At the end of episode five, the characters of Chainsaw Man found themselves stuck on the 8th floor of a hotel while seeking pieces of the explosively destructive Gun Devil. Ending on a note that captured both the unwavering humor with horror tendencies, it easily might’ve been the marker of a new arc now that our key players had been introduced.
In episode six, “Kill Denji,” the series once again ups the ante and just in terms of stakes — even though they are technically life and death. The threat is looming and just the notion of it is already tearing some of the weaker Special Division 4 members apart, especially as the devil trapping them corners them further and further into the depths of the one floor they’re allowed access to. After Aki sacrifices himself, Denji, indignant, goes up against the devil in a whirl of mayhem to even the score, stubbornly against the idea of ever owing anyone anything again.
For a non-manga reader, this felt like a standard shonen moment where the protagonist either shifts gear and finds his path toward heroism or even just the point at which the team the early episodes have introduced is fully established and linked. Denji hurtles himself into the mouth of the devil, blood splattering upon entry, and, following a three-day battle where he learns if he drinks the blood spilled from his foe that he can recharge and stay upright, the entire crew can walk out alive. It, ultimately, takes about five minutes for this battle to wrap up when other shows might’ve let it last an entire arc.
Animated with a gleeful smattering of gore and guts, Denji’s fight with the devil to obtain a piece of the Gun Devil is a reminder of the sheer carnage that follows him once he’s pulled the chord and an eye-opening moment to Himeo. Remembering the saying “The Devil Hunters that devils fear are the ones with a few screws loose…,” her faith in Denji grows while facing his considerable lack of self-preservation and how he throws himself bodily into battle until the devil itself is begging for death.
The funniest moment of the episode isn’t the gross-out instances but instead, just how quickly all of the setups from the last episode are dropped and resolved. With the way episode six ended and the type of structure these narratives often have, to have it all resolve itself in a matter of minutes is shocking in its hilarity. It also further cements Himeo, who aided Denji from above in battle, as a loose canon in her own right, something that’s established greater still by the end of the episode.
Denji get’s his promised kiss while at a company meeting where they’ve already been reminded of the violent brevity of their jobs and his obsession, Makima, sitting moments away. It’s his first kiss, a touch that makes the final gross-out gag all the more tragic if being vomited on mid-kiss could be any more tragic than it already is.
Denji’s character is animated with such playfulness that it’s easy to forget his ruinous origin. The facial character design and minutia of expressions as he wars internally with himself over what he wants (his want of for a kiss from Himeo versus his desperation to impress Makima) have such a level of specificity and earnestness that he’s lovable even in his more dimwitted, teenage boy moments. In “The Taste of a Kiss” we’re reminded multiple times of his harrowing upcoming, from his struggle to read the menu, his awe over the food in front of him, and a flashback of his disgust at the meager scraps some animals would succumb to eating, the sadness is almost overwhelming.
This matters because if a show or story is going to go for a big, sick-out style moment (and my god do they) it needs to either be a. So hilarious it’s criticism free despite the cheap tactic or, b. Illuminating the story in some fashion. And it is — it’s vile and still manages to impress upon the viewers the low depths Denji has stayed afloat in the past and even more reasoning as to why he sticks around.
It’s devastating but with humor, making the bite more of a sting and allowing viewers to laugh amid trauma and hardship because to not would be to not enjoy the series. Based on how the story handled this particular bump in the road, it’s difficult to guess what’s going to happen in the next episode with Himeo and Denji (hopefully, nothing at all) and it’s that level of persistent, unhinged surprise that keeps the momentum at a consistent, thrilling, acceleration.
Featured Image Courtesy of Crunchyroll / MAPPA