Tatsuki Fujimoto’s Chainsaw Man is currently on a break but will return soon. It has become one of the most popular series in the world due to its interesting plot, how it breaks away from the traditions of its genre, and how it effectively blends well-known tropes with original content. In this article, we will discuss whether Chainsaw Man is a shonen or seinen manga and anime, as that can be very confusing if you’ve seen the show.
Chainsaw Man is officially classified as a shonen series, and since the anime is more or less identical to the manga, this can be applied to both works. It does feature a lot of seinen elements, especially when its visuals are concerned, but that is never the only criterium that distinguishes these two genres. Namely, Chainsaw Man focuses on younger protagonists, and the story features a lot of shonen and young adult tropes, which is why it has been classified as a shonen work, despite being one of the more borderline examples when the difference between shonen and seinen series is concerned.
The rest of this article will be divided into two major sections. The first one is going to elaborate on the difference between shonen and seinen works so that you know exactly how to differentiate these works; it is mostly straightforward, but sometimes, the difference might not be as clear. The second one is, of course, going to apply these facts to Chainsaw Man, as we will explain why Chainsaw Man is a shonen work despite all the seinen elements in the series. As for spoilers, this article won’t contain too many, but some might be scattered around the article here and there.
The difference between shonen and seinen works is usually quite clear, but there are more and more borderline works
We assume that, since people are asking themselves whether Chainsaw Man is a shonen and seinen work, the difference is not so clear and that it needs to be properly explained, which is what we will do in the first part of this article. We have to stress that in most cases, the difference is clear, but some (and their number is increasing in recent years) borderline works are predominantly one or the other but are filled with elements from the other genre. Now, let us see the difference.
Literally translated as “boy” or “youth,” the word shonen refers to a subgenre of manga and anime targeted at young, adolescent boys between the ages of 12 and 18. The phrase refers to the target audience of a published work rather than a particular genre per se. The equivalent for women is known as shojo. Shonen manga and anime are among the most well-known and successful in the world because of their sizable target audience and the inventiveness behind these works.
Initially, heroic action-adventure and sci-tech subjects like robots and space travel were the most popular topics. This is the reason Osamu Tezuka, the creator of the wildly successful Astro Boy, is recognized as one of the forerunners of the contemporary shonen genre. All of that changed in the 1990s, which led to Shonen becoming more mature and explicit as violence and sexual content were featured more regularly.
This increased the complexity of the genre while also blurring the line between it and the more mature seinen genre. Although the plots are still more fantasy- and kid-focused than those in seinen manga or anime, modern shonen content is considerably more fluid and resembles the seinen genre in many respects.
On the other hand, seinen is a Japanese word that literally translates to “youth” but is also used to describe a particular (sub)genre of manga and animation targeted at young adult men between the ages of 18 and 45. Although the word “youth” refers to young people, seinen is actually used to refer to older males. Josei is the female counterpart to seinen.
The topics of seinen works vary, from topics that are more similar to shonen works, to those that deal with everyday life and the struggles of adult people. This is why seinen works encompass such a large demographic. Seinen works such as One-Punch Man and Tokyo Ghoul are quite close to shonen works, while the likes of Ghost in the Shell or Monster deal with much more mature topics. But, as it happened with shonen works as well, the line between seinen in shonen is becoming less and less clear with time, so it is not always easy to tell the difference. Let us now see how this applies to Chainsaw Man.
Chainsaw Man remains, despite everything, a predominantly shonen piece
The story of Chainsaw Man is about Denji, a boy with blond hair and sharp teeth, who lives without his parents. The world he lives in consists of Devils, Hybrids, and humans. The Devils are created and feed on the fear that the people have. Some people make contracts with them and then fight other Devils.
These people who specialize in that are the Devil Hunters. Devils are born in Hell, come to Earth when killed in Hell, and vice versa. Devil Hunters cannot make a contract with a Devil without giving something in return. Devils also can possess a human body if the person in question is already dead.
Denji lives in poverty due to having to pay the debts his father owed to the Yakuza. With the Devil Pochita, he works as a devil hunter to bring in some money but then gets tricked by the Yakuza, who makes a contract with the zombie devil and is killed. Pochita then makes a contract with Denji to bring him back to life, and they merge together with the condition that Denji will fulfill his dreams. Using chainsaws, he saves himself by killing everyone. Denji then becomes a member of the Devil Hunters in exchange for a normal life.
So, this is the story of Chainsaw Man, and based on that, you can deduce that it is a shonen work, as it focuses on a teenager who has certain supernatural powers and fights other supernatural entities in his own world in order to protect it from them. This is a more or less typical shonen storyline, but despite Chainsaw Man really being a shonen work, it is far from a typical one.
The story is much darker than a typical shonen work, with themes of poverty, horrible living conditions, being a social outcast, complex and bizarre interpersonal relationships, and others being heavily featured, which is more or less a seinen element.
The same goes for the visuals, as the graphical violence of Chainsaw Man (as well as the sexual content) is also more seinen than shonen. But, as we have said, the focus is on the story, and the general storyline is a typical shonen one. Chainsaw Man is a great example of a blend series that combines elements of shonen and seinen tropes, and is a perfect example of how fluid the genre is in modern times.