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“Chainsaw Man” Review: ‘Gunfire’ is shock perfected

By December 2, 2022March 29th, 2023No Comments6 min read

Over the course of seven weeks, Chainsaw Man has shown its audience a lot of aspects of itself and why those who have already read it have been so excited for the anime adaptation. So far, this adaptation has not disappointed; but fans know that there is still one more trick up this series’ sleeve. With this week’s episode, “Gunshot,” Chainsaw Man pulls out the secret weapon: pain.

Picking up only a few moments before the ending of the previous episode, “Gunfire” follows Denji after the squad’s night out as Himeno carries him back to her apartment. Denji is still nauseous and disoriented from his less than stellar night, while Himeno is in her own not-great place. After leaving Denji half hanging off her bed, she begins unwinding from her night and begins downing yet another beer right before the episode catches up to where we left things last week, as she propositions Denji for sex.  

Denji is at first his default horny self, but he regains some grounding thanks to a rogue lollipop Himeno finds in his pocket. This gives us a quick flashback to just before, with Makima getting Denji some nausea medicine as he laments his fears about always recalling his first terrible kiss. Makima tells him that he’ll have plenty more experiences before placing her used lollipop in his mouth, giving him his first “indirect kiss” and directly calling back to their private moment together last episode. 

These scenes have big red flags around them and could have been a mess with less tact just as other aspects of Chainsaw Man, but Mappa has been up to the task and for the most part nails it here too. Himeno’s apartment is devoid of details, betraying the impermanence that the devil hunters of Public Safety live in and has been a central hang up of Himeno’s life specifically. Her drunken stupor and propositioning of Denji is also telling of a sense of longing similar to Denji’s. 

Both players in this scene aren’t in full control of their faculties here, intentionally making the consent at play dubious at best. Up to this point, Himeno hasn’t really seen Denji as an individual, simply seeing him like all the other rookies of Public Safety – warm bodies that might survive long enough to be of value to her and Aki. That disconnect is reflected at the casualness she offers sex and tries to initiate it; it’s not really a desire to be with him, but just with someone. The content is risque, but is also a genuine reflection of the baggage a seasoned hunter has and how alike the “serious” folks are actually in relation to Denji.

Some of the visuals in this part are a bit harder to swallow, though. A long tracking shot from Himeno’s perspective leading to Denji is ambitious but is also incredibly awkwardly tracked. Denji’s body basically slides around like a clipping video game character and it’s extremely obvious these are two different layers at play. For an otherwise slow sequence mostly focusing on behavior and mood rather than dialogue or action, it took me out of the scene to think about. This is not what you’d usually see in a Mappa production these days, and worth noting.

Thankfully, Denji is also honest with himself and instead leaves Himeno to sleep off her drinks. In the morning she shows regret and it’s clear she can recall exactly what she did based on her character blocking even when Denji tries to brush it off. His rebuffing of her, or at least his reasons why, seems to have jolted something in her. Their breakfast conversation carries a much more friendly tone as she decides to help Denji win over Makima; on the condition he helps pull down Aki’s walls. Denji agrees and finds himself warming up to his second proper friend ever. It’s a heartwarming conclusion to a pretty rollercoaster start for these two. 

Except it’s now finally time for Chainsaw Man to take its true form as Painsaw Man, just like it did in the beginning of the series. Cutting to later in the day, as Makima departs on her previously mentioned trip to Kyoto and the squad gets about their actual day, their enemies make their move. In a tense and slowly playing out sequence, seemingly random citizens begin pulling guns on members of Public Safety. As the chambers are emptied and the sounds of gunfire echo through Tokyo, our main cast and Himeno are confronted as well. 

We learn that the yakuza boss who signed Denji’s death warrant in episode one had a grandson, and he’s now here to finish the job. Pulling his own gun and invoking the name of the Gun Devil, he fires on the squad. Hitting Denji and Himeno, Aki and Power jump into action and seemingly clean up the issue with the Fox Devil Aki is contracted with. But quickly, this new threat gets a lot scarier as he carves out of the Fox Devil and reveals himself to be like Denji: capable of taking on the direct powers of a Devil. 

The Katana Man teased in the opening of the series has arrived. Paying off all of the setup of the last couple of episodes, Aki jumps into action to protect his team – Himeno in particular – by pulling out his sword. The sword itself is contracted to the Curse Devil at the cost of some of Aki’s life, but this turns out to not be enough to take down Katana Man. With Denji still out of commission and Power scared enough to admit she can’t do anything in this fight, the bleeding out Himeno jumps back into the fray and delivers the final crushing realization of why she is the way she is. 

Himeno is defined by her understanding that they’re all going to die. Traumatized and left worn down by the constant death around her, the show flashes through each of these leading up to her teaming up with Aki, her real desire was to try to leave someone alive long enough to mourn her when it’s her turn. Trading her entire body to her Devil, the Ghost Devil fully manifests and takes on Katana Man. More pay off from the opening teasers, the Ghost Devil properly puts Katana on the back foot and while it took a lot, it looks like our heroes have won by the skin of their teeth and the Ghost Devil’s power. 

However, this is Painsaw Man now. Instead of triumph, the Ghost Devil is blown away by Katana’s partner in a single blow. “Gunshot ends with Aki realizing in horror what his partner has done and our main cast in a hell of a lot of trouble. The final panning shots show only Himeno’s left behind clothes as the ending theme says goodbye to her with all the energy of another show’s opening credits; and rightfully so. 

“Gunfire” is everything that Chainsaw Man really is rolled into one. It’s shocking and painful, but instead of just relying on shock value it also relies on quickly and believably making us care about these messy characters. Himeno perfectly exemplifies the sacrificial character trope and yet she feels so much more real than most in this type. It’s a testament to how compelling Chainsaw Man is structurally that it can deliver this kind of gut punch without feeling cheap. The series is still all gas even when it is having some off animation, and as we get closer to the end of the season the sense of pain will only likely increase. 

Featured Image Courtesy of Crunchyroll / MAPPA

  • "Chainsaw Man" - 'Gunfire' - 9/10
Travis Hymas

Travis Hymas is a freelance writer and self appointed Pokémon historian out of Salt Lake City, Utah. Known to be regularly obessive over pop culture topics and gaming discourse, he is a published Rotten Tomatoes critic and has been featured on sites such as Uppercut and The Young Folks

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