How would you rate episode 4 of
Chainsaw Man ?
Community score: 4.5
Would you believe me if I said that, for a show like Chainsaw Man, where so much of the appeal lies in its absurd and over-the-top devotion to blood-soaked excess, it’s the little details that make it truly special?
For instance, in this week’s episode consider the fight against the Leech Devil. Sure, I could go on about the delightfully disgusting creature design (someone at MAPPA clearly had way too much fun capturing the heft and swing of all those, um, “udders”); I could rave about the incredibly fluid and weighty animation that continues to make every fight scene in this show a blast; I could sing the praises of the voice actors, who continue to perfectly embody this cast of insane weirdos (shout-out to Kikunosuke Toya for nailing Denji’s particular mix of ferocity, mania, and brazen idiocy). But you know what I was really impressed by? All those Bat Devil guts. I loved the way that the show made sure to never pan away from them, or conveniently ignore them, as Denji slip-n-slid his way through his battle with the Leech Devil. I appreciated the splash of surreal color that they added to the already bonkers spectacle of the fight. I couldn’t help but respect that they provided a perfect visual through-line for a story that places a surprising amount of emphasis on the gnarly secretions of Devils both friend and foe alike. A lesser anime would have forgotten about that pile of huge guts, or at least minimized the need to meticulously animate all of their wet, stinky flopping about. Not Chainsaw Man, though.
Chainsaw Man understands the artistic potential, the raw symbolic power, of the bowels.
Then there’s the power of silence. I’ve long maintained that one of the distinguishing marks that separates a great production from a merely serviceable one is an anime’s ability to effectively weaponize an absence of noise. I cannot tell you the number of otherwise decent shows from across the whole gamut of genres that have shot themselves in the foot simply because they were afraid to go more than a second or two without exposition, or unnecessary narration, or a random action beat, or a dumb gag. I get why, too; twenty-three minutes is not a lot of time to tell a story, and the instinct is to cram every last frame that you’ve got full of stuff. This goes double for when you’re not confident that your story can be carried on the strength of its plot or characters alone.
It really says something, then, that for an episode that starts off with as much noise and carnage as “Rescue” does, that its very best scene—what might just be the best scene of the entire series, thus far—is the almost totally silent montage of Aki simply going about his morning routine. The Leech Devil has been defeated, and Aki and Denji have come to an arrangement where Aki will be willing to put up with Denji’s…well, his whole deal, so long as Denji listens to orders and continues to protect the people who need protecting. So, while Denji sleeps in and recovers from getting gored by a giant, phallic leech monster, Aki takes some time in the morning to enjoy those little moments that matter so much. He washes his face, grinds himself a fresh pot of coffee, takes some time to enjoy the morning air, and even gets a moment to enjoy a smoke and the daily paper before he has to make lunch for himself and Denji. There’s no overbearing narration, no comedic juxtaposition to Denji lazing about in his room, and not even an obvious needle-drop to tell us how to feel as we watch this dude just…quietly live his life for a while.
This kind of stuff isn’t out of place in your typical slice-of-life anime, sure, but I’ve struggled with those because it’s hard to appreciate the quiet moments when everything is a quiet moment. The way that Chainsaw Man allows us to take a much needed breather from all of the nonsense Denji and Power have been through over the past two episodes feels less like the usual pandering to specific genre expectations because it is so clearly a break from what we expect from this show, and a very deliberate one. Tatsuki Fujimoto is well known for being a devoted cinephile, and here you can see how MAPPA is really taking care to translate some of the more filmic gestures that can only be approximated in manga form. It’s Chainsaw Man at its most cinematic, and I absolutely love it.
I also love Power, so I wasn’t even mad when CSM‘s resident shit-gremlin kicked down the door to Aki and Denji’s apartment to stake her claim as…well, as the literal resident shit-gremlin. For as funny as it is to watch Denji and Aki deal with Power’s refusal to properly flush her turds, though, it’s even funnier to watch Denji crumple in the face of Power’s ultimate power move (heh). Not only is Denji going to have to power-wash her poo streaks out of the toilet bowl, he’s going to have to be eternally grateful to her for it, because she’s living up to her end of their bargain. She’s even throwing a couple of booby squeezes in on top of the one they already arranged for rescuing Meowy, on account of him helping her get out of trouble for the whole “attempting to betray and brutally murder him” thing.
The sickos behind Chainsaw Man definitely know what they’re doing, what with how lovingly they animated Power taking her place on the porcelain throne and fondling her chest mere inches from Denji’s face, but it’s a perfectly consensual and enthusiastic exchange of sexual intimacy for services rendered, and that alone gives Denji and Power more dignity than a lot of similar heroes and heroines would have gotten in a scene like this. It’s a hell of a cliffhanger to end on, especially for poor Denji, but he’s waited his entire life for the opportunity to honk those horns, so surely another seven days won’t completely kill him.
Odds and Ends
• Power’s Playlist: This time it really is Power’s Playlist, since the ED is all about giving her a spot in the limelight to “BLARGH!” and dance around to her evil little heart’s content. It’s a great sequence, and it doesn’t hurt that the song—“Jozai” by TOOBOE—is another bop. I still think the ED for Episode 3 is my favorite so far, but unlike Power herself, this is an easy #2.
• Kids Say the Denji-est Things! We’ve got a treasure trove of options today, but I’d say the best line goes to Denji screaming “You’re dream’s weaker than fondling a tit!”, especially if you count all of the ridiculous faces and noises he’s making as he flails madly at the Leech Devil. Runner-Up goes to Power’s “BLARGH!”, which I know probably shouldn’t count, since it isn’t a real spoken line of dialogue, and it doesn’t even occur within the episode itself, but it’s my review, so I can do whatever the hell I want.
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