I saw students reading Chainsaw Man so I got the manga out of the library. Now that I’ve read the Public Safety Arc (volumes one through eleven), I tell kids to put Chainsaw Man away since it’s not appropriate for middle school.
The world of Chainsaw Man is one where devils are the manifestations of fears . They do horrible things to people so there are freelance and government devil hunters to try and keep the world from completely falling apart.
Denji is a destitute, miserable kid who ends up with the chainsaw devil as his heart, giving him profoundly disturbing chainsaw powers. (They were really good friends and the chainsaw devil wanted him to be happy. Did I mention this is a weird series?) From the, we watch Denji become a government sanctioned devil fighter and try to grow as a person.
Denji is emotionally stunted, id-driven idiot manchild. Which, given his abusive, traumatized past, is actually pretty reasonable. I have read arguments that his is a deconstruction of the idiot Shonen hero (No offense, Luffy. We all love you) I can see that but I also view Chainsaw man as more pure horror than Shonen.
(I’ve also read arguments that Denji and Power’s relationship is not romantic but brother-sister. Instead, I found it to be the only romantic relationship in the work. Two horrible people who are also horribly dysfunctional learning to care for and about each other. It’s not pretty but it’s sincere.)
I am half tempted to watch the anime since it was sometimes hard to figure out exactly how some extreme acts of violence work. At the same time, as the series goes on, I honestly think we are looking less at action sequences than art installations created by a hungover Salvidor Dahli who had to work with an abbatoir for materials.
Which sounds like a critical but it is a heartfelt compliment. The imagery of Chainsaw Man is disturbing (as is the writing) but it has an aesthetic beyond just trying to make you throw up.
I will ask children not to read Chainsaw Man while actually on school grounds but I don’t knock them for reading it.