There’s a fine line that separates shonen from seinen, and some manga series just seem to stand right between them. Chainsaw Man is one of those series. Its over-the-top action and mature themes make it hard to categorize. Expectedly, some cannot help but ask: Is Chainsaw Man a shonen or seinen?
Find out which genre the popular series fall into.
Shonen vs Seinen: What’s the Difference?
Traditionally, manga and anime are categorized according to their target audience. Shonen and seinen are among the demographic terms used to label how a specific series is marketed. Simply put, shonen refers to manga and anime series marketed to adolescent boys, generally from ages 12 to 18, while Seinen targets young adult males, often 18 to 30 years old.
Given the difference in their target audience, shonen and seinen contains many features that make them distinct from each other. Among their key differences include the following:
Shonen is all about action and fight scenes
Nothing defines the shonen genre better than intense fight scenes that can keep fans on the edge of their seats. Since shonen targets young boys, series falling into this category often feature fierce and hype-inducing battles between heroes and villains. Some of the most popular shonen series that perfectly exemplify this feature include Dragon Ball, Naruto, and Yu Yu Hakusho.
Seinen contains more mature themes
Expectedly, as seinen caters to an older target audience, series under this label feature more mature themes that you’d normally not see in shonen anime. Topics such as death, mental illness, sexual content, and even graphic portrayal of violence are common in seinen works. Happy endings also aren’t secured. While shonen often portrays the world in its romanticized version, seinen aspires to depict it as it is, with all its beauty and wretchedness. Popular examples of seinen include Berserk, Cowboy Bebop, and Psycho Pass.
Shonen are vibrant while Seinen are typically grim
Shonen and seinen also differ in terms of their art styles and animation. Most shonen series are colorful, vibrant, and even over-the-top. Characters are also beyond ordinary, often designed with spiky, colorful hair and striking outfits ready for battle. Meanwhile, seinen series are usually portrayed with grim, somber settings to match the mature themes. Characters are also often ordinary, with designs aimed to perfectly mimic the real world.
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Is Chainsaw Man Shonen or Seinen?
Chainsaw Man is a shonen work. It is published under Viz Media’s “Shonen Jump,” one of the longest-running manga publications that houses legendary shonen series. But while it is labeled as such, the series does contain features that are untypical of a manga targeted at young boys. Hence, many readers often mistake it as seinen.
Regardless, Chainsaw Man still incorporates tried-and-tested tropes that make up a good shonen. These include:
With a world filled with devils and devil hunters, Chainsaw Man lives up to the hype of a typical shonen brimming with intense fight scenes. As early as chapter 1 of the manga, fans are already introduced to a world full of actions as the protagonist, Denji, tries to earn money by killing weaker devils. Eventually, the adrenaline intensifies when Denji encounters a tragedy and becomes a human-devil hybrid with chainsaws sticking out of his body. From thereon, battles just seemed to become part of his day-to-day routine.
An Underdog Protagonist
From Naruto, My Hero Academia, to Black Clover, the underdog appears to be a shonen staple. Such a formula is also present in Chainsaw Man. Young, orphaned, and naive, Denji is anything but special. But his fate changed when he met the devil-dog Pochita. Eventually, just as he meets his supposed ending, Denji returns back to life only to find himself with abilities that can strike down almost every opponent that comes along the way.
Read More: How Did Denji Get His Powers?
Humanity against Evil
Right after becoming a human-devil hybrid, Denji was forced to join the Public Safety Devil Hunters, a group dedicated for eradicating devils that stand as the greatest threats to humanity. Such trope has been used in a lot of other shonen series, such as Attack on Titan, Bleach,Fire Force, and Demon Slayer.
The Main Hero Isn’t So Smart
It’s hard to find a shonen hero whose intelligence matches his physical power. From Goku, Luffy, to Yuji Itadori, there comes a lengthy list of protagonists that are strong yet thick-witted. Denji isn’t an exception. He often feels lost, easily manipulated, and most of the time simply rushes to battle without an awareness of the whole situation. This also makes him a comic relief in the series, which is typical to a shonen hero.
Yet, as mentioned earler, there are also specific features of Chainsaw Man that feels more like seinen than shonen. These include:
Brutally Dark and Bloody
What makes Chainsaw Man‘s shonen label questionable is that fact that it features graphic depiction of violence. Trust us, it’s brutal out there! As early as Chapter 1, Denji has already been killed and cut to pieces, with his killers leaving his fragmented body parts in the garbage. As if that wasn’t gory enough, Denji later on comes back to life and massacres everyone who killed him using chainsaws. Even the transformation of Denji appears painful to watch, as blood spurts out of his head and arms whenever chainsaws come out of his body.
Depicts Grim Social Realities
The initial chapter of the manga perfectly introduces the gloomy world of Chainsaw Man. There, we see the young Denji selling his organs just to make a living. Still, despite already selling parts of his body, such as his kidney and right eye, Denji still has to hunt small, weak devils for additional income. Obviously, such story isn’t typical of a shonen, which caters to adolescents.
Tackles Politics and Traumas
The devils in the series are also born out of people’s fears. Hence, the more humanity fear something, the more terrifying devils their collective traumas create. This has been exemplified by the Gun Devil, the ultimate incarnation of man’s fear of gun violence. The gun devil is deemed the biggest and strongest devil in the series.
No Power of Friendship
Another characteristic that sets Chainsaw Man apart from other shonen works is how it veered away from the typical themes of camaraderie, friendship, and sentimentality. While Denji did develop a special bond with Aki and Power, their relationships are more complex than usual allies in shonen series. Given their own traumatic pasts, all three had trouble processing their emotions. Hence, they can’t even give name to their relationships.
Overall, despite these inconsistencies, Chainsaw Man remains a shonen work. The series’ deviation from some of the usual shonen tropes made the story even more unique and compelling. While it offers the same basic formula of what makes up a good shonen story, it also breaks boundaries and go against the rules whenever possible.
This mixture of shonen and seinen-like features isn’t actually new. Other popular series, such as Attack on Titan, Death Note, The Promised Neverland, and Hunter x Hunter are all considered shonen, but they also feel more like seinen.
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