Chainsaw Man was one of the more beloved manga to come out in recent years. Unsurprisingly, when an anime adaptation was announced (fairly quickly) it made quite a stir among the anime community. Fans far and wide had their word to say.
Now that the anime is about halfway through the first season (I’m writing this at episode 7), I have noticed a few things. This post is not about Chainsaw Man itself, but rather about the unexpected reactions anime fans are having to it and what I have noticed.
Of course, these are just my personal observations, so take them with a salt mine. I just thought some of it was interesting, and I wondered if you had noticed the same thing.
First thing is the instant negativity. As soon as the adaptation was announced I saw a flood of Twitter and Reddit threads already announcing that it was a hack job. Even posts on Crunchyroll’s forums were certain this anime would be awful. A lot of them were doubtful that MAPPA could pull it off as a studio, assuming it would become an unwatchable mess of CG for some reason. I couldn’t find what this was based on exactly. I mean MAPPA does use CG but not to the extent Ufotable does and MAPPA has been willing to take a lot of interesting risks with anime that have generally paid off. Maybe I’m just a fan of some of their recent work.
These complaints have pretty much entirely disappeared at this point. In fact, some of the same fans are now geeking out over the show with zero acknowledgment of their previous certainty that it would be awful.
This isn’t something that’s unique to anime fans by any means. Any time an adaptation or remake of a loved franchise is announced, a lot of vocal people will immediately assume it’s going to be the worse thing ever. It’s some weird instinct we have. And I wouldn’t have brought it up except that in my experience, it was a lot more prominent both in the negativity and then positivity, with Chainsaw Man.
You see, not long before the Chainsaw Mana adaptation got announced, we got a similar announcement for another recent and very beloved manga: Spy x Family. It probably depends on your circles but as much as I had heard of people loving Chainsaw Man, it was not quite as popular as Spy x Family. And yet, when that adaptation was announced, the overall feeling in the community was cautious optimism. Sure, there were a few naysayers that were sure the anime would ruin everything but there were also a lot of folks eager to see their favourite stories brought to life on screen. And even if it wasn’t perfect, maybe it would introduce some new fans to a fantastic story that could go and seek out the manga.
The fan reactions to these two announcements were mere seasons apart and yet drastically different. I don’t know enough about studios’ reputations in the US to know whether it was the fact that one was made by MAPPA and the other by Wit/Clover that made such a big difference. I do know however that the Chainsaw Man fandom was a little younger and much more skewed toward a male demographic. And that might have played a role in the early reaction as well.
If I’m missing anything on this point, let me know.
Another thing I noticed and that surprised me a lot is that Chainsaw Man has a soft pro-censorship message and no one pushed back on it. Anime fans are usually very passionate about censorship issues. I have seen and regularly do see vicious debates on the subject.
In Chainsaw Man, devils gain strength through fear. So, in order to mitigate the fears of the general public, news outlets are asked to downplay or even not report on certain incidents. This is a measure put in place by the protagonists. It’s supposed to be a good thing. It’s also straight-up censorship of the actual news. That’s as obvious as it gets.
After the episode mentioning this came out, I really thought I would see some think pieces on why this is wrong or ineffective. And maybe there are some out there. Heck, maybe I’ll write one myself. I know a thing or two about communist-era censorship and I think there are a lot of interesting parallels here. Strangely, even though this is a subject that usually is dear to the anime community, there seems to be little to no interest in discussing it in the Chainsaw Man context and I wonder why. It would be such a good opportunity to have a discussion on it from a few different points of view.
Maybe it’s just because anime discourse in general is a lot more sparse these days? Really not sure though.
I’m gonna end on a good note. Although a lot of times when I see a positive in a fandom situation, someone points out some potentially frightening alternative and we all end up bummed out. But I think this one will at least not be depressing because it’s about Power.
Power is one of the main characters in Chainsaw Man. She’s introduced early in the series and looks a bit like Zero Two. One of her first storylines also has to do with her breasts so a lot of fans latched onto her as the obvious fanservice character. She has a bikini shot in the OP!
As soon as Power was introduced in the show, and I mean like minutes after the episode aired, my timelines were flooded with sexy Power cosplay pics, just like they had been flooded with sexy Yor cosplay pictures and to a lesser (but very disturbing degree) sexy Anya cosplay pics. I have to clean up my Twitter timeline…
I mentioned above that Power looks a little like Zero Two and I have to admit, a lot of those cosplay looked like slightly altered repurposed Darling in the Franxx cosplays to me. They really didn’t have the spirit of the Power character in them at all. I’m not saying the Power would never pose in sexy lingerie or anything but she wouldn’t do it for long and she would have an ulterior motive behind it.
Because even though at first glance Power has all the markings of a fanservice character, she just isn’t one. She’s kind of gross and deeply uninterested in her own sex appeal or that of others. She’s not a character who objectifies herself or that is objectified by the story. And even the cinematic language around her in the anime doesn’t really treat her as desirable. Camera angles and lighting don’t change much when she’s onscreen as compared to when Denji is onscreen. In fact, I think we see Denji with his shirt off way more often!
When you think about how the camera favours slow pans whenever Makima is there, how shadows are deepened and how often her features are shown in isolation. No that’s a character the camera is telling me I should be lusting after. And quite frankly, it works! Power is just… Power.
Now that doesn’t mean the fanbase doesn’t love Power and think she’s hot. They do. I do as well. It’s just the way that love for the character is shown, is different. I don’t know if it’s because of her presentation within the story but very quickly after that first wave of pictures, sexy cosplays of Power disappeared from my timeline. I’m absolutely sure they still exist but they’re not as prevalent or as popular. Whereas I still see sexy Yor on a regular basis.
I would like to think that somewhere along the way, the fanbase decided that what’s so fun about Power isn’t that she’s a pretty girl. Or at least isn’t only/mainly that. So they started using gifs of her better moments, memes with some of her better quotes, or just repeated her more memorable lines among themselves.
That’s kind of cool to me. There is a reputation for misogyny in the anime community and I think a character like Power is a little step away from that. I hope we get more.
As for Makima, she is much too frightening to be a pure fanservice character even though I still think she’s one of the hottest anime babes on air at the moment.
So, these are some of my general fandom observations in the context of Chainsaw Man. None of them are bad. In fact, I think we are coming along to becoming a more fun and just generally happier community. I just thought it was interesting how popular shows can bring out certain traits in fandoms that aren’t always obvious. At least to me.