「東京到着」 (Tokyo Touchaku)
“Arrival in Tokyo”
Tokyo Touchaku was an excellent set-up for what I think will be a lot of very complex and interesting relationships. This already stands out, seeing as it’s not often right off the bat that relationship dynamics are the most appealing aspects of a shōnen narrative. Rather, it’s quite common that these one-on-one interactions come third or fourth behind the characters themselves, their personalities and values, uniqueness and quirks, and the plot itself. I certainly wasn’t tuning in on Bleach every week because Ichigo’s dynamic with Chad, Uryuu, Orihime or Rukia was amazing. But this week I found myself fascinated and craving for more interactions between hilariously reluctant roommates/partners Denji and Hayakawa (Sakata Shougo). It was fun to watch their sort of perceived competition and sense of rivalry that only makes itself even more compelling by their personal authenticity, straightforwardness, and fearlessness toward one another. Denji and Hayakawa are equals in their peer dynamic. And are they both into the same girl? I’m afraid that if so, they’re both in for a heartbreak ride like none other. These boys should just stick to kneeing each other in the nuts; it’d hurt less, I promise!
There’s not a lot we know about Makima-san (Kusunoki Tomori); but she’s obviously manipulative and we get glimpses that she has very clear goals of her own. But Denji certainly can’t see this–or rather, doesn’t want to. This is equal parts tragic and amusing, because one of Denji’s primary traits, like every good main shōnen character, is a very strong intuition. But in his case, it’s been blocked by necessity. Denji desperately wants to be around a girl and to eat toast with jam, so when a beautiful woman shows up and offers him these things he’s willing to ignore his intuition. He overlooks every eye-widening remark she makes about him: you’re nothing more than a dog; you can’t say no; you’ll be working for us until you die; if you try to leave you’ll be killed. And you can actually see how he pauses, processes this information, then pushes it aside, not giving it a second thought until it manifests in his asking Hayakawa “Is Makima-san a good person? Is she a bad person?”
However, that also sets up a nice trajectory and arc for Denji’s character evolution. He doesn’t truly know what he wants, and lacks self-awareness to the extent that he doesn’t even know what he thinks. Not to take away the importance of what was established in the previous episode about his dream of a normal life, but he says so himself: now that he has most of the things he wanted, he still feels like something’s missing. This leads to the boobs’ epiphany. But I believe even this to be misleading. Given Denji’s internal monologue on the elevator, he currently thinks a meaningful intimate relationship with a girl is not in the cards for him, so touching boobs seems like the most ‘achievable goal’ to him. I guess we’ll see. Will his intuition and clarity for dangerous situations translate to his personal life too?
Speaking of typical shōnen traits and tropes, another strong one is Denji’s compassionate nature, and how he is untainted by the cynicism of typical societal prejudices. Not only does he make a quick death out of a Fiend (corpse that was possessed by a demon) to avoid their suffering, he also tells Hayakawa, blinking owlishly, he’d befriend a demon if one such wished to befriend him. Nuance is the keyword here. It’s unusual to see so much nuance in relationships in shōnen. Chainsaw Man definitely feels mature; these characters are clearly twenty-something’s and not teenagers.
A lot about this series is very cinematic: Makima’s eye shot at the beginning of the episode, the camera zoom whenever she delivers a morally ambiguous remark, low-angle shots, backlighting and lens flares. I appreciated these immensely. And of course, one can’t end this review without mentioning the endearing mass of irrational chaos that is Power (Fairouz Ai), a creature very much moved by her own otherworldly desires–or so it seems.
Super thanks again to Choya for setting up the template!
ED2: 「残機」 (Zanki) by ZUTOMAYO