Warning: the following article contains spoilers for Chainsaw Man season one, episode one, “Dog and Chainsaw.”
Chainsaw Man is Hulu’s new anime filled with bloody action and some potent social commentary. The story follows Denji, a desperately down-on-his-luck teenager trying to make ends meet as a Devil Hunter and things are not going well for him. But what exactly are these devils?
Devils are vicious demons from hell, born out of humanity’s fears and the collective consciousness. They’re generally formed from bones, skin, and internal organs and their names denote what type of devil they are are. Devils terrorize people, feeding off of blood and fear of humans and other devils, which heals and strengthens them. Devil Hunters like Denji kill them to protect humanity and to make some money in this oppressive world. There are many devils throughout the Chainsaw Man canon that range in power and nature so it’s best not to assume they all share the same motivations, and a few showed up in the first episode. Denji’s pet Pochita, for example, has a chainsaw embedded into its head, proving that some can even be domesticated. (More on that later.)
Episode one begins with a day in the life of Denji as he laments about all the debt he’s accrued and what he’s had to give up. Denji’s father’s debts have been passed down to him and that doesn’t make his life any easier either. He goes out on a mission to hunt a devil with his own pet Pochita. He finds the Tomato Devil, a giant tomato monster with many eyeballs and a vertical mouth and he gets to work, slicing him with his chainsaw. He tells his employer that the seeds will need to be burned or else it will grow again, and it seems like Denji really knows his stuff when it comes to his line of work.
In a flashback sequence, we see when Denji first meets Pochita, he expects to be killed from the encounter. Instead, the little devil is injured and Denji offers him his blood and Pochita bites him, restoring his vitality. Denji also makes a deal with Pochita. Since he helped save his life, he wants demonic power in return, and Denji’s able to use Pochita as a chainsaw weapon.
Later, Denji gets drawn into a trap by the debt collector who wants the boy dead. He turns into a massive Zombie Devil who has his own horde of zombies he controls. These are people who took the debt collectors’ offer for more demonic power and have become mindless minions controlled by the Zombie Devil. They attack Denji and their numbers overwhelm him as Denji laments that he just wanted a normal life.
Denji is dismembered and thrown into a dumpster (harsh), and another flashback reveals that some devils can take over dead bodies. Denji tells Pochito that if it’s something he can do, then he wants his pet devil to have his body, which is both morbid and sweet. As luck would have it, Pochita does have the ability to take over his body. As they’re lying in a dumpster, Pochita attaches himself to Denji’s dismembered body, and his limbs re-assemble. Denji and Pochita are able to communicate with one another and Pochita makes another deal with Denji, offering to give him his heart in exchange for seeing his dream.
Denji arises uninjured, except now he has a saw pull cord attached to his chest, and when it’s pulled he becomes the Chainsaw Man with chainsaws on his arms and on his sharp-jawed face. He cuts through the zombies and leaps into the air to deliver the finishing move on the Zombie Devil. As Denji faces down the rest of the zombies, he notes that they went “full devil,” implying the zombies’ former humanity is totally gone, and he finishes the job of destroying them without any concern for their well-being.
In the end, the Public Safety Devil Hunters arrive on the scene and believe that Denji’s the last devil that needs to be killed. But when Devil Hunter Makima approaches him he asks for a hug, and when she agrees, his chainsaw attachments slip off of him. It’s confirmed that Denji’s not possessed and he’s given the option of being killed like a devil or remaining a human as part of the organization. Denji chooses the latter, and after the life he’s had, no one could blame him.