After well over a year of anticipation and hype, Mappa just released its first episode of the Chainsaw Man adaptation, “Dog & Chainsaw”, directed by Ryū Nakayama.
If anyone had any doubts about whether this anime would live up to expectations, I am certain that this episode blew any skepticism clear out of the water.
“Dog & Chainsaw” is a phenominal beginning for the anime, delivering excellently on all fronts, including animation, voice acting and soundtrack.
The episode begins with an anime original scene of our main character Denji (Kikunosuke Toya) having a nightmare about approaching a strange door in an alleyway.
As a manga reader, I know what this dream means but I will leave that for the spoiler section below, just in case any anime only viewers happen to stumble across this review.
After waking up, Denji goes Devil hunting with his own pet Devil, Pochita (Shiori Izawa), an orange, dog-like creature with a chainsaw attatched to its head.
Denji lives in a world where Devils representing human fears plague humanity.
Unfortunately, Denji is dirt poor because his father killed himself after becoming indebted to the Yakuza.
Now, Denji has to pay off all of his father’s debt or be murdered, which lead to him selling one of his eyes, kidney, and even one of his testicles.
What gets him the most profit, however, is Devil hunting, as we see him prepare to use Pochita to take out the Tomato Devil,, before the episode cuts to the opening “Kick Back” by Kenshi Yozenu.
This opening is a lot of fun, with a great song and visuals which I will discuss the meaning of in the manga spoiler section.
After the opening, we see the aftermath of Denji and Pochita’s fight with the Tomato Devil, handing the corpse off to the Yakuza Boss who kindly gives Denji his payment… before ripping him off by taking most of his hard earned money for petty things like a “finder’s fee.”
On top of this, another Yakuza member mistreats Denji further, by offering him money if he eats a cigarette to which, desperate for money as he is, Denji accepts.
He does prove his intelligence, however, by not swallowing the cigarette so he can spit it out when the Yakuza leave.
Returning to the shed in the forest he calls home, we see how much worse Denji’s life is since, because of the Yakuza’s extortion, he can only afford to buy a single piece of bread for him and Pochia to eat.
This harsh life has caused Denji to view simple dreams, like going out on a date with a girl, to be akin to life changing ones; a key component of his character, which will be explored in later episodes.
None of this exploration would have happened without Pochita, however, as we see how he saved Denji’s life in a flashback.
After Denji’s father died, the Yakuza boss demanded money from him to be ready the next day, threatening to cut him up and sell his organs if he fails.
It was at this hopeless moment when Denji met Pochita and accepted his death by a Devil, only to see that Pochita was injured.
Remembering his own father’s suicide, Denji decides to save Pochita by offering his blood, making a contract with the little Devil and starting his Devil hunting career.
Following this flashback, Denji reminisces more on his simple dreams, before coughing up blood, leading to him remembering being told that his mother died from a heart condition, which caused her to cough up blood.
So, on top of the crushing poverty and extortion by the Yakuza, Denji then realizes he probably does not have long to live, meaning the simple dreams he lives for can never be achieved.
The poor guy just can not catch a break.
This is proven when the Yakuza boss takes him to kill another Devil, only for it to be a trap.
The Yakuza boss and his underlings stupidly made a contract with the Zombie Devil to obtain a Devil’s power like Denji did.
All this did was turn them all into the undead, now completley under the control of the Zombie Devil, who wants to kill Denji and Pochita for being Devil Hunters.
What follows is the brutal murder of the two, as they are struck from behind, chased down, stabbed to death, cut into pieces and thrown into a dumpster.
Kikunosuke Toya gives an excellent performance during this scene, with his agonised screams adding to the horror.
And so Denji’s short and cruel life ends cruely, or, at least, it would have if it were not for Pochita again.
Revived by Denji’s blood, he makes a contract with Denji, “I’ll give you my heart. And in exchange, I want you to show me your dreams.”
Now revived, Denji emerges from the dumpster, the only remaining remnant of Pochita being a cord now attatched to his chest.
Upon noticing his revival, the Zombie Devil orders his zombie slaves to eat Denji, and they tackle him to the ground as he pulls the cord.
The sound of the groaning undead is slowly overtaken by the sound of a revving chainsaw.
With a gory slash, Denji emerges from beneath the hoard, his face now that of a monstrous chainsaw, along with his hands.
The gore galore promised by the trailer then comences, as Denji quickly cuts the screaming Zombie Devil apart in bloody and spectacularly animated fashion.
Denji’s chainsaws are clearly CGI but they are the good kind, mixing well with the 2D animation.
After the Zombie Devil has been brutally despatched, Denji moves onto the zombified Yakuza, including his former boss, killing them all and washing his debt away in a river of blood.
Some time later, the government Devil Hunters arrive, lead by a woman named Makima (Tomori Kusunoki).
They find Denji inside the warehouse, surrounded by the dead zombies.
In a daze, Denji asks Makima to hug him, clearly remembering his old dream, and Makima accepts this requet, causing Denji to return to his human form.
Makima then gives him two options.
Either, A, he can be killed by her as a devil, or B, Makima can keep him as a human, offering to feed him.
This prompts Denji to ask what he will have for breakfast and Makima replies simple things like, “bread with butter and jam, salad, coffee, and then maybe something for desert.”
Well, as we know, simple dreams like breakfast are big ones for Denji, so Makima is really offering to fulfill one of his dearest wishes, leading to him accepting the offer, as the episode comes to an end.
Throughout this scene, the soundtrack by Keunsuke Ushio presents a melancholic feeling that represents the hope Denji is feeling in this moment really well.
I just knew that the composer for anime like A Silent Voice would do a great job with the soundtrack for Chainsaw Man.
I look forward to hearing the rest of his work, just as I look forward to seeing the rest of th3 ending songw we get.
Mappa took an interesting approach to the Chainsaw Man’s episode endings, as each one will have a different song, with Episode One’s being “Chainsaw Blood” by Vaundy, which is another banger, just like the opening.
All of the music, from the opening and ending song, to Ushio’s soundtrack, are amazing.
Along with this, the animation of the episode is great throughout, with plenty of little details throughout, like the veins in some character’s eyes.
Finally, there is the voice acting, which is so far also really good.
Watching the trailer, I was admittedly surprised to hear Tomori Kusunkoki’s soft voice as Makima but I think it works perfectly after this episode by making the character perfectly alluring.
“Dog & Chainsaw” is an all around fantastic first episode for the Chainsaw Man adaptation.
Studio Mappa is clearly dedicated to giving the manga the best adaptation that it can and I cannot wait to see the rest of my new favourite manga be adapted in anime form.
Manga Spoiler Section:
The first thing I will talk about concerning manga spoilers is the anime original scene of Denji having a nightmare about the door.
This early foreshadowing will work wonders, setting up the reveal that Denji killed his own father, which will come later in the story.
Placing the dream right at the beginning puts the mystery of the door firmly in the audience’s mind from the start, which is a good thing.
Now, for my thoughts on the opening’s foreshadowing.
For starters, one of my favourite moments from it was the moment with the entire gang sitting in a movie theatre.
It felt like it was hinting at Chapter 39, where Denji and Makima go to the movies.
Not only that but this moment in the opening also hints at what the character dynamics will be like in the future of the anime.
We see Makima feeding Denji popcorn, hinting at her control over him, Power stealing Kobeni’s seat, and Aki being the only one of the group to be focusing on the movie.
The opening having a moment in the theatre is also perfect for Chainsaw Man, considering how much of a movie fan Tatsuki Fujimoto is.
This fact can be seen throughout the opening, with various other moments refrencing popular films, with shots resembling those found in Pulp Fiction, The Big Lebowski, and many other films, being present.
After the movie theater moment in the opening, we then get various little hints to Makima’s hold over Denji, some subtle and others not.
Probably the most unsubtle of all is Makima having Denji on a dog leash.
More subtle is the moment when Makima feeds Denji a snail, which, I am told, looks to be infected by a parasite which controls its brain, further hinting at her attempting to manipulate Denji.
Other cool little teasers in the opening show glimpses of the Future Devil, Ghost Devil and Katanna Man, along with hints at Aki and Power’s pasts.
The opening then ends by showing the family dynamic that will emerge between Denji, Power and Aki, with Denji and Power goofing around dancing, while Aki watches.
This opening was great and its hints towards future events from the manga were fun to catch.
As for the original anime only scene, I wonder if there will be any more throughout the anime?
It will be interesting to see what gets added across Chainsaw Man‘s adaptation.