorrow—or later that night—such is the fate of all devil hunters. That being the case, one must take their fun when and where they can get it.

P.S. Every episode of Chainsaw Man has a unique ED and theme, and this one might’ve been my favorite, as it’s a 4:3 standard-def retro-gasm. Reminded me of one of the best OPs of all time, the retro Koimonogatari OP “Kogarashi Sentiment”.

Chainsaw Man – 06 – Endless Eight

After battles that took place in spacious warehouses and the open city streets, Chainsaw Man shifts to an initially innocuous but increasingly menacing and claustrophobic hotel floor. All stairs, windows, and floors lead to the same place: where they are.

Kobeni loses it almost immediately, convinced they’re all going to starve and die in this closed, timeless place. When she falls to pieces saying how the 4th Division wasn’t her choice (apparently it was this or sex work), Power laughs it up, because human fear fuels devils.

Himeno is a lot more calm and collected, as this isn’t her first rodeo. Also, she has cigarettes. But as she lights up her last one, she tells Denji how she “taught Aki the taste” of cigarettes, being intentionally suggestive with the phrasing.

When the family member of one of her past partners took it out on her by slapping her, Aki followed the person and stuck gum to their clothes as payback. From that point on Himeno knew she had someone special. She finally got Aki to smoke a cigarette, which he said would be his first and last, but as we see in the present, that’s far from the case.

Himeno’s point was that no Devil Hunter lives a long life, so you might as well enjoy the little pleasures like cigarettes. But Aki doesn’t intend to die anytime soon, which comforts Himeno. Their host, the “Eternity Devil”, appears in the form of a horrific mass of faces and limbs, and offers the hunters a deal.

If they give it Denji, dead or alive, it will let everyone go. Kobeni, whom Himeno had knocked out when she tried drinking toilet water, comes to just in time to hear this, and rushes Denji with a knife. To his surprise, Aki stands in front of him and kicks the knife out of her hand. As far as he’s concerned, no one’s killing Denji. Himeno has his back.

But time passes, and Power eats all of the food they’d scavenged from the abandoned rooms. When Himeno tries her ghost limbs she’s able to injure the Eternity Devil, but it simply grows larger and then chases them through the halls, making the spaces they occupy even smaller.

Finally, the angles of the hallways (which are really the walls of the devil’s stomach) start to shift, adding to the increasing sense of disorientation and dread. With the devil closing in, it’s time to either give it Denji or die. There is another option: the sword on Aki’s back. But when he goes for it, Himeno paralyzes him with her ghosts.

Her reason is that using the sword shortens Aki’s life, and he has “too much to live for”. Also, Himeno clearly cares for (if not outright loves) Aki and doesn’t want to outlive yet another partner. But her plan backfires, as Aki manages to overpower the ghosts and takes Kobani’s knife to the ribs to protect Denji. His reason is that he can’t kill the Gun Devil without people like Denji.

As he starts bleeding out, Himeno finally loses it, making Aki, Denji, and Power the only ones with their heads on their shoulders. Power uses her blood manipulation power to try to keep Aki alive (even though she’s best at controlling her own), while a panicked Himeno asks Aki what the plan is.

Finally Denji, who never asked Aki to take a knife for him, decides to bite the bullet and jump into the devil’s gullet. Only once he’s in he’ll break out his chainsaws. He figures the one thing the devil is scared of most is him, which is why it wanted the others to kill him first. That ain’t happening; Denji’s going in on his own terms, and I like his odds.

This dark and nervy Chainsaw Man really showed how a hopeless situation can bring out the devil in anyone. Kobeni is probably a nice enough girl, but in a situation like this has no qualms about murdering another to save her own skin. Even Himeno abandons the tenets of her profession due to her personal affection for Aki. Aki keeps his composure, but he’s fueled by vengeance. But as horrible and nightmarish as this place is, it’s not that bad compared to what Denji’s already been through.

The beds in the hotel are so nice he curls up and naps in one like nothing’s the matter. All the talk of starvation must sound extremely quaint to someone who barely ever had enough to eat. Maybe that’s why Kobeni turned on him so fast: despite being a fellow human, his attitude was so different form hers in this situation that she became able to see him as an other, a devil to be sacrificed.

Chainsaw Man – 05 – Don’t Die on Me

Well, color me surprised: Denji doesn’t chicken out. When Power sits there waiting for him to obtain his reward, after some hesitation and heavy breathing, he places his hands on her chest and gives them a squeeze. When he does, foam pads drop from under her shirt. Without skipping a beat Power asks him to go in for seconds, then thirds. And just like that, it’s all over.

Power heads to bed with Meowy, and Denji stands paralyzed in the toilet wondering … Was that IT? Achieving his dream was far more underwhelming than he expected, and it sends him into a haze of confusion, as he’s now suddenly utterly bereft of his primary source of motivation. It might’ve been better to never cop a feel at all than to have copped a feel and felt so … so little.

While perhaps Power’s smaller-than-advertised bust size was probably one factor in his disappointment, the fact is touching a boob is an incredibly small dream to base your life off of, just like wanting a soft bed or a warm meal. When Makima sees something’s up and asks him, and he pretty eloquently verbalizes what’s up, she takes swift action to re-motivate her favorite new tool.

Makima tells Denji that sex and the contact that leads up to it feels better when you truly understand the other person. Makima then demonstrates this by sensually caressing Denji’s hand (phenomenal animation, that), giving one of his fingers a nibble, then showing him that not all boob grabs are created equal. Then she offers to make any dream of his come true—and that means anything—if he can defeat the Gun Devil.

The Gun Devil is no bat or leech, but an uber-devil created on this world’s equivalent of 9/11. Once it appeared, the Gun Devil killed millions, including Aki’s mother, father, and a sickly little brother with whom he was only starting to get along. The flashback switches gears from family warmth to utter destruction so fast we’re left in as much horrified shock as young Aki.

The key to finding the Gun Devil is to use pieces of its flesh it has dropped, which are drawn to it like magnets. Aki leads a six-person team of Denji, Power, and himself along with his senpai Himeno and two rookies, Kobeni and Arai, and the flesh leads them to a hotel. When Himeno tries to offer a kiss to whomever gets the Gun Devil, Denji parrots some of Makima’s words, only for Himeno to up her offer to a French kiss.

Himeno’s informal, happy-go-lucky attitude belies her past, as Aki is her sixth partner. She makes sure to clarify that the other five didn’t die because of anything she did or didn’t do, but because they were all useless. Himeno alone senses the first devil they encounter: a head that moves with a hand and foot that leaps at Kobeni, but is held in place by Himeno, allowing Power to slash it in two.

When Power, who as always yearns for blood, casually threatens to kill Kobeni, Himeno demonstrates her ability on her, specifically her throat. Himeno contracted with a Ghost Devil and is able to control a ghost hand (that is, an invisible hand Power cannot touch). Lesson learned: Let’s all get along!

Teamwork will indeed be needed for the coming trials, as the group suddenly finds themselves in a M.C. Escher-style loop, ending up on the same floor they killed the Head Devil even though they went up a flight of steps. Going down a flight gets Arai nowhere. Looks like we’re dealing with a Devil that can either morph reality or morph others’ perception of it. Pretty wicked.

Chainsaw Man – 04 – Three Squeezes

As Power reflects on her life as a feral devil in human form living meal to meal, she wonders why, when Meowy was taken, did she not only run after him but work with humans to try to save him?

It all comes down to the warmth of Meowy, like the warmth of blood, being like nothing else. The calls it a “foolish reason”, but one moment she’s in the stomach of the Bat Devil with Meowy, and the next, they’re both back in the sunlight—and in Denji’s arms.

Power’s first question is, no unreasonably, “Why” he saved her. His answer is simple, and just as “foolish” as her desire for Meowy’s warmth: he wants to cop a feel. Considering he repaid her deception by saving her and Meowy, she’s fine with him doing so.

But Denji dithers, and as he raises his arm in celebration, it’s swiftly chopped off by an even nastier devil than the bat. She’s “Batty’s” woman, but finds Denji cute enough that she’ll spare him if he flees. But the girl and cat? They die.

Power can’t move yet and Meowy is helpless in a cage, so it’s up to Denji to protect them, but he’s low on the blood that fuels the chainsaws, and only a single tiny Pochita-like blade emerges from his forehead when he rips his cord. No matter; he puts up his remaining duke and fights the giant leech monster with everything he’s got.

He drops potshots and makes spinning slashes while dodging the leech’s punishing blows. Eventually the Leech stops messing around and impales him with her tongue, but with one hand signal and one word from Hayakawa Aki, a giant fox demon appears and glomps the Leech stright back to hell.

Aki finds Denji’s arm and he makes a full recovery. When he wakes up, Aki is there, with perfect little apple bunnies he’s not ready to relinquish until Denji answers some questions. Having found a fellow pet-lover who, more importantly, will let him fondle her chest, Denji sticks to his guns and covers for Power.

Since no one died (and quite a few bystanders told him to thank Denji on their behalf), he lets it slide, and so does Makina when he makes his report. I love the way he neatens himself before entering her office, dude’s got it bad for the boss.

Aki lets everything slide on one condition: Denji has to do what he says. Makima also lets everything slide, but then has Power join him and Denji in his cramped but tidy apartment, which becomes far more cramped and less tidy.

The wordless sequence of Makima’s morning ritual and balcony serenity before all hell breaks loose was a thing of beauty, and while power wears clothes now, she’s still quite feral by human standards, and in dire need of domestic training.

But if her hygiene and diet leave much to be desired, her memory works just fine, as well as the importance of her word. She told Denji he could feel her up, but the Leech Devil interrupted them. Now that they’re living together, she wastes no time giving him the opportunity to collect his reward.

Shutting them in the bathroom, she allows him three squeezes: one for saving Meowy, a second for slaying Bat Devil, and a third for protecting her from “Topknot”. Power is a picture of cuteness and badassdom as she awaits Denji’s hand. The question is, now that he’s so close to his dream, will he actually be able to execute?

Chainsaw Man – 02 – The Nutcracker

While Makima briefly has Denji wondering if she’s actually nice when she teases him about being her dog, she more than makes up for it by offering the jacket off her back and a free breakfast of udon and sausage—by far the most luxurious meal he’s ever had.

Being so isolated from normal life also means Denji is quick to fall in love with the pretty Makima, especially when she’s kind to him. Kusunoki Tomori lends an almost maternal gentleness to Makima, but there’s authority and even a hint of menace lurking just beneath.

Denji follows his new one true love through the busy streets of Tokyo to Public Safety headquarters, where he gets a rude awakening: his immediate superior isn’t Makima, but a stick-in-the-mud dude, Hayakawa Aki. When he protests, Makima tenderly ties his tie for him and says if he does a good job, maybe they will work together.

For now, Denji’s to shadow Aki, but his first question to him—whether Makima has a boyfriend—leads to Aki leading him to an alley where he slugs the shit out of him. He tells Denji to quit now; he’s already seen too many colleagues jump into this profession without thinking.

As Aki walks away, Denji comes up from behind and kicks him straight in the nuts, then keeps kicking without mercy. It’s a perfect distillation of who Denji is: he fights dirty because his life has been dirty; it’s how he’s lived as long as he has. And after tasting his first bowl of udon (soggy or no) and meeting Makima, he’s not giving up this life so easily.

The two proceed to brawl, but Denji gets the better of Aki with more nut kicks, and Denji helps him back to HQ, where Makima is glad they’re hitting it off. Aki then opens his home to Denji so he can keep an eye on him, and quickly regrets this decision when Denji predictably acts like a feral animal tasting normal life for the first time … which of course he is.

Denji’s first devil-hunting mission is an easy one: a low-level fiend (a human corpse possessed by a devil). Denji doesn’t even turn into Chainsaw Man to kill him, but lops his head off with a hatchet. When he gives the excuse that he wanted to give the fiend a peaceful death, Aki slams his head against the window and tells him to take this more seriously.

Aki matter-of-factly tells Denji his entire family was killed in front of him by fiends, while the other cops and public safety officers have spouses and children to protect. But Denji honestly doesn’t know what he should grasp onto as a motivating factor like Aki’s thirst for revenge.

That is, until he studies the dirty magazines he saved from a chainsaw’s blood spray. Striking a cool, Ichigo Kurosaki-esque pose, he dedicates his life from here on out … to boobs. Again, Denji can be forgiven; he is literally drunk on his suddenly extravagant new lifestyle.

The episode could’ve ended on that hilarious personal declaration and still be great, but thankfully it doesn’t, as it introduces Denji’s new partner for future patrols: Power, an “uncommonly rational” hornéd fiend who also happens to be a beautiful woman. She’s also completely nuts, though Denji notes that he doesn’t mind a little crazy.

Power is voiced with gusto by Ai Fairouz, sports shark teeth like Denji, and is a teeming ball of chaotic energy, chomping at the bit to kill some devils and drink their blood. She notes that she was notorious and feared in her devil days, and Denji wonders if Aki paired him with her so he’d fail to get the results needed to keep him alive (the higher-ups at HQ are dying to put an end to Makima’s experimental 4th Division project).

When Power does pick up the scent of a devil, she deals with it all by herself, parkouring across and off roofs, summoning a giant hammer made of her own blood, smashing the bejeezus out of the Sea Cucumber-themed baddie, and reveling in her kill. It’s clear if Denji wants to rack up his own kills he’s going to have to up his game. At the same time, while I’m sure Power finds Denji pretty dull so far, I bet she’ll get a kick out of his Chainsaw mode.

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