Reading Pile: Chainsaw Man Vol 1
Tatsuki Fujimoto is an odd storyteller, and not for the obvious reasons. I initially read his work on the series Fire Punch, which I initially liked but my interest started to lag after a few volumes. It had interesting ideas but also a certain sense of being a performative attempt at pushing the boundaries of good taste, in a way that reminded me of early 2000's Mark Millar. So y'know, something that I would generally hate.
With Chainsaw Man there are elements of that crassness here but they seem to be better tempered by the innate silliness of the concept. Combined with feeling a little bit more 'mainstream' in it's storytelling and Fujimoto's art being a lot tighter and engaging for me here than in Fire Punch, I found the first volume to be entertaining.
The story takes place in a world where demons are common place and can range from being pests to dangerous public threats. Our main character is a poor young boy named Denji who is working off his father's debts to the Yakuza by A) selling his own body parts, and B) killing demons with the aid of his pet devil Pochita. Denji is an interesting character in that he is to a certain degree innocent in his ignorance. With no family or education whatsoever, he exists purely to be alive and is willing to accept his situation no matter how horrible it may be. His only real dream is to be normal enough to maybe have some bread with jam for breakfast, and to be hugged by a girl (which later turns into more hormonal desires).
As the story progresses he's basically just pure Id, acting on childish impulses as his basic needs are finally met and he needs to figure out what else he wants and how to live. This type of character will have different mileage for different readers, but there's something to be said about the direct honesty of his motivations and how they keep the story simple.
Denji is eventually betrayed by the Yakuza taking advantage of him and left for dead, where he then enters a pact with Pochita. Based on a conversation from their past, Denji wanted Pochita to have his dead body (in case Pochita was the type of demon that could posses dead bodies) and live a better life. So Pochita merges with Denji and becomes a dormant part of a revived Denji, who in turn can now turn into a chainsaw demon.
While the violence and gore is certainly a core factor of the entire premise, I was actually surprised with how brief those moments were throughout the first book. I'd say it was just the right amount, offering enough action to help with the pace of the storytelling without becoming mired in too much over-the-top bloodletting. It serves as a decent counter balance to the odd humor sprinkled throughout the book, and I was pleasantly surprised by how well that balance worked out.
There's an interesting amount of world building at play here with a unique approach to its characters that really pulled me in. Fujimoto's overall quirkiness in storytelling is still at play, infusing the tone with odd bits of adolescent sexuality and bizarre takes on occult and supernatural concepts. And just as things may get serious or creepy, it breaks it with a bunch of lowbrow humor. And hey, it works for me.