When teenage boy Denji pulls a cord embedded in his chest, chainsaws burst out of his face and his arms, turning him into a revved-up killing machine more devil than human. Denji’s transformation is emblematic of the over-the-top nature of Tatsuki Fujimoto’s Chainsaw Man (Viz), a manga about an impoverished adolescent who is able to escape his desperate circumstances by fusing with his chainsaw dog and joining a group of public service devil hunters who give him food and shelter.
Chainsaw Man is one of the 99 series currently available on the Shonen Jump app, bringing Japan’s Weekly Shonen Jump magazine to U.S. readers for the amazingly low monthly price of $1.99. More than 10,000 chapters of massively popular titles like Dragon Ball, My Hero Academia, and Naruto are available through the app, which updates weekly with new issues of translated manga on the same day they are released in Japan. It’s one hell of a deal, and there’s a huge variety of series to satisfy manga lovers and offer newbies a comprehensive introduction to the expansive world of Japanese comics.
There’s an undeniable immaturity to the storytelling of Chainsaw Man, and the basic idea of feels like it was ripped from an angry teenager’s brain. That quality carries through to Denji’s motivation for the majority of the first 14 chapters: to touch a woman’s breasts for the first time. He leaps into battle screaming, “Touch those boobs!”, but his juvenile impulse grows into something more. Denji eventually gets his wish, but he’s shaken by just how underwhelming this physical contact is after he accomplishes it. This leads him to reconsider how he views his personal goals, pondering if the act of chasing a dream is more satisfying than actually attaining it. By introducing Denji with these base desires, Fujimoto gives his lead character plenty of room to grow, and the book gains extra depth as Denji starts to realize what he truly wants from life. He doesn’t need breasts, he needs intimacy, and his supervisor recognizes this longing and exploits it to make him do her bidding.
Fujimoto delves deeper into the individual traumas of the cast as the story continues, with the recent Chapter 13 offering a look back at the Gun Devil attack that killed the family of Hayakawa, the head of Genji’s devil-hunting division. Fujimoto uses a looser line for emotional character moments, but increases the sharpness for the action, intensifying the level of detail to heighten the destruction of devils unleashed. The flashback in Chapter 13 highlights this visual shift, depicting a snowball fight between Hayakawa and his kid brother with a soft line that gives the scene a gentle atmosphere.
The reader is eased into this moment of play, then ripped out of it when the little brother goes into the house to grab his gloves just as the Gun Devil rampages through the area and obliterates the home, leaving Hayakawa staring at the tornado-like devastation. It’s a much more somber image than the devil attacks depicted earlier, which have an in-your-face energy befitting a character who has chainsaws jutting out of his body. There’s a brutal beauty in the moments when Denji lets loose, and Fujimoto imbues these fight scenes with a feeling of release that heightens Denji’s euphoria when he becomes Chainsaw Man.