There’s a reason people love action shows. Something about good fight choreography and visually arresting cinematography gets the adrenaline pumping in a way that satisfies an almost animal urge. Sometimes what a viewer really needs is a chance to relax with something more grounded and realistic. Episode 7 of Chainsaw Man, “The Taste of a Kiss,” provides a nice contrast to the high-octane carnage the show is often associated with to connect audiences with its characters through a familiar situation. In doing so, the series may have underlined an obstacle it will need to overcome in the long run, setting itself a whole new challenge if it wants to keep things fresh.
Episode 7 begins, predictably, with its central character Denji viciously hacking a devil into a grotesque gore fest. The fight is animated in such a way that it seems like it could go on forever, with each graphic hit adding a tiny splash of red to the unfathomable sea of blood, befitting the battle against the Devil of Eternity. Even so, this conflict only lasts for the first third of the episode before it gets to the real stuff – a surprisingly mundane evening with members of the Public Safety Devil Hunters, devoid of any violence or physical altercation.
At first glance, one could attribute the pacing to the flow of the original manga’s chapters, as the show has followed a fairly consistent pace with the source material. However, the attention to detail and smooth animation of the drinking show shows that the staff under episode director Makoto Nakazono wanted to highlight the easily recognizable event of drinking with co-workers. By treating typical events with the same level of detail as other episodes, Studio MAPPA demonstrates equal respect for the everyday world and the fantastic. In doing so, they bring home the idea that they produce anime more about human interactions than the bizarre setting in which it takes place.
In large part, the juxtaposition of the largely jovial, low-stakes encounter with the deadly confrontation with the Devil of Eternity illustrates the narrative’s flexibility. The episode starts off looking like it’ll be more of the same slasher horror gimmick seen earlier in the season, but viewers will be pleasantly surprised when it tones down the savagery for something more balanced. While the move provides a subtle subversion of expectations, it also creates a possible conundrum for future episodes.
Even with the abundance of effort put into the horror elements of the opening moments of Episode 7, the visual similarities suggest the animators borrowed some from similar brawls earlier in the series. This is likely so that the second half’s shift to “slice of life” content could work as a palate cleanser, promising much more than the routine splatter movie the title has become known for. Still, though the decision helps the episode stand out and reinforce Chainsaw Manthe image of innovative, it also creates a standard for the show to resist total devolution in its more animalistic tendencies.
Either way, this week’s focus on the more mundane aspects of its characters’ lives is not without its twists, and Studio MAPPA responds to each of them in turn. There is one particular instance where the conversation between the Public Safety officers shifts to more serious content, in which the original animation plot serves to underscore the strange terror of their predicament. Conversely, a later segment ingeniously uses pixelation censorship to heighten both the hilarity and the utter revulsion of the truly revolting party foul that gives the episode its name.
In short, Chainsaw Man continues to push back expectations, both of her broader genre and demographics, as well as the image she has made for herself. Shading its renegade approach to storytelling, it’s raised the bar for itself in a way that will demand similar inventiveness for the rest of its run. With all the hype the anime received ahead of the adaptation’s release, it’s definitely possible that it will run out of steam before its conclusion. With that in mind, hopefully the latest installment is a sign of more to come rather than a promise that won’t be fulfilled.
Chainsaw Man airs weekly on Crunchyroll, with new episodes airing every Tuesday.