Tag Archives: The Observation Deck

The Observation Deck: Chainsaw Man Part 1

Welcome, weebs, to Animated Observations

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While I did not list it as one of my goals for the year, I would like to read more manga in 2022, if for nothing else than to gain a bit more perspective on upcoming releases and get ahead of the curb in discussing them. Though this series finished in late 2020, it is still making waves both for how popular its manga is and because its anime adaptation is on the horizon.

During a trip to visit my grandmother over the holidays, I decided, “eh why not?” I paid my $2 a month for Viz and binged most of Chainsaw Man in a few days. I returned home shortly afterward, only to finish the series the following evening. So, what does Chainsaw Man‘s manga have to say for itself?

What in the Everloving Fu-

Chainsaw Man, for the uninitiated, focuses on an orphan boy named Denji, who, after losing his family, befriended a chainsaw devil named Pochita. Fast forward a few years, and Denji is working for the yakuza killing other devils for money. Just as he is starting to feel content with the world, he is tricked, and the Yakuza figure he worked for is now himself a demon set out on destroying the young boy. Denji, on the brink of death, is given a new heart in the form of Pochita, and gains strange new powers. He is now Chainsaw Man.

If that was not enough, it gets even crazier, as Denji eventually meets Makima, one of the heads of the Public Safety Bureau, along with some of the other Bureau members, such as Aki, Power, Kobeni, and Himeno. The initial chapters move at a fairly brisk pace as far as advancing the overall story. Fast enough, in fact, that even Denji as a character is having a hard time really absorbing everything that is going on. In a matter of days, he goes from living in poverty to having what seems like a middle-class job in which he makes real money.

Btw, if it was not made clear already, this show is about devils. Hunting devils, becoming devils, and often working alongside as well as making contracts with them. Denji, armed with the abilities of the chainsaw devil, has gained the attention of Makima (and later many others). Thus, she takes good care to keep an eye on him. The way the series just throws the audience into Denji’s world without much explanation feels fairly emblematic of its overall storytelling philosophy.

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Yes, There is a lot of Blood

Though Chainsaw Man certainly has a lot of fast-paced, 1v1 fight scenes that are typical of actions series, its approach to violence and the depiction thereof is decidedly more horror. If the literal devils did not tip people off, the show has no problem giving a ton of unhealthy reminders. In this manga, it could be argued that the gore involved in each fight is as much a storytelling device as it is an aesthetic choice.

Part of this is fairly direct, as it is noted early on that demons need to drink blood to replenish their strength. A good example comes during one of the earlier fights in the series, where Denji, having been betrayed by Power as food for a bat devil, is now forced to rescue them from his stomach. Thus, the only thing he can do is cut open his stomach using his unique powers.

Part of this, at least, is mitigated by the black and white nature coloring of traditional manga, which is to say nothing of mangaka Tatsuki Fujimoto’s extreme eye for detail in a lot of panels. In many of Chainsaw Man‘s fight scenes, Fujimoto takes great care to make sure that the people reading can remember individual demons based on their…insides.

Sex! That’s it, That’s the Joke.

In much the same way as violence and gore, sex often becomes a core aesthetic and thematic part of what makes this story work. Denji, a 16-year-old with a healthy libido, is constantly thinking about sex. At first, he merely wanted to touch a pair of boobs, but after feeling up Power and realizing that there was something special missing from his experience, Denji realizes that he also wants a sense of intimacy with Makima.

By the same token, many of the women in Chainsaw Man use sex as a means of controlling Denji. Again, this is primarily the case with Makima, but Power and Rize do engage in this behavior as well. In Power’s case, it happens when she tricks Denji into saving her cat, and in Rize’s, she simply wants his literal, and for a period metaphorical, heart. Denji is thus both the end and a means to an end at the same time, both himself and also Chainsaw Man. He is continually confronted with the idea that these two people are, in fact, different people.

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The Point, Please?

I am getting there, jeez. Ok, so Denji is a half human/devil hybrid who is hired by a secretly very shady organization to help kill rogue devils and whose members occasionally make contracts with devils which the humans then use to help kill more rogue devils and-yeah ok I have lost myself. So, does it mean anything?

As Esoteric as a task it is to try and find meaning in a gore-filled nonsense-fest like Chainsaw Man, I do think it can be done. Regardless of the arc, the primary focus of the series never ceases to be Denji, the one who uses the heart of a devil. He goes from just a homeless kid barely scraping by with pocket change to having not only money and food but friends who genuinely care about his well-being. When we consider this change in ascent, along with Denji’s character, the focus of the manga becomes apparent.

Denji is not only playing himself but is rather a symbol of those affected by cruel and unyielding social, economic and political systems. This central idea is further reinforced in other parts of the manga. In one scene where Denji is talking to Rize, she emphasizes that Denji having never been to public school, along with his current arrangement at the public safety bureau, is both out of the ordinary and also incredibly “messed up.”

While it is true that the primary reason Rize says this is because she wants to lour Denji away from the other devil hunters, her underlying shock is totally justified. After all, while fighting devils may still be a reality for many people in this universe, that does not excuse the moral dilemma of not having a basic K-12 education.

Conclusion

Chainsaw Man, in a lot of ways, is just an excuse to be transgressive around the amount of physical violence people are willing to accept in their storytelling. More than that, though, it is a story about the human experience, one which tells us that, no matter how evil an act, it can be no more evil than the worst immorality of all: taking away someone’s human element. In that way, it is a phenomenally entertaining series that it feels fair to say many will enjoy.


Have you read Chainsaw Man? What are your thoughts on the series? Let me know in the comments below.

If you are interested in reading more from me, check under blog to read my most recent stuff, or look below for some related posts. Also, if you would like to support Animated Observations, consider donating on Ko-fi or through paypal, or pledging on Patreon. You can even support by just liking and sharing this post.

Buy Me a Coffee at ko-fi.com

Check out my writing blog, Solidly Liquid!

Special shoutout to our Patron Jenn for the continued support!

If you can’t, or just don’t feel like it, no worries. Thank you all for reading, and goodbye, for now, friends!

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The Observation Deck: Aggretsuko Season 3

Welcome, weebs, to Animated Observations

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This is probably the closest I’m going to get to having a timely holiday-themed-ish post, so that is an accomplishment, I guess.

Unfortunately, or maybe, fortunately, I did not actually watch the third season of Aggretsuko when it came out in August of last year. Why? idk, I was probably busy with not watching anime or wanting to watch anime but not actually having the mental focus to start one. Either way, it gave me the opportunity to sit down with it this year, and man was it a treat.

For those uninitiated with the series, Aggretsuko tells the story of a set of Sanrio-designed characters who work mediocre office jobs. The main character, retsuko, is a red panda who does accounting and is constantly harassed by her boss, and is slowly losing her sanity. Luckily, she has Fenneko the fox and Haida the hyena to help keep her sane. When the show last left off at season 2, Retsuko had just gone through a pretty big relationship, but ultimately ended it because Tadano said he was not willing to get married.

Sanrio’s Character Designs

I somehow failed to discuss this in my last review of the series, maybe because it felt a little bit obvious, but the character designs of Sanrio contribute so much to this series. I am willing to bet that most people’s only familiarity with the mascot company is Hello Kitty, a character that, at least in the U.S., has only ever been marketed towards young girls.

Thus, it becomes that much more impactful to see similar-looking characters in a modern Japanese work environment, where the colorfulness clashes with just how dull the office feels. It creates a level of confusion and absurdity that you just cannot help but laugh at.

Retsuko is an…Idol?

Initially, the whole idol storyline felt way out of place for a series in which the primary focus is Retsuko going insane every other day. However, as the events unfolded and the season began making its point, it really came together. After two seasons of torturing her character for comedic effect, it did feel nice to see her girl boss her way to the front of an Idol group, taking them from unknown to one of the biggest stars in the country.

On top of that, watching Haida wrestle with his feelings for Retsuko and Inui was entertaining, to say the least, and not for the reason you might think. As compelling as his arc was during this last season, it became pretty obvious that he was only ever going to want to be with Retsuko, which after a certain point, just added the comedy of it all.

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Gori and Washimi are Fighting…

If I was forced to pick my favorite side characters, it would probably be Director Gori and Ms. Washimi. The way they started as these two ominous figures at Retsuko’s company but then end becoming two of her best friends is genuinely charming. Their dynamic together helped to drive a lot of important story and comedy moments, such as when they all took a trip to the bathhouse.

Sad to say, though, that this dynamic is unfortunately absent from a lot of season three. Gori and Washimi are mad at each other for… some reason, Gori is pursuing her goal of creating a dating app and Washimi is…doing something? It is not made particularly clear, which kind of adds the overall disappointment. Still, given the storyline being told, the lack of this dynamic is more a personal dissatisfaction than a failing of the show itself.

Haida’s Love for Retsuko, and Also His Stupidity

The ending for the season honestly just felt appropriate. Well, maybe that is a bad way of phrasing it, cause describing Retsuko getting knife attacked by her crazy stalker as “appropriate” feels wrong. Still, it is a pretty dramatic ending with Haida coming to rescue and Retsuko barely avoiding a terrible injury, at best.

Then, for some reason, Haida decides that this is the best time to confess his feelings to her, and everyone else agrees, I guess? Of course, not surprisingly, Retsuko expresses her feelings in the form of a metal song, where he essentially tells Haida to H*ck off. More specifically though, she confronts him with the reality that, regardless of her feelings, she isn’t really in a place where she can trust people, and it is rude of him to push her on it when she does not want to.

Conclusion

Season three of Aggretsuko was a fantastic watch. Maybe not as much of a holiday viewing as I initially implied, but still filled with the drama, romance, and fun one could ask for out of any Christmas special. Although, the series does have an actual Christmas special which is also available on Netflix, so maybe watch that as well.


How did you all feel about Aggretsuko season three? Let me know in the comments.

If you are interested in reading more from me, check under blog to read my most recent stuff, or look below for some related posts. Also, if you would like to support Animated Observations, consider donating on Ko-fi or through paypal, or pledging on Patreon. You can even support by just liking and sharing this post.

Buy Me a Coffee at ko-fi.com

Check out my writing blog, Solidly Liquid!

Special thanks to Jenn for the continuous support on Patreon, it is much appreciated.

If you can’t, or just don’t feel like it, no worries. Thank you all for reading, and goodbye, for now, friends!

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The Observation Deck: Beastars Season 2

Welcome, weebs, to Animated Observations

“Finally…my suffering is over…I can be free again…”

“omg what happened?”

“I watched “Beastars” season 2…”

“Beastars” is a show that continues to exist, and will continue into the future since it has already been confirmed for a third season by Studio Orange. Joy. Now, you as the reader may be asking, “Jack, if you did not like the show that much, why continue to watch it?” Well, unfortunately I like to dabble in a bit of masochism every now and again, and when I saw that the second season would be on Netflix this month, I figured this would be the perfect opportunity.

However, now that the second season is done, so too is the masochism, and now I can get down to brass tacks. Aside from the masochism there is really only one reason I would watch the series again: to talk about how aggressively awful it continues to be.

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The Dub

While I did not talk about it last time, I actually watched both seasons in their English dub. The first season is because at the time I just felt like watching a dubbed anime, and the second season is because I do not like switching languages once I start an anime. Sub versus dub discourse aside, I actually find the English voices to be one of the more tolerable elements of the show.

Almost everyone was cast really well, from the smooth voice of Legoshi, voiced by Jonah Hill, to the rougher, more grizzly voices of both Gouhin and Ritz. Even the nasal tone of Haru works a lot better than it probably should. In all honestly, the only voice that didn’t absolutely blow me away was Lauren Landa playing Juno, and even then she did not do a bad job by any means.

Seriously, What is this Story?

Shameless plug, but for those who have not read my review of season one, I recommend checking that out as well, if you feel like reading the same opinions twice.

I had an argument with someone on that post who basically said that the story makes more sense if I wait for next arc, and so I did. Now, I cannot really be angry, since I was planning on watching the next season when it came out anyway, but I do feel a bit lied to, and by a bit I mean a lot, because this was ABSOLUTELY NOT better than the first season.

Man, where do I begin. I probably should have been taking notes while I was watching cause there are just so many things that do not make sense, and have continued to not make sense. First of all, why does this show insist on introducing things at the beginning of the season only to not touch on them again at all the same season. Like, the anime literally introduces a giant snake security guard that convinces Legoshi to pursue Tem’s killer only to just disappear completely by episode three. Like, ???

Second, if “Beastars” was trying to make some grand social commentary in the first season, it almost completely abandons that idea in the second. Again, the anime is trying to split the difference between “Twilight” and “Zootopia” and thus far as inherited the strengths of neither, basically relying on the viewer to just not think about it to much and buy into all of the carnivorous brooding of its main characters. Speaking of,

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Jesus Christ, These Characters…

Honest question: am I supposed to like any of these people? Do not misunderstand me, of course I want there to be more complex characters, and having defined heroes and villains is not always better for a story, especially one which is relying on the straining relationships of its cast. However, while its important for their to be conflict between characters, at the end of the day, they do need to be at least a little bit likeable, or even just interesting for me to care about them.

Sadly, a pretty large percentage of the cast falls into neither of those categories. I talked about how Legoshi’s entire persona is basically just a fedora wearing nice guy, but like, the others are pretty bad too. Louis comes off as an asshole for most of the series until suddenly he and Legoshi are on good terms? Haru never even really felt like a character to me, probably because the show plays way to hard into Legoshi’s fantasy of protecting thy fair maiden. In fact, the only reason the two have a relationship in the first place is because Haru decided to go down on him as thanks for helping her club.

As much as I wanted to like these characters, (mainly because I have now sunk a collective 10+ hours into this series), I just cannot give them any credit. They feel both underwritten and overwritten at the same time, and because of the anime’s terrible worldbuilding and story, none of them come off as well done characters.

The Music and CG are Still Good, at Least

Apart from the dub, “Beastars” has two other solid qualities: Its soundtrack and its animation. As far as its music goes, the series does a great job supporting its abyssmal writing with some genuinely engaging jazz tracks. From its instrumental pieces produced by Satoru Kosaki, to the talented vocalists who appear scattered throughout, it is a genuinely nice distraction while watching.

Studio Orange also continues their great work in the realm of 3D animation. There is genuinely not a bad looking scene in the entire second season, and the fusion of 2D elements and backgrounds with the largely 3D characters is genuinely impressive. While I still have yet to warm up to the use of 3D in anime as a whole, I certainly have hope for what Studio Orange can do in the future.

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Conclusion

To tell the truth, as a critic, I am relatively easy to please. Just give me an interesting enough premise with a passable execution in the writing, along with some good visuals and ok music, and I will generally be happy. I mean, that is what happened with “Gleipnir” and I will still defend that show as being kind of underrated. “Beastars” cannot even manage that, with its terrible world, sometimes cringe and sometimes boring characters, and ham-fisted attempt at “societal” commentary. There is only so much one person can do pretty up a garbage can.


How do you all feel about “Beastars?” Let me know in the comments below.

If you are interested in reading more from me, check under blog to read my most recent stuff, or look below for some related posts. Also, if you would like to support Animated Observations, consider donating on Ko-fi or through paypal, or pledging on Patreon. You can even support by just liking and sharing this post.

Buy Me a Coffee at ko-fi.com

Check out my writing blog, Solidly Liquid!

If you can’t, or just don’t feel like it, no worries. Thank you all for reading, and goodbye, for now, friends!