The end has now come for the first season of Chainsaw Man, ending pretty much exactly where fans of the manga expected, narratively. Denji gets his rematch with Samurai Sword/Katana Man, Aki gets some closure, and Power gets to live up to her own hype. There’s been a little pain, but this final episode brings a slight bit of catharsis that is a proper place to leave a season of a show that can get pretty cynical and grim. Even more than that, more of Chainsaw Man’s themes are beginning to crystallize for the anime.
We resume with Aki firmly in the clutches of the turned Ghost Devil, right up to when he’s not. The devil releases him instead of finishing him off, in order to pass along a final farewell from Himeno. Aki is given a cigarette, something that we’ve seen the two share throughout the season. That flashes back to Himeno trying to convince Aki to smoke and revealing that he was underage at the time, so she takes the cigarette back for when he’s “grown up.” Cutting back to the present, Aki sees “Easy Revenge!” written on the cigarette – that shakes him, then drives him, and he quickly defeats the Ghost Devil. More on what this really means later, but he’s no longer acting with any fear – which means the Ghost Devil couldn’t see him.
Moving back to the rest of division four, Power and Denji continue down into the hideout to pindown Samurai Sword. Power gets separated when she finds another wave of zombies and decides that she’s going to deal with them rather than get tied up in a fight she can’t win. This time, she really proves her combat potential; all while Denji has checked out and moved on. Seeing Power perfectly in her element is a blast, as she continues to demand Denji observe her when he’s not even there.
Denji’s busy in a rematch with Samurai Sword, blasting through the walls of the hideout and onto a running train (another Fujimoto film geek reference, this time Spider-Man 2) and Denji is at least able to not immediately eat dirt. There’s a neat worldbuilding moment as the train their fighting on brakes and an automated announcement comes on advising travelers about the devil incident happening and how to evacuate. It’s a small but nice touch that shows us a bit more about how Chainsaw Man’s devil-infested world actually functions.
This is also the moment we see another noteworthy deviation from the source material. One woman is unable to escape as Denji gets put at a disadvantage when pushed into the train. In the manga, as Samurai Sword tries to go for the kill Denji wraps his arm around the woman to try to shield her. In this episode instead, she remains laying on the floor. The result is the same – Denji loses an arm and she escapes safely – but it is a noteworthy change in my opinion. We’ve seen Denji concerned that he doesn’t actually have a heart or his humanity, so I believe that this change is trying to maintain some consistency. That line of thinking also lines up with the early cutting of Denji saving a child before reaching Tokyo with Makima earlier on in the season. I’m not entirely sure it’s the correct move, since it is still technically Denji’s job to protect humans from devils so it’s not like this act betrays his overall arc.
Either way, Denji loses his other arm and is forced to turn to his training the past two episodes to get him out of this mess. He does succeed in this, getting Sword to focus on blocking the chainsaw on Denji’s head and miss that Denji can now pull his chainsaws through his legs. Denji gets his own victory easily enough from there, quoting his teacher about never trusting a hunter when you’re the beast even. The boy can learn, everyone!
The operation is pretty much wrapped up from there, but that means we can bring back that concept of “Easy Revenge” from Himeno’s final message. The idea is less formally defined as a theme, but it’s not hard to pin down some of what Chainsaw Man is trying to communicate. Easy revenge is something of resistance, a push back against the idea of enjoying our vices or taking some joy in the less than savory being inherently bad. This is demonstrated in Denji not being satisfied with just bringing in Samurai Sword. He decides instead that he needs a bit more revenge, so he decides since Sword shot Himeno, he should get shot too – “nut shot.”
Denji invites Aki to join him in the crude act and while Aki is resistant at first, he eventually relents and decides to allow himself to enjoy the victory. Calling the screams of a man repeatedly kicked in the groin a “requiem” to Himeno is indeed strange, but it plays well with Chainsaw Man’s theming so far. Our lead character is simple, blown away by simple delights after being completely dehumanized. The constant parade of death around him has done the same to Aki. Power isn’t human either, though that’s pretty obvious.
Being able to take some easy revenge against a world that has made them this way is a way to reclaim some sense of satisfaction, or maybe even joy. I think this is the notion that Mappa really wanted to leave Chainsaw Man on this season, because after the wrap up of the battle we’re treated to the final ending song and animation, which is just the best. Our three dummies are just enjoying a day off, picking up some groceries, eating a decent meal, and falling asleep with some contentment. It’d be a nice notion to leave the season on, and instead the show does one better.
See, while Chainsaw Man’s adaptation has cut some scenes down or out or adjusted things for a broadcast, it’s also added things. The final shot of the ending credits is actually from the manga, but instead of having all three asleep, we get to spend the night with Aki on his own. Much like the morning routine sequence we saw earlier this season, this all new content. He steps out onto his apartment’s balcony and silently looks at the sky while he slowly smokes the cigarette that was left with him. It’s haunting and nice at the same time, even if the smoke blowing into the darkness that the scene lingers on is hard to fully see in the broadcast. For a moment, Aki seems to be sending his own final farewell to Himeno as Mappa takes their own stab at depicting some easy revenge. This is a sequence worth ending a thoughtful series on in its own right and lingers even as the episode itself quickly drops some teases of what’s to come before we’re all done.
Chainsaw Man was the runner up for our anime of the year, and rightfully so. A faithful adaptation does not need perfect replication of a manga’s panels – I don’t even see how anyone could match Fujimoto’s panel work – or a loyalty to every detail. The best adaptations show both a true understanding of what they’re adapting is about while using what’s special about that medium to add to that work. Even if every step wasn’t perfect, it’s clear that the team behind this adaptation understands Chainsaw Man as the masterwork it is. Season two can’t come quickly enough.
Featured Image via Crunchyroll
'Chainsaw Man' - "Katana VS Chainsaw" - 8/10