One can often evaluate the quality of supernatural fiction by analyzing its ability to tell a deeply human story. No matter how bizarre or fantastical a setting may be, works set in other worlds shine brightest when they are able to relate to their audiences in an empathetic and personal way. This may be part of why so many people are drawn to Chainsaw Man, as its latest episode demonstrates the strength of shared experiences to create bonds between even the most unlikely of people. Coupled with sublimely animated fights, tantalizing hints at character development, and a pace that balances quiet intimacy with adrenaline-fueled madness, Episode 3 encapsulates everything that sets the series apart from its contemporaries, even better than its pilot does.
Chainsaw Man Episode 3, "Meowy's Whereabouts," sees Denji continue his work with Power, a Fiend whose true nature is that of a Devil possessing the body of a human. Though they get off to a rocky start, using each other for their own individual needs and blaming the other for their shortcomings, there is a shift when Power reveals her primary goal to rescue her pet cat Meowy from the clutches of the Bat Devil. As Denji resolves to help her, hoping to achieve his own carnal desires, the pair's initially destructive dynamic transforms into a tender connection between two people with similar experiences.
The crux of this episode hinges largely on the reluctant partnership between Denji and Power. While these two Devil-human hybrids may be far from normal due to their circumstances, the duo's early interactions present them as toxic co-workers, which many people can empathize with. Power constantly belittles Denji due to his inexperience and humanity, and in turn, Denji pushes the boundaries of their professional situation by harassing her between their petty arguments. This relationship may not be one to emulate, but it is certainly one that most viewers can relate to.
However, the most compelling part of the episode's themes comes not from the humorous cynicism between Denji and Power but in highlighting what they have in common. Both Denji and Power are shown to have a deep love for their pets. Meowy seems to be the only thing capable of moving Power to compassion or emotion, while Denji is inspired to keep on living for Pochita, despite the latter having sacrificed himself to merge with Denji. Trivial though this may seem, this vulnerable display of affection humanizes them, implying that empathy can exist between any two people, no matter how antagonistic they may initially be.
These deeply personal scenes of character development pay off immensely, as they constitute the perfect emotional ramp into the episode's action-packed fight scenes. Not only does the transition from exposition to combat feel natural, the progression of events leads to a satisfying payoff as its arsenal of sound and lighting queues gives way to some of the most fluid and visceral battle animation ever put to screen. Additionally, the fight itself constitutes a cinematic roller coaster, raising the bar on the anime's gore content by merging it with a satisfyingly gruesome psycho-punk vibe.
Yet as much as "Meowy's Whereabouts" shines on its own merits, Episode 3 teases the forward-thinking that the show's creators put into consistent characterization. Power's backstory with Meowy is discretely foreshadowed in the previous episode, displaying her eye for cats when a stray catches her attention. In a potentially related fashion, the episode continues to insert moments that focus in on Makima's eyes, continuing off of similar shots in the first two episodes. This might be a hint towards some significant secret involving Makima's sensory capabilities. Alternatively, it could simply be drawing attention to the near hypnotic sway that she holds over those in her charge.
In terms of pacing, visuals, and characterization, Chainsaw Man has firmly established its place as one of the hottest anime this Fall, living up to the hype that preceded its anime adaptation. The show is still subtly drip-feeding viewers the lore of its universe, but even with such a high-concept premise, it masterfully captures elements of the human condition to retell them in its strange world. That, plus the sheer spectacle of its horror-inspired animation have already given its audience plenty to devour within these first three episodes. With hints at more to be unpacked in the near future, Chainsaw Man is likely to continue shredding expectations and tearing up hearts throughout the remainder of its run.
Chainsaw Man revs up the excitement and emotion on Crunchyroll every week, with new episodes airing each Tuesday.