I recently finished watching the first season of Chainsaw Man on CrunchyRoll. If you are unfamiliar with this anime, it is an adaptation done by a studio called MAPPA of Tatsuki Fujimoto's action shonen anime. To define "shonen," this is a genre of Japanese comics and animated films aimed primarily at a young male audience, and they are typically characterized by action-filled plots. For example, you may have heard of DragonBall Z. This is a kind of "shonen anime," although what it shares with Chainsaw Man is exclusively limited to the genre as there is nothing else in common at all (at least from what I can see). Additionally, Mappa has made several other anime's that have kind of "blown up" into a worldwide pop-culture phenomenon, the most obvious of which is Attack on Titan. Chainsaw Man is blowing up in a similar fashion, being talked about in local game and hobby stores enthusiastically by nerds to the point that I had to watch it.
Chainsaw Man is set in an alternate version of Earth where monstrous beings called "Devils" exist. The originality of these creatures was kind of breathtaking, as I saw everything from a huge ball of hands to a gargantuan and horrifying leech with luscious human hair and multiple boobs. People who live in this world make bargains with these devils, and in return for whatever they have to offer, they receive supernatural powers. The story of Chainsaw Man then is one that begins with a teenager named Denji, who is forced into a lifestyle of being a "Devil Hunter," which is a very dangerous occupation, by the Yakuza who came to collect on his father's massive debt to them. Denji spends years living in abject and horrifying poverty with a pet devil named Pochita, who has a chainsaw on his head (but is otherwise identical to a cute dog). And then in a horrifyingly bad sequence of events, Denji gets ripped apart by zombies in one of the most gruesome displays of animated carnage I've ever seen. But his pet devil somehow combines with his body and by doing so, Denji basically pulls himself back together, and now he has all the strength of a Devil when he needs it, and can transform into a terrifying monstrous abomination with a chainsaw for a head and two chainsaws sprouting from his arms. Needless to say, this anime is gory, gory, gory.
One of the things I'm getting used to in watching and consuming anime is how unabashedly sexual and lust-filled the characters are. But even though I'm "expecting this kind of thing," it still catches me by surprise when it is so "in your face." For example, teenage Denji spends a lot of time thinking about girls and getting laid, which oftentimes seemed distracting to the actual violent and dark storyline. And there were these really unsettling moments of pure grotesque, which I wasn't used to, but it was kinda like watching a trainwreck. I mean...you just couldn't pull your eyes away.
Denji is obsessed with breasts, and you see in this animated show what (in America) would be very casual sexual assault (the boob graze, the feel up, etc.) at least once an episode. And when he gets his first kiss from a girl he finds attractive, she does so in a state of intense drunkenness. Here's where it gets really vile: while she is kissing him, she literally throws up into his mouth, ruining the experience for Denji as now he has this vomit taste in his mouth. It's awful, and I wonder why some author even thought of this as something they wanted to capture.
And then this girl drags Denji home, and he's essentially incapacitated by alcohol, and she date rapes him. I gotta say...I've never seen anything like this in a cartoon. It's complicated by the fact that Denji has legit feelings for this girl, but he's having difficulty processing what she does/is doing to him. But there aren't any real consequences (unless you count being murdered a consequence), because the girl is literally killed by a devil in the next episode and her soul is then sent to hell where she will suffer for all eternity. It is an awful death. In that violent outcome, Denji also loses most of his "friend" devil hunters as they too are just ripped to pieces by the monsters and horrors of this world apparently overrun by these supernatural creatures. It also becomes painfully apparent that the devils that grant these hunters power are insufficient to deal with what's coming at them. So, it is kind of like watching a show where characters who have likeable traits (and are physically attractive) get repeatedly violated in unspeakable ways, and then they get murdered in short order. It's honestly kind of crazy.
Another thing about this anime that strikes a chord with me is the loneliness of the characters. It is primarily a male-oriented anime. However, it is for this very reason that I recall a weird statistic I read online that indicated some 60 percent of young men in America are single, which is nearly twice the rate of unattached young women. So men in their 20's (in modern America) are more than twice as likely as women in their 20's to be romantically involved, sexually dormant, friendless, and lonely. There seems to be this underlying meta-commentary on modern life that goes something like this: "these days with books and tv, you can have one-sided, parasocial relationships, and the solitary life is less risky." Then, the whole "parasocial relationship dynamic" neatly describes fandoms (by extent) from obsessed k-pop fans to manga to twitch and to instagram and the legions of people who follow thirsty celebrities like Tom Holland, but who remain single because no man who isn't Tom Holland is good enough for them (or they don't want to move on from their comfortable obsession). It's also another reason why these fandoms become so harmful.
Anyway, our world is a mess. It's obvious that Chainsaw Man got me to think a lot about what I was actually watching, and its overall story. I will watch season 2 whenever it becomes available. I also do kinda wonder why foreign stuff is where you get the really visceral and depressing stories, and why America seems uninterested (for the most part) in this kind of storytelling. I also kinda wonder why I found this depressing and grotesque and oftentimes vile story so mesmerizing. But I did. What does that say about me?