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Cinevangelism Interlude: Televangelism with Evangeline Robins: VOL I: “Love and Chainsaws” the She-quel: On the Animatic Adaptation of Tatsuki Fujimoto’s Chainsaw Man (2022)

Written by
Evan Robins
and
and
January 25, 2023
Cinevangelism Interlude: Televangelism with Evangeline Robins: VOL I: “Love and Chainsaws” the She-quel: On the Animatic Adaptation of Tatsuki Fujimoto’s Chainsaw Man (2022)
Graphic by Evan Robins

Televangelism is the contrived, vacuous cash-grab tie-in spin-off to the much better media criticism column, Cinevangelism with Evangeline Robins, hosted by Cinevangelism’s own Evangeline Robins. Over the course of a routinely exceeded word limit she mewls, moans, and meanders in morose fashion, waxing rhapsodically about the lamentable state of television. 

As a notoriously reserved writer with a well-documented penchant for personal privacy, it may surprise long-time readers of mine to hear that I have harboured a secret throughout my tenure at Arthur. I am loath to admit that I am not the 5’10” bright-eyed bio-girl some of you think me to be; I, Evangeline Robins, am a transsexual of rather marked repute. 

Yes, that includes all --- inches of my biologically female ---.

I am old enough, in internet years, to remember when Crunchyroll was a free service and internet piracy was accessible to anyone with about a quarter of a brain and a dream. Internauts of the twenty-teens had yet to hear of NordVPN and its ilk. We just booted up “Private” mode on our iPod Touch browsers and prayed. The common maxim “Chromebooks/Macs/iPods/Kindles can’t get viruses” never failed me in that period of time. Yet, while others used this for porn, I used it for anime

During my storied history of hyper-local independent journalism I have danced around the subject of Japanese animated television programs (or “anime,” in common parlance). Anyone having both the blight and the privilege of spending any amount of time on t-girl Twitter knows that anime feels, at times, inseparably enmeshed with the transgender community. Us of the transfeminine inclination (the Dolls, if you will), especially those perpetually logged-on amongst us prove particularly susceptible to that most incurable of special interests besides reading the theoretical works of Donna Harraway or Hannah Arendt—namely, anime fandom.

By reading this column you acknowledge and consent to waive all authority, opinion, and free will to her highness, Sovereign of Cinephilia Evangeline Robins.

The first anime series I ever saw was the first season of WIT Studio’s Attack on Titan. To this day, I feel it fundamentally ruined my brain. In hindsight, this may well be owing to the exorbitant amounts of grotesque graphic violence that permeate said television program (not to mention its erstwhile fascist undertones, now overtones), though at the time it primarily manifested in a sudden interest in the expansive medium of anime, and a paraphilia towards women with eyepatches which persists to this day. Hange Zöe was, in my defence, a powerful purveyor of they/them transfeminine representation—that most ineffable quality of “t-girl swag”—which shook my erstwhile egg brain in a profound and irreversible manner. While the world of anime has seen some monumental successes in the last year alone with shows such as Spy x Family (and filth like Cyberpunk Edgerunners), arguably not since those bygone days of Attack on Titan’s archaic-by-internet-standards 2013 release has an animated series found such mainstream success, let alone critical acclaim.

These two are the shining example of transfeminine/transmasculine solidarity of which the mainstream establishment is so afraid!

“Arguably,” I say, because a principal competitor (whom I intend to champion) presents itself in the form of 2022’s anime adaptation of Chainsaw Man. Last year, some talentless hack deigned to write a review heaping praise upon the manga series. Now, with the adaptation of that series into addictive animatic form, I take it upon myself to wrest the torch from her for the purposes of this ongoing columnal chronicle of cultural canon.

Derived from Tatsuki Fujimoto’s eponymous manga masterwork, the series follows Denji, a sixteen-year-old unique by the expedient of being able to sprout chainsaws from his arms, legs, and head at will like some kind of R-rated human Beyblade. Along his hero’s journey with the sole objective of getting laid, Denji learns to not hate women and gay people after being forced to develop emotionally affecting relationships with his roommates/coworkers/adoptive family, the blood-demon Power (woman) and mentor, Hayakawa Aki (gay person).

A person wearing a garmentDescription automatically generated with low confidence
If your man doesn’t make this face in bed you’re doing something wrong

While most Shonen series tend not to have characters so much as they have plot devices (or if you’re lucky, stereotypes!) who happen to bear names, Chainsaw Man proves an exception. Despite lacking the endearingly overstated soliloquizing of Death Note, Chainsaw Man manages to handle its characters quite deftly, the two who shine brightest in this first series being Aki and his once-mentor Himeno, whose complicated relationship occupies a considerable runtime and further incites personal development in the both of them as the season progresses.

I say this not just because Himeno sports a wolf cut, smokes cigarettes, and wears an eyepatch (this will become a recurring theme in “Cinevangelism Interlude: Televangelism with Evangeline Robins: VOL ?: ‘Love and Chainsaws’ Part 3: ‘Return of the King’: Chainsaw Man Season 2 (2023)” when Quanxi from the International Assassins arc gets animated) but also because if history holds any insight regarding the type of female character with whom I identify, it's that I love me a problematic messy bitch (for legal reasons this claim only extends to fictional character archetypes as opposed to my actual dating habits)!

Himeno wants you to read Cinevangelism. You wouldn’t want to break the poor girl’s heart now, would you?

Speaking of sexually ambiguous older women who are cancelled on Twitter—Makima, head of Japan’s Public Safety devil-hunting department’s Special Division 4, is an indisputable force felt throughout this show. I mean, we are talking about a woman who in print alone sparked an entire generation’s interest in pet play. That fact aside, the duality of Makima’s outward amiability and underlying formidable chill is captured effortlessly throughout the slow-burn of the series. While she’s undoubtedly of monumental importance to the manga, her quiet dominion over her every minute of screen time makes her animatic counterpart a formidable femme fatale in the truest sense of the term’s literal meaning (she kills several dozen people).

My prior screed paid praise in no small part to Chainsaw Man’s breakneck pacing, however, here I find myself complimenting the same thing for the opposite reason. While the manga zips along quick enough to read in a ball-busting one-nighter should you so desire (my roommate did, it wasn’t pretty), the television series savours its protracted runtime of nearly six cumulative hours. Most shonen anime make use of their oft-excessive pacing to effectively gloss over any areas in which a series is otherwise lacking—effectively the writerly equivalent of the landlord special. By contrast, Chainsaw Man does the unthinkable and adds to the source material. Good God, that sentence is near-sufficient to bring me to orgasm. Putting dialogue-heavy character-driven storytelling in your show about a horny guy possessed by a chainsaw demon is in every way an inspired choice. MAPPA, I swear you’d be a studio after my own heart if you weren’t so hideously callous towards your underpaid and overworked employees!

The tender moments of characters conversing are only emphasized by the most obvious aesthetic measure—the magnificence of its rich animation. It’s this gorgeously saturated attention to detail that gives every frame weight, making fights crisp and bloody while the quiet moments in between are afforded intimacy and emotional depth. 

If Attack on Titan (quite-deservedly) died for its sins, then I can think of none better than Chainsaw Man to take its place. Greater, gorier, and (blessedly) far gayer than the many series which found niche crossover success before it, Chainsaw Man is a series with the potential to become mainstream as so many thought Attack on Titan would when they compared it to Game of Thrones. Quite unlike both of those shows, Chainsaw Man manages not to shit the bed in its conclusion, so we might well have a shot! That said, it did freak the hell out of my dad though, so I wouldn’t get my hopes up. 

While my father may not care for my personal poison, I expect more from you loyal Cinevangelists. Go forth and spread the good word. After all, I can’t use a dog who says “no”. 

Love, Evangeline

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