Chainsaw Man’s Anime Foreshadows the Manga’s Worst Scene

Warning: Spoilers for Chainsaw Man episode 12 and Chainsaw Man chapters 42A bonus scene in the season one finale of the Chainsaw Man anime includes a quote that references one of the worst moments in the original manga.

After Chainsaw Man season one’s ending credits, the voice of a currently unknown character to anime-only viewers asks Denji if he would rather be the country mouse or the city mouse. The moment means nothing to those who haven’t read the manga, but for those who have and who enjoy the series’ usually strong utilization of metaphors undoubtedly were left with a bad taste in their mouth at the end of the episode.

This moment is referencing two points in the manga where Denji is asked the same question by Reze and Aki is asked by the Angel Devil. These are all references to the classic Aesop’s Fable The Town Mouse & the Country Mouse. Aside from these moments ruining a subtler reference to the famous allegory earlier on, the fact that the series has both Reze and the Angel Devil ask such a straightforward question ruins what could have been a powerful metaphor, diminishing it to nothing more than a weak cliché. Worst of all, Denji and Aki answer.

By having both of these characters actively ask Denji and Aki whether they would rather be the country or city mouse in turn forces readers (and soon to be viewers) to make that connection rather than allowing them to do the work themselves, which would have amplified the moment once the reader had made the connection. Ironically, Fujimoto is adept at laying the groundwork for compelling uses of ambiguity as proven in the same Chainsaw Man episode with Himeno’s “Easy revenge!” cigarette. This unfortunate change implies that this message is especially important to Fujimoto, since he doesn’t risk the chance of anyone not making the connection. Unfortunately, this uneasiness is detrimental to his storytelling since it minimizes any chance for interpretation. It’s even worse considering Denji and Aki actually tell them who they would rather be. Of course, the meaning behind Reze and the Angel Devil sharing these fables is quite tragic in Chainsaw Man, but these direct references weaken what could have been strong symbolism.

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Fujimoto first introduced this metaphor much more ambiguously during Aki’s flashback of when Chainsaw Man showed the Gun Devil murdering his family. When hoping to ask his parents to play with him, Aki walks in on them reading the fable to his younger brother. Other than hearing the words from the fable, Fujimoto doesn’t make any other blatantly obvious connections to his own story, leaving room for interpretation and reflection. It’s partially the success of this earlier scene why Reze and the Angel Devil’s questions feel like such a letdown. Chainsaw Mam could have improved this if it separated the two moments and didn’t have them actually ask them which mouse they would rather be.

Of course, some might view these events as part of a larger motif, but this argument falls flat when considering that this example forces readers to make a connection, in turn, creating a weak metaphor. Even motifs are meant to be symbolic. Unfortunately though, Chainsaw Man diminishes the symbolism considerably by uncharacteristically creating a cliché.

Chainsaw Man is available to read on Viz.com.

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