Chainsaw Man Episode 1 review: Gripping start to a gory series

chainsaw manCrunchyroll

Episode 1 of Chainsaw Man, the highly-anticipated anime, shows that it knows its own hype – and is prepared to deliver on it.

Chainsaw Man has been one of the most hyped-up anime in recent years, and it’s almost here.

The plot is described as Crunchyroll as “Denji is a teenage boy living with a Chainsaw Devil named Pochita. Due to the debt his father left behind, he has been living a rock-bottom life while repaying his debt by harvesting devil corpses with Pochita. One day, Denji is betrayed and killed. As his consciousness fades, he makes a contract with Pochita and gets revived as ‘Chainsaw Man’ – a man with a devil’s heart.”

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It’s certainly an out there plot, but it’s not unheard of to see shocking anime become the next biggest thing; see Attack on Titan for that. But Attack on Titan also became a juggernaut due to its stellar animation and iconic characters, so will the first episode of Chainsaw Man be able to live up to that? First, spoiler warning for Chainsaw Man.

Chainsaw Man Episode 1 toys with the dark and the light

The episode effectively manages to get you into the world of the anime pretty quickly, while also not showing its cards too soon. We open on Denji walking to work on a beaten path while talking about selling his body parts to pay off his debt – including his nether regions.

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Denji, a demon hunter, appears to be a very likeable protagonist, which prevents this dark anime from feeling too miserable. He’s a less Disney-fied version of Aladdin, someone stricken in poverty who dreams of a bright but simple future; a good meal, and the chance to play some videos games with a girl, before the two of them would fall asleep hugging.

He even has an animal sidekick, a dog demon with a chainsaw on its head, Pochita. Despite the chainsaw, the dog is actually super cute – slightly less cute when it starts talking, but that may be a personal preference – and we can only hope that this episode won’t be the only time we see him, due to him possessing the body of Denji after the boy gets torn apart by demon zombies.

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Chainsaw Man Episode 1 buys into the hype

Those demon zombies kick off the main event of the show, which means some gory chainsaw action. There had been a potential action scene at the episode’s beginning, but the screen cuts away, as it wants to make you wait to see what action this series is capable of.

Chainsaw Man gives all the time that, well, Chainsaw Man deserves. Denji’s transformation is revealed brilliantly, the animation showing his form in spectacular focus.

The proceeding action animation – in which Denji cuts up multiple zombies and a giant demon head – can be a little slow and CGI-heavy at times, but it may just be that the anime wants you to get a good look at what’s happening before things truly start to hit the fan. It’s uncertain if his old boss survives, but maybe that’ll be cleared up later on. And this whole episode has effectively shown how poverty and the powerful’s exploitation of the poor through debt, is itself demonic.

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Chainsaw Man Episode 1 review score: 7.5/10

This is a solid opening episode to an anime, effectively getting across the main plot and characters while hinting at so much more. The series has set up a surprisingly easy to understand premise, while still managing to hit a good emotional beat at its end. Never has a boy surrounded by dead zombies asking for some bread with jam on it been so heart-warming.

When it comes to anime, there is generally the rule of three: You have to watch the first three episodes to figure out whether an anime is going to be good or not. While it’s clear that this anime is good, we will likely need those other two episodes to see if this is going to be truly great.

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But we certainly can’t wait to find out.

Chainsaw Man premieres on Crunchyroll on October 11.