Chainsaw Man Episode 9
For the most part, Fall 2022's Chainsaw Man has done a good job of retaining the atmosphere of Tatsuki Fujimoto's dark action manga's hideous terrors. However, at what should be its most terrifying moments, Episode 9, "From Kyoto," appears to struggle to frighten viewers.
"From Kyoto," Episode 9, starts up in the middle of the attack against Public Safety's Devil Hunters. Recreating Himeno's last sacrifice, Denji is summoned back into the game for a fight with Samurai Sword and his Snake Devil-affiliated companion Sawatari. As time passes, the survivors of the ambush begin to mount a counter-offensive, using some overpowering powers that hint to a terrible truth hidden beneath the organization's seeming success.
Despite being a repeat, Chainsaw Man's current episode's initial few minutes are by far its strongest. It takes time reviewing the last minutes of Episode 8 to bring its viewers up to speed on the events of the previous edition. However, rather than reusing footage from the previous episode's finale, Studio MAPPA chose to entirely reanimate the events, presenting things from other viewpoints and emphasizing previously unknown parts of the action. This attention to detail and drive to providing a quality product is evident in every frame of the work, leading to some spectacular action moments to come.
Episode 9 takes place in the midst of all-out fighting between the two armies present, and showcases more of the series' signature thrilling battle animation. This is most likely due to Tatsuya Yoshihara's regular work as the show's Action Director, as well as Takahiro Kaneko and Hironori Tanaka's episode directing and storyboarding. They not only gave Denji more opportunities for rip-roaring brawls, but they also gave some other characters jaw-droppingly fluid animation that showcased their martial prowess to great effect.
Unfortunately, the same cannot be said about some of the more nuanced displays of power showcased in the episode. Partway through its runtime, one character, in particular, uses their abilities to turn the tables on the arc's antagonists in a pernicious and gruesome way. Sadly, the scene in which this occurs comes across as more bewildering than actually scary. Though the animated version of this moment is certainly shocking, when compared to the gradual and intimately illustrated manga counterpart, it plays out in a somewhat disorienting way. Studio MAPPA's animation does well enough to keep this particular scene from becoming outrageous, but the suddenness with which it plays out makes it too startling to instill a sense of dread.
Luckily, Chainsaw Man's vocal cast does a great job of inspiring such feelings via the delivery of their lines throughout the episode. In addition to several others who help embody a hidden dark side to their characters, Kikunosuke Toya's portrayal of Denji does well to embody the animalistic nature of the series' protagonist, straddling the line between human and monster beautifully. Rather than simply tapping into the righteous indignation that many other shonen protagonists present, Toya's characterization paints a picture of Denji as a morally gray character who doesn't fit well into the hero archetype.
Episode 9 does a fair job of putting forth the same quality of production seen throughout the rest of the anime up to this point. Still, though its fight animation, voice acting, and sound direction maintain a certain standard, the episode itself feels a touch bloated as it rapidly runs through each scene without giving any of them enough time to settle in a truly haunting fashion. With three episodes remaining in the season's run, these are problems that can be avoided from here on out so that the anime can have room to breathe and finish strong.
Chainsaw Man streams on Crunchyroll weekly, with new episodes airing every Tuesday.