Chainsaw Man Denji’s shallow facade hides one of the best new-gen shonen protagonists
Following the first few episodes of the Chainsaw Man anime, many fans thought Denji’s character was one of the story’s shallowest. Fans criticized how infantile a protagonist he looked to be, even by shonen manga standards, since he seemed consumed with his sexual urges.
Although the first installment of Chainsaw Man showed the beginnings of Denji’s development, these are just hints of what’s to come. Meanwhile, the manga’s second installment depicted Denji’s progressive character development as a consequence of several occurrences.
Follow along as this essay deconstructs Denji’s thin exterior in Chainsaw Man to reveal one of the finest new-gen shonen heroes.
Denji’s carnal desires represent where he comes from and how much growth potential he has in Chainsaw Man
Why Denji is one of the best new-gen shonen protagonists
When fans first met Denji, they discovered that both of his parents had died by the time he was ten years old. Since then, Denji and Pochita have managed to make ends meet by serving as Devil Hunters for the Yakuza, as shown in Chainsaw Man episode one.
It is clear that Denji’s existence is far from glamorous, much alone one that meets all of his basic survival requirements. These variables always impact his attitude at the start of the series, when eating three meals a day and a nice bed to sleep in causes him to refer to it as “the good life.”
Similarly, in the start of Chainsaw Man, his sexual impulses had a powerful grip on him. Denji went to attend to his nearly primordial wants when his fundamental survival demands were met, for happiness to him is what many would term a part of their daily existence. As a consequence, he doesn’t feel the need to pursue things like love or companionship, preferring to satisfy bodily cravings like hunger and s*x.
To be sure, it makes the first half of the series a little harder to get through. Those who watch the anime may find it difficult to empathize to someone who is just concerned with their most fundamental needs and desires. Furthermore, Denji is someone who often mistakes his needs and desires, having known nothing else than a bad existence, further confounding, frustrating, and alienating viewers.
However, this is simply his character at the start of Chainsaw Man, and by the fifth episode, viewers can already detect a shift in the works. Despite his excitement about touching Power’s chest, he had an almost existential crisis at how lackluster the sensation was. In the same episode, viewers witness him realize that what he really wanted to do was do it with Makima, for whom he had strong affections.
Denji himself confesses as much to Himeno at the conclusion of the episode, despite being goaded into playing her game by the prospect of a French kiss. However, this is done to emphasize that, although being on the correct track, Denji still has a long way to go. He is, after all, an adolescent.
Later in Chainsaw Man, Denji demonstrates once again that he’s on the correct track by refusing s*x with Himeno because he loves Makima. As a result, he comes to understand that his cravings aren’t solely sexual, but rather stem from his feelings for the person who freed him from his past existence.
This is a significant development and example of growth from the first episode, in which he merely says, “I want to score with a female.” It also subtly enhances Denji’s character by demonstrating that when his necessities are satisfied, his desires will shift. This enables him to be a character that is continually evolving and progressing, while most shonen protagonists are obsessed on a single objective.
While most series typically establish one significant, overarching aim for their protagonists at the start of the tale, Chainsaw Man’s protagonist is always changing and yearning for more. While this depth is veiled under a very thin exterior, it serves to illustrate readers his transformation from a seemingly two-dimensional protagonist to the pliable, ever-changing figure that he is.