Ep. 85: Chainsaw Man vol 1 by Tatsuki Fujimoto
Welcome back to Mangasplaining, the podcast where we recommend manga to folks who haven’t read much manga before! We’re kicking off Season 4, a.k.a/ episode 85, with the biggest manga out there right now, Tatsuki Fujimoto’s Chainsaw Man Vol. 1. Will the Mangasplaininers, Deb, David, Chris, and Chip, love this title as much as they did the author’s very different one-shot story, Look Back? Listen to find out!
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IN THIS EPISODE
00:00 Chainsaw Man vol. 1
53:20 THE BREAK
54:00 We’re picking new books!
Chainsaw Man vol 1
By Tatsuki Fujimoto
Translated by Amanda Haley
Editor: Alexis Kirsch
Touch-Up Art & Lettering: Sabrina Heep
Design: Julian [JR] Robinson
Published by Shonen Jump / VIZ Media. Available in print / digital
Also available in English through the Shonen Jump app / subscription.
And the Manga Plus website / app at https://mangaplus.shueisha.co.jp/titles/100037
Audio editing by David Brothers. Show notes by Christopher Woodrow-Butcher and Deb Aoki
ABOUT TATSUKI FUJIMOTO
Born on October 10th, 1993 (or 1992?), Tatsuki Fujimoto is just hitting 30 and already has two dozen tankoubon (collected graphic novel volumes) under his belt, many of which are pretty darned popular, including today’s read Chainsaw Man. Fujimoto grew up in Akita prefecture in northern Japan (where Akita dogs come from!), and graduated in Western painting from Tohoku University of Art and Design in 2014. My god, that’s recent.
While still in school, Fujimoto submitted a number of manga short stories to Shueisha’s JUMP family of magazines, which were later collected into the books Tatsuki Fujimoto Before Chainsaw Man: 17-21 and Tatsuki Fujimoto Before Chainsaw Man: 22-26, both of which are due out soon from VIZ Media.
He won a number of awards for his shorts, but his first serialization came with dark sci-fi/fantasy series Fire Punch in Shonen Jump+ Online, running from April 18, 2016, to January 1, 2018. It was completed in eight volumes, and this complicated action work got an English release from VIZ Media, then quickly went out of print, and later got a few reprints when Chainsaw Man started taking off.
Speaking of which, almost 11 months after Fire Punch ended (and a few more shorts and one-shots in there), Chainsaw Man began serialization in Weekly Shonen Jump from December 3rd, 2018. It ended serialization on December 14th, 2020, in 11 volumes. The series picked up a ton of awards, including the Shogakukan Manga Award, the Harvey Award for best manga (twice!), and topped the Kono Manga ga Sugoi! (This Manga is Awesome!) list of best manga of 2021 for male readers.
After the serialization of the first part of Chainsaw Man, Fujimoto took an 18 month break from manga serialization. During that time, he released the one-shot novella Look Back in July 2021, which we covered on the podcast last year (more on that soon). During this period, Fujimoto released a second one-shot, Goodbye, Eri, which has yet to be scheduled by VIZ for print release but is about to be released in print in French. Read about that here in French!
Oh I just checked, it’s still free on the Jump website! In English! Read it here for free until they take it down! Maybe they’ll take it down today, like they did with Look Back when we sent you all there to read that for free. Lol.
Chainsaw Man Part 2 began serialization online in July 2022, and we’ll probably get that reasonably soon. He’s also been busy illustrating a Chainsaw Man novel, a bunch of other random manga and one-shots and novel covers and stuff. Oh and the anime came out and its been a huge smash hit, too! (If you’re in N. America, you can watch it on Crunchyroll). He’s basically manga’s It Boy right now, good for him.
00:20 Um… actually, it’s season 4. I started to correct Deb and then stopped and figured I’d mention it later, and then like, didn’t, but yeah, Season 4! 85 Episodes! We’re gonna hit 100 this season! That’s totally wild. Hey, it’s Christopher here and since I’ve got the “mic” writing here, my sincere thanks to Deb, David, and Chip for being great pals and working on this together, it’s meant a lot to me. Big hugs.
Okay, show-notes now.
00:54 As mentioned, this is not our first brush with the manga of Tatsuki Fujimoto, as we did an episode about his digital-one-shot manga Look Back all the way back in episode 39. That story was written just after Chainsaw Man Volume 11, while the series was on hiatus for about a year and a half. We’re… well, we’re doing this dude’s career all out of order, and it will absolutely play into our feelings on it I think. More on that soon.
01:10 Here’s what VIZ Media has to say about Chainsaw Man Volume 1:
Denji’s a poor young man who’ll do anything for money, even hunting down devils with his pet devil Pochita. He’s a simple man with simple dreams, drowning under a mountain of debt. But his sad life gets turned upside down one day when he’s betrayed by someone he trusts. Now with the power of a devil inside him, Denji’s become a whole new man—Chainsaw Man!-VIZ Media
03:10 TBF, he also wants jam on toast. Touching a boob, and then eating some jam on toast. The stakes have never been more achievable!
[Deb:] Naturally, some people have tried to make their own Ultimate Bread by following Denji’s “recipe to see how it tastes…
05:15 Wow, David with the deep cuts right at the start of the episode.
So GOLDEN BOY is one of those late-80s, early-90s manga/anime that’s so weirdly, deeply horny that was also hugely mainstream. The manga is by Tatsuya Egawa, and was serialized in the ‘seinen’ (and now defunct) Super Jump magazine from 1992-1997.
It’s about a trained lawyer (who dropped out of school and never actually became a lawyer) named Kitaro as he travels from town to town, solving the problems of various beautiful young women. Weirdly, this is also how City Hunter by Tsukasa Hojo (1985-1991) worked, and that’s a series which we mentioned as being deeply horny on a previous episode. Huh, looking at those timelines, maybe Golden Boy really did inherit the title from City Hunter, and it’s a generational think like David says?
Speaking of, I’d love to hear David’s take on the books that follow the -very-horny-but-achieve-mainstream-success trope that are coming out today… But maybe you have thoughts on that as well?
Oh, and the GOLDEN BOY manga was never released in English, but the original anime videos (OAVs) did get an English release from ADV, Media Blasters, AND Discotek Media, so it’s got SOMETHING to recommend it. ;).
Watch it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tivq56328CQ
This is what you were missing. The animation’s weirdly great. The voice acting is why people hate dubs. The humour is dated.
8:00 Yeah, there’s no getting around it, the violence in Chainsaw Man IS pretty intense! Here’s a few quick images to let you know what you’re in for.
I think Chip makes a great observation that we can love this character because when he’s committing the violence, he’s literally transformed, and maybe isn’t the same person? Good thinking on Fujimoto’s front. It’s interesting because so much of what’s popular about the series online is the dumb/funny/hijinks stuff, even though the violence is pretty fantastically drawn.
8:30 Yeah, not overly surprised that Chip found Look Back to be a better work. While Chainsaw Man comes after 7 volumes of Fujimoto-sensei’s previous series, Fire Punch, it would be 11 more volumes of making manga and a long break that would give us Look Back. Creators grow and change and, especially after 2000+ pages of manga in 11 volumes, they tend to get better too.
What I really think would be interesting is going and reviewing Fujimoto’s recently-released short story collection, Tatsuki Fujimoto Before Chainsaw Man 17-21, which collects his very first short stories as a young person before his first serialization. Another volume, 22-26, will be out in April. Hmm, maybe when they’re both out, I’ll recommend them as a double-pick for Chip on Mangasplaining? I wonder if he reads this and will see that I’m doing this. I wonder if I’ll even remember to do this by the time April rolls around?
I GUESS WE’LL FIND OUT, READERS!
9:15 Look, the scene where Denji is repeatedly kicking his opponent in the balls is uproariously funny.
We’re not above physical comedy here in the Mangasplaining Podcast, even if last season kicked off with something very different happening to dudes’ balls…
13:25 SPOILERS IN THE COMMENTS: Just kidding. We’re not going to spoil this. You really gotta read it!
15:45 Wow, I really talked a lot there. Don’t worry, I’m way more tired on upcoming episodes and talk way less.
16:20 Yeah, I think the first chapter is SO DARK, and fascinating, and you can really feel someone involved pulling the reins hard to get it away from talking about income inequality and poverty and making it a little bit more anime-friendly… but the subtext of the series remains.
Denji’s started the series literally selling body parts to survive, but even after he’s “saved,” he is still being used pretty badly. He’ll still get murdered if he steps out of line. He’s switched masters to someone that’s a little kinder to him, but at the end of the day, he still has to work pretty darn hard to earn his living. I’m not even surprised that this series found such a strong fandom. Though, I wonder if that subtext still comes through as clearly later in the series?
16:48 The fully posable Figma of Denji from Good Smile is pretty great! It even comes with a little Pochita toy. But if you order direct from the manufacturer, you get a bonus accessory: Ultimate Bread.
17:30 Here’s the quote that Deb reads, from midway through volume 2. It’s insane. But also, hilarious. Also, I guess this is technically a spoiler for volume 2?
[Deb:] Yeah, it is. SORRY.
20:10 So it wasn’t Australia, so far as I can tell, that banned Kev O’Neill, but in fact, the Comics Code Authority in the United States. Here’s the relevant snippet from Wikipedia, since unfortunately the original source seems to have gone missing:
“[Kevin O’Neill’s] first major work for DC was a story written by Alan Moore for the Tales of the Green Lantern Corps Annual No. 2 in 1986. The Comics Code Authority objected to O’Neill’s art. When DC asked what was wrong and if anything could be changed (the story featured scenes of a crucifixion) to get approval, the Authority replied that it was O’Neill’s entire style they found objectionable. DC pointed out that his art had been passed previously but the Authority stuck by their decision. DC decided to print the comic without the Comics Code Authority stamp.”-Wikipedia
21:08 David references this scene of Denji and Power getting out of the city, and the very subtle three-point perspective, curvelinear/fisheye effect on the bus and scenery to make the setting feel different and a little off-kilter. Plus that hatching on the road is pretty good too.
23:50 There are a lot of very good, very creepy ‘devils’ in this series that all have great, unsettling designs. Just in volume one, we get the Tomato Devil:
We particularly liked the sequence with the Bat Devil, and then him squeezing Denji on pages 164-165:
And then David references the American comics illustrator Gary Gianni, best known for his work illustrating Prince Valiant in newspaper syndication, but I always think of his collabs with Mike Mignola on Hellboy and his various horror shorts for Dark Horse. He’s got a style that evokes the mood of engraved illustrations from the late 19th century. I can definitely see what David sees in the illustration of the Bat Devil in shadow.
…and since it’s not a drawing of a giant bat-man monster without a mention of him, artist Kelley Jones will always be Christopher’s go-to when it comes to the character of Man-Bat in the Batman comics.
26:30 Deb and David reference two other books we’ve read on the podcast, Devilman Classic Collection Vol. 1 by Go Nagai, for its sexy monsters and bat-people, and Kamen Rider Classic Collection by Shotaro Ishinomori, for the monsters modeled after Batman and Spider-man respectively. I deeply wonder if these foundational Japanese manga series’ had an affect on Fujimoto and his storytelling in Chainsaw Man? These books (and their media adaptations) really added a lot to the monster-of-the-week formula, to kaiju/giant monster movie and TV shows, and to Japanese pop-culture in general. Like David, I wonder if it’s a direct homage, or just part of the cultural conversation?
David then brings up another recent read, RaW Hero, which features a protagonist that desperately needs to make money for his family and ends up in a bad situation because of it, not entirely unlike another young person who’s deep in debt, our Chainsaw teen, Denji.
It’s amazing to see that the more manga we read, the more we’re able to make references to past stuff and start to build a larger discussion around the work. I hope it’s not too off-putting for you new readers, I don’t think any of this is “lore” necessarily since it’s all episode you can go and listen to and manga you can go and read…!
28:30 Yup! They moved Chainsaw Man to online-only serialization.
Chainsaw Man made its debut in print + digital in Weekly Shonen Jump magazine in December 2018 before it moved to online-only serialization in Shueisha’s Shonen Jump+ magazine. Honestly? It’s not really a shonen manga. The characters are a bit too old, the theme is a bit too serious, the violence is a bit excessive… but Shueisha has a “seinen” magazine that’s also published weekly, Weekly Young Jump. It could’ve moved over there but didn’t. I have… No idea why? Especially with print sales down across the board AND with a popular anime about to debut, the series went online only. Just… No idea. Has anyone dug into this?
Anyway, like we mention up top that Chainsaw Man is featured on both of the English language services, but if you wanna read it in Japanese, check out the Shonen Jump Plus website: https://shonenjumpplus.com/
30:50 Not gonna do a deep-dive here, but Frank Miller on Daredevil and The Dark Knight Returns, and Alan Moore on Watchmen are credited with changing superhero comics by making them more realistic, which came to mean “dark and gritty just for the sake of it.” I don’t think they’re guilty of the work that followed in their footsteps.
32:00 It was honestly wild going to the actual opera for the first time, and seeing the shows that I knew from Bugs Bunny. Operas by Wagner, Barber of Seville, Marriage of Figaro… It took forever to get the famous parts! Lol. At least Flight of the Bumblebee got right to the point.
Watch it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MM4lJKfu5Mg
35:14 The book I was specifically mentioning with the queer kid who’s dad nearly beats him to death is We Contain Multitudes by Sarah Henstra. But the queer kids getting physically attacked stuff and nearly murdered is a hell of a trope, and the book that really put me off reading queer books for young people was Stitches by Glen Huser (not the graphic novel by David Small), which had a climax that made me physically ill with dread. Good writing? I guess? But yeah, I’m kind of done reading books where gay kids get tormented. Life is hard enough with real-world tormenters. Maybe these books are cathartic for some readers, but I tapped out.
Anyway if you want a nice queer YA book that doesn’t feature physical violence ending in death (or close to it), I liked David Levithan’s Boy Meets Boy quite a bit, as well as Better Nate Than Ever by Tim Federle.
35:30 Like I said, Chainsaw Man starts out real and dark and is About Things, and then pulls it way back to make something that could conceivably be printed in Weekly Shonen Jump. I think it’s all still there, and I should probably reserve judgment until I read the whole series, but I do think it could’ve absolutely been about more than it was in those first few volumes, and sneaking a peek at what’s going on in Chainsaw Man Part 2, I think maybe he’s digging back into some of those ideas.
37:30 We really owe you all this Chainsaw Man interview with the curators of the exhibit from Angoulême from March 2022. We have so much content and like no time to put it all together. But for now, please enjoy a few fun images from the exhibit.
39:47 I’m so glad this scene got mentioned, because it’s some pretty good comics storytelling. Power and the cat was an amazing sequence. Here’s the first page, so we don’t spoil too much, just so you can see what we’re talking about.
40:30 David mentions 100 Bullets by Brian Azzarello and Eduardo Russo, a story about a mysterious man who gives people irrefutable proof that shows someone ruined their life, an untraceable gun, and 100 bullets and tells them to do what they gotta do. It’s an interesting series! I really liked the first half a lot but fell out of love by the end as it kind of went in a direction that was less interesting to me personally. I should go back and finish it one day.
45:10 Jiro Taniguchi is a guy we covered on the podcast with the ‘got-us-in-the-feels’ Journal of My Father, but we should also mention that as a manga creator, he had got two main modes: Hard Salaryman Action Comics, and Soft Salaryman wistfulness comics. An amazing career with dozens of manga to his credit, and thanks to the heroic work of boutique publisher Fanfare Ponent-Mon, pretty widely-translated in English. For more on his bibliography, go check out our episode on Journal of My Father, we dig pretty deep into it there.
46:30 YOU WANNA MAKE ART!?
52:20 David mentioned RaW Hero, which we covered up top, and then Gleipnir from Kodansha and author Sun Takeda, and is apparently sexy body-horror. I think my buddy Derek recommended that to me. Maybe David will make us read it one day.
And on that note, that’s episode 85! But after the break we pick our new round of books! Stay tuned…
53:20 THE BREAK
Yes, you heard right, we’re picking new books!
David picks New Grappler Baki: BAKI Vol 1, by Keisuke Itagaki. Published by Akita Shoten/Media-Do as a digital-only release. It’s included in the Comixology Unlimited subscription too! Also, it’s worth noting that the original manga was partially published by the now-defunct Raijin/Coamix/Gutsoon imprint back in the early 2000s, and this is NOT that one.
Meanwhile, Christopher picks another double-volume, Goodnight Punpun Vol. 1, by Inio Asano from VIZ Media. A very big ‘internet’ book, we’ll see how the team reacts to this one.
Deb picks the sweet shojo comedy My Love Story! by Kazune Kawahara and Aruko from Shojo Beat / VIZ Media.
[Deb:] If this sounds familiar, it’s by the same artist who drew My Love Mix-Up!, which we covered in episode 62. Why did I pick this one? Because when I picked My Love Mix-Up!, both David and Christopher were noticeably disappointed that I didn’t pick My Love Story!, which is by the same artist so i’m just trying to make it right, I guess!
[Christopher:] We’re deeply grateful Deb, thank you! It’s such a fun one.
So Season 4 is shaping up like this:
- Episode 85: Chainsaw Man Vol. 1, by Tatsuki Fujimoto
- Episode 86: Even Though We’re Adults Vol. 2, by Takako Shimura
- Episode 87: Rose of Versailles Vol. 1, by Ryoko Ikeda
- Episode 88: Under Ninja Vol. 1, by Kengo Hanazawa
- Episode 89: Goodnight Pun Pun Book 1, by Inio Asano
- Episode 90: Baki Vol. 1, by Keisuke Itagaki
- Episode 91: My Love Story! Vol. 1, by Kazune Kawahara and Aruko
And that’s this week in Mangasplaining! This episode is also available wherever you get your podcasts, so please subscribe and leave a review, so others can discover our show.
Also, if you’d like to get the latest episode delivered straight to your inbox along with exclusive interviews, articles and new chapters of manga you can’t read anywhere else, subscribe to our Substack newsletter. See what you’re missing at Mangasplaining Extra!
Next week on Mangasplaining:
Get ready for our next episode, Even Though We’re Adults vol. 2 by Takako Shimura.
Thanks so much for listening! Please support your local comic and manga specialty shop when purchasing these books, and you can find one near you at comicshoplocator.com. You can also check your local library for print and digital lending options, they have TONS of manga! Finally, thanks to D.A.D.S. for their musical accompaniment for this episode.
As a decidedly-not-into-action-shonen person, Chainsaw Man is one of the only Jump titles where I’ve read more than a volume or two. I think it’s fascinating how it subverts the shonen tropes: yes, the hero has shallow motivations… but that shallowness is in its own way deep here. Denji is poor and starving for both food and human connection, and thus touching a boob and eating toast with jam become strong, meaningful motivations.
I also think it’s funny how Fujimoto introduces concepts like “devils” and the whole devil-hunting bureaucracy, yet he’s so flippant about developing those things. He mostly uses those ideas as shorthand, developing them only as far as they can take him to the next emotional beat that he truly wants to convey. I agree with the sentiment that he doesn’t seem interested in telling a typical Shonen Jump story, and the push-and-pull between his interests and the (presumed) hand of editorial makes for a fascinating read.
Looking forward to the next few weeks- looks like a great lineup!
Chip’s comments about not having time to read for pleasure are always kinda heartbreaking. He should pick stuff for the podcast more often, like he did with Even Though We’re Adults and BL Metamorphosis.
Chris is totally right about the SJ app being a godsend, I’m totally in the camp of having read Chainsaw Man in a massive two day binge. It’s really impressive how Fujimoto can swing from some of the most emotionally devastating manga I’ve read to hilarious black comedy almost at the drop of a hat.
Comparisons between this and Look Back are inevitable, but I can’t choose between the two of them. Look Back I would say is more finely crafted, you get a lot more in the ~150 pages there than you’ll get in an equivalent amount of CSM, but there’s also a certain feeling I only get from serialized stories.
Very excited for My Love Story. Vol 2 ends with one of my favorite stories (the one with Suna’s dad).
Long time listener/reader, first time commenter. Thank you guys so much for your continued thoughts on the podcast, it’s incredibly refreshing hearing you guys discuss the medium from a professional sense as well as your own interpretations and thoughts. It’s not something you hear a lot, it’s been a wonderful breath of fresh air, and I often find myself relistening to episodes while at work. The podcast has reignited my interest in picking up some series that have been sitting on the shelf, and I’ve grabbed a few books as a result of the podcast, gata help with the mangasplaining bump. I don’t really like commenting on things so it’s a bit weird, but I wanted to make sure that I thanked you guys for your continued content and all the effort put into it.
Nice to have you back!
I’ve actually been avoiding Chainsaw Man, maybe because I’m an anti-shonen (especially Shonen Jump) snob. But, while I loved Look Back, I did somehow end up with the first volume of Fire Punch and like Deb, it was… just… too… much. (I’m still shocked it was in Shonen Jump, even if just online–I know in the show you call it a seinen, though you correct that in your notes, but that’s understandable because how could it be a shonen? Just another example, I guess, of how all these categorizations increasingly don’t seem to be making a lick of sense.)
Because of my obsession with serials (somehow my English lit MA thesis which started on Victorian sensation serials, ended up being about my own experiences growing up obsessed with All My Children and how much a very early gay male teen story meant to me–as my supervisor pointed out, intertextuality is in in academia) I loved that the discussion about reading this as a serial came up. I suspect it really well with Rose of Versailles where Udon used the new Japanese editions which finally put back in the proper installment chapter breaks and you realize just how short each one was in a weekly manga. When a manga tankoubon doesn’t include chapter breaks, I often get a bit obsessed with counting pages and trying to figure out where each installment would have ended, and if it seemed like it had a cliffhanger, etc.
Not to gang up on Christopher like everyone else here, but I do think it’s a bit snobby to assume Fujimoto wouldn’t get as much pleasure (though maybe of a different kind) writing a manga that has to fit the Shonen Jump requirements and editorial approval as he would his more personal works–although I also realize I’ve had similar thoughts about various creators over the years. I suspect writing more (I assume) personal works like Look Back is maybe not all that fun to do, or at least more emotionally draining that he wouldn’t be able to do just one after the other. At this point I don’t think he would feel obliged to do continue Chainsaw Man for financial or notoriety reasons if he didn’t enjoy the experience. But, I admit, I’m also someone who loves genre and even pulpy stuff equally to literary stuff (hey, did I mention my MA ended up being about a soap?) and really enjoy when an author I know, has done both.
I’m ALSO not sure if current western YA stuff (that isn’t all the upsetting LGBTQ themed stuff Chris mentioned) *is* watered down. Some years back my then 12 year old niece insisted I read the Hunger Game books–besides realizing I would have loved them at her age so shouldn’t be concerned she was reading them, I admit I was a bit surprised just how brutal and constant the killings were in it, and of major characters. And I get the feeling there’s quite a popular subgenre of similar books. No, we’re not talking quite on the level of The Floating Classroom, but in some ways pretty close (and BTW yes, yes, yes, please cover the Floating Classroom–I’ve been obsessed since the single volumes started coming out. Even obsessed with the awful Japanese movie that oddly includes Tab Hunter.)
But I admit I also WAS a teen who in the 90s found reading tragic, even violent, gay novels (there weren’t too many YA ones back then–though I was obsessed with the 80s gay teen novel Dance on My Grave which is pretty upsetting and was recently made into a great Francois Ozon film, Summer of 85–but there were plenty of non YA gay tragic novels to choose from.) I think I did find them cathartic–I probably wouldn’t now, but as a teen I can definitely see the appeal of it, even if things are, marginally, better now. At 14 I would get more out of one of the books you mentioned, than Heartstoppers which would just make me feel sorry for myself that I didn’t already have a hot boyfriend.
OH and am really looking forward to the discussion on PunPun! Wow.
Makima strikes me as hot as hell, but I’m blown away by competence and a good suit. ^_^
Honestly, I love Chainsaw Man. It’s gory and PG-horny but also sweet…and emotionally devastating. It does get better and better. I would never have expected to like this series as much as I do, but Fujimoto has catapulted himself on to my person best-mangaka list for sure.