The latest arc in Chainsaw Man brings in a new character, Asa, to also act as a protagonist alongside Denji. It’s a fascinating choice, and perhaps even a risk, given the connection readers built to Chainsaw Man over the past 97 chapters. But it works, and one of the reasons that it does is because Tatsuki Fujimoto ensured her story runs parallel to and mirrors his own. However, the circumstances vary just enough that those following along get to see how another person in a similar sort of circumstances to his own experiences a very different and in some ways worse time than his own.
Editor’s Note: There will be spoilers for Chainsaw Man past chapter 98, the first one that appears in volume 12, and regarding the protagonist Asa.
Of course, there’s the obvious. In Chainsaw Man both Asa and Denji are in a position in which their continued survival depends upon a devil. In the case of Denji, it was the Chainsaw Devil Pochita. With Asa, it is the War Devil Yoru. However, the circumstances of the arrangement between Asa and Yoru provides new insight for the reader and an interesting take on the human/devil relationship. Pochita willingly became Denji’s heart, so the person he loved most could continue living. There’s a benevolence and affection there. For Yoru, Asa is a means to an end. She’s a tool to be used. This means a very different relationship for us to witness. It’s valuable, since quite a few of the devils encountered around Denji in the first part ended up not so bad.
But aside from their respective arrangements, there are other parallel elements these two Chainsaw Man protagonists share. For example, both Asa and Denji both lived lives lacking things prior to their transformations. They were both alone in the world, isolated from other humans. There was a sense of desperation. For Denji, it was enough money to survive. He wanted necessities like food. Companionship. With Asa, she’s in a position in which her clumsiness and incidental actions cost people their lives. She craves companionship as well, following allowing her guilt to distance herself. But again, the circumstances mean that for Asa, her isolation initially was a conscious choice, while Denji’s wasn’t a life he chose for himself.
Not to mention that once Asa does find herself bound to a devil in Chainsaw Man, it doesn’t give her a chance at things she wanted in the way it did Denji. While he is pressed into Public Safety Devil Hunter service throughout the first 11 volumes, in many ways it benefits him. Denji isn’t alone. Allies like Aki, Power, Himeno, and Kobeni fight and live alongside him. He’s able to eat the meals he yearned for before becoming Chainsaw Man. Transforming into Chainsaw Man makes him something of an icon, with him beloved by the time chapter 98 rolls around.
From what we’ve seen of Asa’s life so far, it seems the events of Chainsaw Man generally left her more isolated. Yoru is there, threatening to take over her life. The War Devil’s power relies on using her possessions or parts of other people to turn them into weapons. The one relationship we’ve seen her form so far with Yuko ended up becoming twisted. Denji’s influence ended up being a positive one on people like Aki and Power, causing the former to loosen up and start to move on after his family’s death and the latter to form more connections with other people. Yuko formed a contract with the Justice Devil, decided to use her new power to kill Asa’s bullies, and found herself transformed into a devil as a result.
We’re also seeing how Asa’s new nature means she’s getting in so deep that her life will be changed irrevocably. She can’t get out. The same thing happened to Denji. However, while the events of the first 97 chapters did lead to him experiencing great losses, betrayals, and horrors, he seems to be in a potentially better place for the time being. Given the nature of the War Devil and how things seem to be going for Asa so far, plus the general theme of showing a less attractive and more malicious deal with a devil, it feels like we could be watching her tread a darker path.
It’s a fascinating way to frame things. The decision also means Fujimoto made Chainsaw Man in general encompass general human/devil relations in a more comprehensive way. We can better appreciate Denji’s experiences and his relationship with Pochita by seeing what Asa is going through with Yoru. We can understand that while his journey showed both high and lows, happy points and horrors, things could be quite different and darker with a more hostile devil involved. It is keeping Chainsaw Man fresh and engaging, especially as we see what life is like for Asa each week.
The Chainsaw Man manga is being localized and published by Viz Media outside Japan. The anime adaptation is available via Crunchyroll.