Worst convention hotel ever.
Picking up from last time, panic slowly begins to set in as Special Division 4 confirms their suspicions that they’ve been trapped in an endless loop on the hotel’s eighth floor. Aki and Himeno attempt to keep everyone level-headed and on the same page, but it doesn’t work out very well. Kobeni’s extreme anxiety causes problems for the team, and on top of that Denji decides that apparently, it’s a good time to take a nap.
Denji is later awakened from his slumber by Himeno and is updated on where things currently stand: Arai and Kobeni are too scared to act, while Hayakawa has been patrolling the floor for any sign of the enemy devil. Eventually, their target makes itself known: a gigantic hideous mass of flesh appropriately referred to as the Eternity Devil. The group’s meddle is tested further as the Devil makes its demands known: it wishes to take the life of the Chainsaw Devil. Kobeni and Power are the most agreeable to this idea, but the rest of the group tries to figure out another way. Fear and panic causes the Devil’s power to escalate, eventually growing so strong that it shifts the entire hallway vertically creating a bottomless pit into its multi-layered maw. After enough annoyed deliberation, the episode ends with Denji volunteering to take care of things himself, cutting to black as he dives into the Eternity Devil’s mouth.
There’s quite a lot to dig into with this episode, but I want to hone in for now on what stands out most from this series of maddening events. If there’s something that I think this episode does exceptionally well, it’s to capture the appeal of Chainsaw Man’s character writing as we’re given insight into everyone’s emotional states and how their personalities play off each other. The episode dedicates a great chunk of time to Aki and Himeno’s backstory as he started getting accustomed to being a Devil Hunter. His personality is naturally very aloof, still living with the horror of seeing his family killed by the Gun Devil, and Himeno’s attempts to bond with him taking a while to get anywhere, her smoking habit playing a big role in their interactions. Aki is hesitant to accept any cigarettes from her at first claiming it’ll “rot your bones”, but as we see in the present day, he’s very much accustomed to a good smoke every now and then, even engaging in what’s basically a variation on the famous Black Lagoon cigarette kiss.
Himeno’s nicotine dependency is a great way of highlighting her personality and attitude towards her life as a devil hunter: nothing matters, we’re all gonna die anyway, might as well have a smoke. The constant death of her fellow devil hunters is something she’s supposedly used to by now, shown in a scene where she gets slapped in the face by the partner of one of her deceased allies. When people are constantly upset at you for failing to protect the lives of those at your side… yeah, light a cigarette, what does it matter? But there’s a humorously charming moment during the flashback where Aki gets so frustrated by this that he sticks a wad of gum to the person who slapped her, a scene that adds a great deal of humanity and warmth to his usual stoic demeanor, and thus helping to build out their friendship. Additionally, Aki’s sense of humanity is further reinforced towards the end when Kobeni attempts to violently stab Denji and he intercepts the blade, deciding that he needs our protag alive in order to have a fighting chance against the Gun Devil. The way he phrases it is utilitarian on a surface level, but it’s easy to see an attitude there best described as “he’s a pain in the ass… but he’s my pain in the ass so back off!” He’s even willing to sacrifice his own life through using his sword which has some kind of life-stealing curse attached to it, but this causes Himeno to constantly tell him not to do so, because for the first time in a while she feels this genuine attachment to him and, despite her carefree nihilism, couldn’t bare to possibly watch him die.
Speaking of Kobeni, she’s another character whose personal tragedies and psychoses are elaborated on in detail. I can’t say I’m surprised that the broader discourse at the moment has labeled her character as only just being annoying and whiny (in the same way that people seem to think that’s all that there is to a character like Shinji Ikari), but as someone who really liked her character ever since the initial manga’s publication, I see that there’s more to it than just bog-standard whininess. Hell, she has every reason to be acting the way that she does in this situation: she literally had no real choice in becoming a devil hunter. Her parents forced her into the job to pay for her brother to go through college, because apparently Kobeni was just so unworthy of living a normal life like that. To make matters worse, her only other option was becoming a sex worker, and since this is 1997 and OnlyFans doesn’t exist yet, I highly doubt she would’ve experienced any safe working conditions doing so. It’s easy to imagine how abusive her home life is and how this manifests in her being an utterly anxiety-driven trainwreck of a person.
Of course, I think part of the reason why she has this particularly reputation is how the arc plays her anxiety for humorous effect. In addition to the horror of the scenario, this episode takes the team’s predicament and leverages it for a lot of effective dark comedy. Most of this stems from how badly she’s unable to handle the situation, apparently going so far as to drink from a toilet on top of constantly trying to shank Denji. Not to mention, many of the jokes here also reflect how utterly unserious the Terrible Twosome are, with Power constantly mocking Kobeni’s anxiety (and making plans to run for prime minister) on top of the fact that Denji, amidst the existential horror of the current situation, just goes “fuck it, nap time!” like he’s Hypnos from Hades or something. The face he makes during this scene is so hysterical, I had to pause and take a walk around the room to calm down from laughing.
Production-wise, the episode does an excellent job exacerbating the terrors of the situation. There are extreme levels of tension to the abstract geography of the hotel as one tries to parse out its layout. One particular influence that comes to mind is the Silent Hill series, which is fitting since the second game featured the Lakeview Hotel as its last level. The dim lighting of the hotel’s lighting fixtures, the one shot of the pipes overhead, and the numbing industrial drone of the music creates this constant sense of unease that is impossible to ignore.
And then the Eternity Devil shows up and shit hits the fan even more! The sound mixing of its voice layers a maddening cacophony of voices together in a way that, personally speaking, drove up my own anxiety to an almost Kobeni-esque level. The sound effects of its pulsating flesh doesn’t help ease things, and neither does the hideous appearance of the Devil as its form expands and grows throughout the episode. There’s even a specific shot that occur twice in the episode where it zooms into its form to show this dark void punctuated by an infinity symbol formed by its flesh, and it’s a very surreal image. All that being said, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t think the episode ended off in a really weird place, saving the big fight against the Eternity Devil for the beginning of next week, but I’m still looking forward to its resolution. Now for Kanaria to play us out!