Spoilers Below For Chainsaw Man Episode 8 — You have been warned
I had heard from those who had read the manga that something bad was coming, I just didn’t expect it so soon. This episode picks up in the aftermath of the celebration post “Infinity Devil” with Denji choosing not to sleep with Himeno, and instead the two form a pact to help one another with their crushes — Himeno will help Denji with Makima and Denji will help Himeno with Aki. The morning after wraps up as Himeno tells Denji, “They are no longer simply colleagues, but friends from this point on”, while offering to host Denji, Aki and even Power for Breakfast. It’s a bittersweet calm before the storm that is the forebearer to the Chainsaw Man equivalent of the Red Wedding on Public Safety Experimental Division 4.
We start with Makima taking a train to Kyoto to meet with the higher ups, lamenting about being unable to eat in stressful situations and reminiscing about the drinks the night before. The tension in the episode is unnerving as we see the people in the train car brace for something, as a muzzle comes into frame shooting Makima point blank in the head. What follows is a montage of the other Devil Hunters (some of whom we just met) also meeting their demise, then cutting to Denji, Power, Aki and Himeno all joyfully eating ramen, when a strange man starts to pontificate about their lack of taste for enjoying the ramen at the restaurant. The dread here reaches a fever pitch when the stranger brings out a photo of a younger version of himself with his grandfather a Yakuza (which the mention of this gets Denji’s FULL attention) — who was the man who attempted to trade Denji’s life to the “Zombie Devil” in episode one, killing Denji and chopping him and his beloved Pochita up into little pieces dumping his body in the garbage.
After the man utters — “I hear the “Gun Devil” wants your heart.” We know then this may not be happenstance or an easy battle for Denji as he immediately shoots Denji in the head.
This throws into motion probably one of the most intense battles yet of the season, with Denji immediately sidelined, we finally have Aki and company going for broke. There’s a kinetic action to that ramen shop shootout that has everyone trading blows with the man before Aki evaluates him to be a powerful enough threat to immediately summon the “Fox Devil’s” head to dispose of him with a “Kon”. The “Fox Devil” instantly traps him in his mouth and lets Aki know he is “neither human or devil”, sound familiar? This is almost exactly what Makima said about Denji. This has the sword version of Denji cutting his way out of the “Fox Devil’s” mouth and Aki unsheathing the sword that was hinted at in the “Infinity Devil ‘’ arc, whose use would take years off his life. He uses this to defend the bleeding Himeno and Denji who aren’t moving. After first killing this “Katana Man” with the sword that summons the “Curse Devil”, Aki drops a bit of info on our assassins use of guns and that only Devil Hunters and Police can get them in Japan.
This is the equivalent to Aki saying the killer is inside the house. Either some Devil Hunters and the government are in league with the “Gun Devil” or either group are looking to take out Public Safety’s new weapon and harness it for themselves. It’s not a far stretch given what we saw a few episodes earlier with Makima giving her report on her new recruit before the older board, who might have been the ones to summon her to be aware of her whereabouts for her assassination. Given the appearance of “Katana Man” whoever did this knows exactly what Denji and Pochita have created and they are looking to replicate that and harness it for themselves since they clearly state they are after his “heart”. The politics are something that currently exist in Chainsaw Man, but have only been alluded to here and there with the allusion that the devils are a new thing to this world and the arrival of the “Gun Devil” and his mass killing event is what put this world in the political climate it is today.
The gut-wrenching episode ends with a young girl entering the battle from seemingly nowhere and reviving the “Katana Man”, who quickly retaliates against Aki putting him on his knees with a speed that has Power frozen on the sidelines. It’s here we get an exposition beat in a short dialog between the antagonist that leads you to believe “Katana” was possibly recruited for this task recently explicitly thanks to his personal grudge against Denji and like him lacks experience with his gift. This confirms there’s some outside force here controlling the pieces on the table and triggering them into action. The finale has Himeno trading her life to the “Ghost Devil” in an attempt to save Aki’s against the reanimated “Katana Man” just as he is about to deal the killing blow. It’s a sacrifice that seems for naught as her “Ghost Devil” is dispatched in a matter of moments by a giant snake summoned by the young girl just as her corporal form vanishes. We are then as the tradition with this show cliffhangered yet again with both Aki, Denji and Power’s lives still on the table.
This episode works effectively in two ways as first it reaffirms the stakes to the world of Chainsaw Man, you know just in case you forgot how in every episode they talk about the occupational hazard that is death in Devil Hunting. Well Tatsuki Fujimoto just let us know how real it is. It also works to hyperfocus Denji and crew on their goal, it just went from devil of the week to something very personal. That line from Himeno about friends was there to cement that relationship, raise the stake in her life before taking her out. It’s terribly sadistic but it worked, at the end of that episode I was left feeling betrayed, angry and upset. In any shonen work this is where the real story really begins, that whole first seven episodes were all setup and character development to give us our Team 7 of Chainsaw Man, who are all forged in the fire together to overcome the impossible task avenging their friends and killing the “Gun Devil”.