• Shonen Header 12/24/18 Columns 

    This Week in Shonen Jump: December 24, 2018

    By | January 2nd, 2019
    Posted in Columns | % Comments

    Welcome to This Week in Shonen Jump, our weekly check in on Viz’s various Shonen Jump series. Viz has recently changed their release format, but our format will mostly remain the same. We will still review the newest chapters of two titles a week, now with even more options at our disposal. The big change for our readers is that, even without a Shonen Jump subscription, you can read these most recent chapters for free at Viz.com or using their app.

    This is one of the yearly off-weeks for Viz, but because we were on vacation last week, Matt is looking at “Chainsaw Man” for this special bonus installment. We’ll be back with our normal two reviews next week!

    Chainsaw Man Chapter 4
    Written and Illustrated by Tatsuki Fujimoto
    Translated by Amanda Haley
    Lettered by Sabrina Heep
    Reviewed by Matt Lune

    This series is bonkers. You should probably expect that from a series called “Chainsaw Man,” but it’s worth saying anyway. It feels like it’s trying to be the next “One Punch Man,” but really it’s like a lot of action comedy Shonen Manga, in that the main character is a likeable, even relatable screw-up who seems to bumble along while far more successful looking characters work around him. It just happens that in this case, the main character shares his body with a chainsaw-wielding demon.

    We’re still early in this series yet, so it’s understandable that the status quo moving forward is yet to be fully established. Saying that, Denji’s circumstances have changed dramatically almost every chapter so far. The biggest shift was obviously when his chopped up corpse was merged with that of a chainsaw devil, but he’s also been “recruited” by the Public Safety Devil Hunters, paired up with Makima, handed off to Aki Hayakawa, and by the end of this chapter he’s paired up with another new character buddy called Power.

    It’s this frantic dash through plot changes that is perhaps what makes “Chainsaw Man” feel especially bonkers. There have already been more status quo changes in this series to have conceivably carried it through the first dozen chapters, but we’re only on chapter four. It feels like creator Tatsuki Fujimoto has a place in mind that they want the story to get to as soon as possible, and the narrative whiplash suffered by the reader is possibly the consequence.

    There’s no telling what that end game is either due to the constantly shifting dynamic, it could be that Denji teaming up with Power will be how it is moving forward, or that could be another temporary step towards his true status quo, there’s no way of telling. None of this is necessarily a bad thing, as there are plenty of manga that are constantly moving forward, and this could just be a part of “Chainsaw Man’s” charm that one has to get used to. At the moment though, it feels like the book could spend that little bit more time working with what it has before trying to get to the next thing.

    There has been some seriously graphic imagery in this series so far, but this chapter is fairly tame in comparison. Sure, a devil (or Fiend in this case) gets decapitated, but when your main character routinely has his head and forearms transformed into chainsaw blades, one decapitation is standard. Denji doesn’t even transform into his titular alter ego in this chapter either, a plot point that gets lampshaded in an amusing interaction.

    What lets this chapter down is the sexism of the script that’s handed off as humor. It’s an unfortunate side effect of reading manga developed specifically for a young male Japanese readership: making Denji relatable to that demographic means giving him motivations driven by his burgeoning libido. He doesn’t transform into Chainsaw Man because he doesn’t want blood to splash on the dirty magazines lying on the floor, and by the end of the chapter he’s debating internally whether or not he can touch Makima’s boobs. It’s close to being funny, but would work better if this attitude was punished in some way, or depicted in such a way as to emphasize that he’s a loser for thinking like that, but as it is stands it’s just delivered as a humorous driving factor for the main character.

    Continued below

    Reading through “Chainsaw Man,” you can’t help but think that this series would benefit from slowing down just a touch and maybe dropping a lot of the humor. The design of the main character, especially in his demonic form, is striking to the point of becoming iconic, but only if the series leaned into its horror themes and dropped the teen humor schtick that dominates this chapter. As it stands, this is probably the weakest instalment of the series so far, but there’s potential for the book to grow into something really good.

    Final Verdict: 6.8 – “Chainsaw Man” shows a lot of promise overall, but this chapter has more bad than good.

    //TAGS | This Week in Shonen Jump

    Matt Lune

    Born and raised in Birmingham, England, when Matt's not reading comics he's writing about them and hosting podcasts about them. From reading The Beano and The Dandy as a child, he first discovered American comics with Marvel's Heroes Reborn and, despite that questionable start, still fell in love and has never looked back. You can find him on Twitter @MattLune


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