Contrary to popular belief, the future does not in fact rule. Have you seen Futurama?
Episode 11 – “Mission Start”
Aki comes face to face with the Future Devil, an entity that takes a strange amount of glee in the prospect of forming a contract with him. Aki accepts the terms of the contract while turning down the prospect of learning more about his future, simply leaving with Kurose and Tendo once all is said and done. Meanwhile, Kishibe wraps up another training session with Denji and Power and heads off for a one-on-one meeting with Makima about the recent assaults on the Public Safety Special Divisions as the yakuza are debating their next course of action in their hideout.
Soon after, a planned raid is set up against the hideout, with the various members of Public Safety stationed outside the building. Kishibe’s on-hand to prevent unauthorized entry of the building due to an infestation of zombies in the basement. Thankfully for them, the raid enlists a handful of other devils to help thin the numbers of the zombie horde: the Shark Fiend, the Violence Fiend, the Spider Devil, and the Angel Devil. As they and most of the other Devil Hunters clear out the basement, our main trio heads up into the main building proper to track down Akane and Katana Man, with Aki eventually coming face to face with the former who sends out the Ghost Devil to combat him.
Episode 12 – “Katana vs. Chainsaw”
Despite Aki holding his own at first, eventually the Ghost Devil has him in their grasp as he flashes back to a conversation with Himeno about smoking. In that moment, the Ghost Devil releases its grip on him and reveals a parting gift from Himeno: a cigarette marked with the phrase “Easy Revenge!” No longer afraid of death in that moment, Aki is easily able to dispense of his enemy and (with a bit of help from Kobeni) capture Akane.
Meanwhile, Denji and Power ascend through the building’s elevator, with the latter stepping off on a zombie-filled floor for her own personal mayhem and the former staying behind until eventually letting off on a floor where Katana Man is waiting for their rematch. His attempts to reason Denji into surrendering proves futile, thus leading to the two engaging in a heated battle as their devil hybrid forms. Slashing and exploding their way across rooftops, the two’s battle eventually reaches a moving train where Katana Man seemingly gains the upper hand on our protagonist, but Denji’s able to pull a quick one on him and turn the tide of victory in his favor.
With the raid successful, Denji ties up Katana Man to the tracks while deliberating what to do with him as he waits for the cops to arrive. When Aki shows up, Denji finally decides on an answer: take turns kicking Katana Man in the dick over and over as revenge for Himeno’s death. Makima soon reports the results of the raid to the higher ups, with Akane Sawatari revealed to be a former Private Sector devil hunter, although she kills herself with the Snake Devil before she can be taken in for questioning. The episode then rolls credits as our main trio enjoy a nice meal at the apartment; once they’ve had their fill, Aki heads outside to have a smoke, and the season closes on the first episode intro of the strange door, revealed to be a dream Denji is having where Pochita ominously warns him not to open it.
Well, here we are at the end of season 1. It’s been quite the journey watching Fujimoto’s original manga be translated to screen, bringing the kind of top-tier animation and production that most only dream of when it comes to their own favorite mangas being adapted. There’s a lot that can be said about how the season ends and the storylines covered, but there’s one scene I wanted to spring off of here. At the risk of sounding like I’m just reiterating Super Eyepatch Wolf’s excellent recent video about the series, I feel like the perfect capstone to this season and the scene that gets at the heart Chainsaw Man’s appeal and everything wonderful about it… is the previously mentioned “two dudes kicking a yakuza guy in the dick.” First off, and I believe this goes without saying: nutshots are always funny. Like, always funny. Perhaps I have the humorous sensibilities of a child still, but watching Katana Man’s face contort in pain as his nutsack gets stomped out just put a big stupid smile on my face while watching, because it’s kind of a perfect full circle moment, right?
Like think about it: when Denji and Aki first met, they absolutely despised each other to the point of our hero stomping out Aki’s nutsack with no remorse whatsoever (I wonder if he still feels it…). From that point on, the entire dynamic between the two has been the stoic professional Devil Hunter trying to wrangle in this human dog and get him to try behaving. And yet despite all that discipline, once the right moment presents itself, Aki allows himself to sink down to Denji’s level for a bit of payback against Katana Man for everything that happen. You could say… he claims an “Easy revenge.” This kind of parity is even referenced in the show’s soundtrack: during the battles against the Ghost Devil and Katana Man, a song pops up in the OST which is called “sword of hunter.” The track is very familiar since it’s quite directly a rearrangement of the piece “Edge of chainsaw”: to be exact, the frantic electronic percussion is nearly the same, with the electric guitars played down and drowned out with frenetic bass slapping. It’s a really clever way of illustrating the progression made between the beginning of the season and the end, especially when the battle against Katana Man starts off on “Sword of hunter” and then climaxes on “edge of chainsaw.” That entire last battle is quite the thrilling spectacle, as the two hybrids trade explosive blows back and forth with the expected emphasis on speed and momentum with the kinetic force of Katana Man’s attacks propelling him and Denji across city rooftops. And of course the battle ends in the most baller-ass action movie manner possible as our protagonist arrogantly drops Kishibe’s quote about beasts and hunters as the final stamp of victory here.
For all the interesting character work occurring within this arc/season, Himeno wound up being at the heart of it all: an outwardly flirtatious persona masking a deeply broken and tragic woman underneath, someone desperate to form a meaningful connection with anyone she was partnered with on the job. From the flashbacks to the letter in the hospital and of course her brutal death, seeing her pine so deeply for Aki at every turn is incredibly sad; she so desperately needs a special person to ground her and make her feel like life is worth living, even though she doesn’t live to see the end of the season. That final parting gift of the cigarette being the last motivation that Aki needs to kill the Ghost Devil is an incredibly bittersweet last moment between the two, and to see it come back during an absolutely ridiculous scene of Katana Man getting kicked in the dick is the kind of tonal mood whiplash that endeared me to the series when reading the manga for the first time. In that moment, there’s three people who had someone important taken from them: Aki with Himeno, Denji with Pochita, and even Katana Man with his grandfather. All three are struggling with loss in their own ways, and they try to find any sense of happiness or fulfillment where they can get it, and it’s that kind of bleeding heart humanity that makes this weird moment of comedy ring with a huge amount of emotional pathos.
While on the subject of character dynamics, Makima’s presence in the story and her relationship to the rest of Public Safety continues to take an incredibly ominous turn. Her conversation with Kishibe is incredibly tense as he (rightfully) has reason to suspect that she’s onto something that everyone else isn’t, being concerned that she may step out of line against all of humanity. She’s certainly demonstrated a predilection towards accomplishing her goals by whatever means are necessary, emphasized by her meeting with other yakuza members to get information on Public Safety’s targets. She casually drops a bag full of eyeballs onto the table, taken from the loved ones of all yakuza members present, and she is absolutely without remorse as she stares down the man standing in front of her to get what she wants. He attempts to justify his actions with rhetoric about “necessary evils” and Makima tears him down for using that as a cowardly defense tactic which, however true that may be, still makes her someone to be feared.
On the subject of Public Safety: the series so far has crafted some top-notch designs for the Devils populating its world, and these last couple of episodes absolutely revel in showing off as many of them as possible. Aside from the monstrously-sized Snake and Ghost Devils and the gruesome human-devil hybrids, we get to see more of the Devils in the employment/confinement of the Special Divisions, and honestly they’re a ton of fun even if their glimpses are brief. The Future Devil in particular is a wonderfully absurd concept: an eerie menacing design whose visuals are contrasted by being… honestly kind of a weird dweeb. The dancing and chanting in and of itself is a bit bizarre, but it’s also hilarious it gets pissed at Aki during their meeting for being an absolute buzzkill and not indulging him. Then there’s the various fiends/devils involved in the raid, who currently mainly exist as fun bits of weird extra worldbuilding but will definitely see more play in season 2 whenever that may happen. The Angel Devil is portrayed as emotionally detached from anything happening, the Spider Devil is given some uncomfortably detailed animation as its legs tear through waves of zombies, and Beam the Shark Fiend is literally the single most perfect creature to ever exist in the history of existence. That is all.
I could go on, but all the words written throughout these 12 episodes should probably make it unambiguous that I love this series and that Studio MAPPA did an incredible job realizing the source material in animated form, and I’m deeply looking forward to seeing how the anime continues in the future. With a sequel tease in the ending seconds of episode 12 and part 2 of the manga still ongoing, Chainsaw Man’s days are far from over, with plenty of humanity, bleak emotional devastation, and utter absurdity still left to come. Now let’s listen to Eve play us out with “Fight Song” until next we meet.
Chainsaw Man is produced by Studio MAPPA and licensed by Crunchyroll/Hulu.