One of Denji’s greatest aspirations is to have jam on his bread. The poor boy at the center of Chainsaw Man has to sell his kidney, his eye, and testicles just to get by. When he can’t sell his organs, he has to hunt for devils with the aid of his devil pooch, Pochita, with two irresistible eyes and chainsaw blade jutted out of its face.
Chainsaw Man, an adaptation of the Shonen Jump hit by Tatsuki Fujimoto, gives a macabre supernatural twist to the boy-and-his-dog story set in an alternative 1997 plagued with devils. Animated by MAPPA (Jujutsu Kaisen and Attack on Titan), the anime adaptation of Chainsaw Man premieres on Crunchyroll on Oct. 11. In a first for MAPPA, their adaptation decided not to have a committee, instead choosing to keep all work in-house at the studio.
The 2022 New York Comic Con saw the English voice cast gather to celebrate the upcoming premiere. In attendance were Ryan Colt Levy (Denji), Suzie Yeung (Public Safety Devil Hunter Makima), Reagan Murdock (Aki), Sarah Wiedenheft (Power), and Dragon Ball Z voice actor Mike McFarland, who serves as the series’ ADR director. Before the panel played the exclusive English-dub premiere of Chainsaw Man, the panelists shared their insights on their characters.
The setup for Chainsaw Man is pure shonen: A young mercenary holding a smidge of hope while wearied by the world, Denji is out to pay his inherited debts. What makes him stand-out from other devil hunters is his lack of qualms in transporting the devil’s body, not to mention that the yakuza see him as obedient as a dog. After a disastrous showdown with Denji’s employers and a supposed death for Denji, the human and devil dog enact a pact to merge into a chainsaw-devil-man-hybrid. His new transformative attributes attract the attention of an agency of professional devil hunters who offer him more gainful employment. So Denji, in his new form, agrees to be recruited — to avoid getting executed by them and hopefully get some really good breakfast.
In the moderator’s words, Chainsaw Man is about family. Levy had the unexpected pleasure of winning the role of the loser protagonist that he was so close to in the manga pages: “I thought I was too emotionally close to it. When I got the slide [at the audition], I knew what page this was from.”
Yeung was drawn to the crypticness of Makima, the Public Safety Devil Hunter, who sniffs out Denji’s hybrid human-devil nature and recruits him into the agency as her “pet.” “I have seen Makima on Twitter, so she was prevalent. Who was this? I was drawn to her charm and mystery.”
Wiedenheft’s curiosity of her character, Power, an employee under Makima, was also sparked by seeing her on Twitter. She mused, “[Power] seemed like a degenerate and I’m into that. I’m into characters with a gremlin feel to them.” Wiedenheft’s wish is that the characters become closer. “I want to see Power start to like humans, a little at some point.”
Murdock said of the no-nonsense Aki, another employee of Makima: “I’m drawn to characters with that quiet internal passion. He’s a very caring person, even if sometimes he’s very unkind.” He hopes Aki gets “a little more joy in his life.”
The anime’s director Ryū Nakayama sent in a video greeting the fans. A fan of Fujimoto’s work, he especially loved the Chainsaw Man manga because of its “hard-to-predict twists.” Nakayama shared that mangaka Fujimoto “told us that we were free to approach the adaptation as we liked and expressed his support for the anime while providing his oversight.” This is the first series Nakayama is headlining as a director.
The ending of the anime premiere pairs Denji’s dream coming “true” with the camera lingering on a long-shot of his exhausted and bloodied body surrounded by the carnage of mangled zombie corpses as he accepts Makima’s offer to be her pet. To an extent, it’s his wish to escape the grimey cycle of exploitation and poverty— even as he is coerced into a relatively better conditional contract. Levy hopes that Denji will “get more than just plain bread, nutrition.”
Chainsaw Man premieres on Oct. 11 and will stream on Crunchyroll. New episodes will debut each Tuesday.