With how much hype it has been generating, Chainsaw Man can be confused for being overrated by fans that don’t know why it’s so big. I mean, the anime was probably the biggest debut of the year, anticipated by nearly everyone in the anime community. But it’s not hard to see why some people would be skeptical of its meteoric rise as one of the new staples of Shonen anime, let alone anime in general. But honestly, there is some method to the madness here. It isn’t big for nothing.
Chainsaw Man is not overrated, not in the slightest. It is honestly deserving of all the praise it has been receiving, and not just because of the gorgeous animation courtesy of MAPPA Animations. Honestly speaking, it has been killing it on the charts because it’s such an unconventional story with characters that are both likable and unlikable in equal degrees. It also helps that the story just resonates with a lot of fans, which, yeah okay, nobody is dreaming about being Devils. But the core of the plot is surviving and a found family in chaos.
These themes might be coated in a supernatural and gory varnish, but once you peel them off, you really see the bigger picture. Unconventional Shonen anime has become more and more of the norm ever since the end of the Big 3 era. We have more nuanced premises in Shonen now, with a mature vibe and cinematography that betray its humble roots. And honestly, I’ve been loving this change. It’s how we got Jujutsu Kaisen where every plot twist genuinely holds high stakes. Safe to say, Chainsaw Man is following the same direction, without being overrated or overcompensating for something.
But honestly, how different can Chainsaw Man be, right? Like, what is it doing that is somehow so different from anything else on the market? Well, that’s what I want to discuss today, alongside the general trajectory anime has been making while going through this new age of globalization. So today, let’s break down why Chainsaw Man isn’t overrated, but rather a turning point for modern anime. Let’s dive right in!
Chainsaw Man: Unlikable Protagonists And Over-The-Top Shenanigans?
So, Chainsaw Man is pretty on the nose about the story its telling. It is about a teen, who can turn into a monster themed around, well, literal chainsaws. That’s it, that’s the title. And I think that’s one of the main reasons it skyrocketed into popularity because it genuinely feels like there is no filler content here. You’re thrown into a fairly straightforward plot, quite literally getting what you paid for, and then some.
In Chainsaw Man, everything matters. So, one of the reasons I genuinely fell for the franchise was Denji. Which, honestly speaking, characters like Denji always made me feel skeevy and like they were written for a specific audience. So, I never really end up connecting to them in other media formats. But the thing with Denji is that they aren’t asking you to like him, at all. There is no forced justification of ‘Oh, but here’s the reason why he acts like an idiot all the time’. Like, there’s no redemption for his perverted antics. Rather, this is who he is. And, in the end, he’s still growing.
Far too many times we meet unlikable ‘stoic’ protagonists where their biggest flaws are trying to be sold to us as their biggest assets. But not here. Chainsaw Man plays host to a cast of dysfunctional and downright diabolical characters, that truly end up feeling demonic. But just because they aren’t typical, doesn’t mean they don’t have a shred of humanity in them. Denji might be a woman-obsessed fiend, but he ends up being platonic besties with a woman he was annoyed by. Power starts off wanting to eat anyone and everything in her wake, but slowly opens herself to trusting Denji and Aki Hayakawa like family. And, in the end, there are no idolized versions of these characters. Rather, they act their age, with Denji being as brash and irrational as a teenager should be.
And most, if not all, of his actions, have consequences. The manga series doesn’t shy away from the blood and guts of the lives lost, nor does it tone down its dark humor. It’s every bit sleazy and uncomfortable while bringing a tale of survival that’s extremely relatable at the same time. And don’t even get me started on the fight scenes and scene changes that happen at the drop of a hat. The world-building here is immaculate, with monsters that reflect humanity’s worst fears coming to life and how the most mundane of things could be nightmare fuel.
Chainsaw Man is a lot of things. It is unconventional, unpredictable and fun, and depressing in equal spades. But overrated? That’s not one of them.
How Being Overrated Is A Lie:
Let’s try an exercise here: What would you consider overrated? Overrated means something that is very hyped by people in all circles. But once you experience it personally, you realize that there isn’t much substance there. But what constitutes an anime being overrated?
I’m going to go off a personal tangent here and talk about an anime I have always thought was extremely overhyped: Sword Art Online. I mean, that anime is a hallmark of the Isekai genre. Hell, some might say it popularized Isekai in the mainstream. And yet, I have made it no secret that I despise that anime for what it did to the genre as a whole, especially when it came to protagonist portrayals. I tried watching it, just to see if I was being biased or not, and honestly? I could’ve watched the Abridged version of the series on YouTube and had a much better time.
There is nothing in that show that has anything that truly holds your attention. It isn’t doing anything different, the characters are shallow and unlikeable, and all the women in it are just having a Bad Time™, period. But does that mean it’s overrated? As much as I loathe to answer that, here’s the truth: Sword Art Online did popularise the Isekai genre and set a precedent for shows that came afterward. So, saying it is overrated is underselling how big it truly was.
I feel like anime is a mixed bag when it comes to these sorts of things. Because calling something overrated is arbitrary, since it is still selling pretty well. There are different strokes for different folks and people will never agree on things 100%. Hell, some people apparently nit-pick Spy X Family for not being ‘realistic’ and therefore not good enough for how beloved it is. And, like, what kind of monster does that?
See, just because something is getting big, doesn’t automatically mean it’s overrated or empty hype. Chainsaw Man is good, not overrated. It is a brilliant show, with a very unique style and feels, coupled with stellar writing. It deserves all the praise thrown at it, but there will always be someone who disagrees or finds it not entertaining. That’s just how these things go, and it’s no one’s fault. Hence why deciding what is or isn’t overrated is, well, overrated.
The Changing Face Of Mainstream Anime:
Anime has come a long way from being just a niche little fandom to a global phenomenon. It isn’t just VHS tapes being sold for cheap at your local Grocer or doing graveyard shifts on the telly. It is an award-winning content, with premieres and blockbuster movies that take up space next to big Hollywood franchises. There is anticipation when we talk about anime now, that just wasn’t there before.
When I say the hype around Chainsaw Man’s anime adaptation was no joke, I mean it. Like, CrunchyRoll pulled out all the stops for its debut earlier this fall and its premiere nearly flooded social media apps like Twitter with stans and non-stans alike. However, the thing that truly broke me was something completely out of the blue. It was a little promotional video for Guillermo Del Toro’s new feature, Pinocchio with Finn Wolfhard of Stranger Things fame. And at one point, he started talking about how Death Note was his favorite anime, and how he’s yet to start Chainsaw Man. But he’s looking forward to it.
I know it’s stupid. Like, obviously celebrities probably also watch anime. It isn’t so out there but to see an anime as new as Chainsaw Man being brought up and acknowledged by both a huge actor and one of the defining directors of this decade? It was wild. Even more so because the opening of Chainsaw Manproves just how influenced it was by global cinema. You had references to movies like Reservoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction, Once Upon A Time In Hollywood, and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. But it also paid homage to giants such as Neon Genesis Evangelion and Goodbye Eri, a manga by Chainsaw Man’s writer, Tatsuki Fujimoto.
Anime has come full circle and spread out at the same time. It has become less about the Power Of Friendship™ being targeted at a local audience and more about including the massive pool of international audiences that are contributing greatly to the anime boom. So, naturally the two influence each other, absorbing and reinventing things as they go along. Mainstream anime has become more dynamic and interesting as a result. Because things aren’t narrowed down anymore, they can experiment and play around with what works.
And turns out, despair with a hint of relatability and zaniness was the winning formula for Chainsaw Man. Hence why is it being overrated? Definitely a stretch!