It’s that time again, you know, the best time of the year: October. With all manners of spooktacular content coming out from streaming platforms and publishers alike, we highly recommended Chainsaw Man Volume 1 from VIZ Media in a review last month as a must-read for the Halloween season. The series comes from mangaka Tatsuki Fujimoto, and the upcoming debut volume in English features translation by Amanda Haley and features touch-up art and lettering by Sabrina Heep. In the series, Denji was a small-time devil hunter, and desperate for money. Ultimately, he’s just trying to survive in a harsh world with his pet devil-dog Pochita who helps him exterminate devils in his town. After being killed on a job, he is revived by his Pochita and becomes something new and dangerous—Chainsaw Man.
Leading up to its debut, we got the chance to speak with Alexis Kirsch, Deputy Editor in Chief of Weekly Shonen Jump. In this interview, Kirsch talks Denji, translation, and even offers up some recommendations to readers looking to nab a Shonen Jump App subscription.
BUT WHY THO: Hi Alexis! Thanks for taking the time to speak with me. Let’s start by having you explain your role at Shonen Jump and what goes into being an editor.
ALEXIS KIRSCH: Thanks for having me. My current job title is Deputy Editor-in-Chief of Weekly Shonen Jump, which is a small department of Viz Media. We work on getting the Shonen Jump chapters out in English every week at the same time they are released in Japan. It’s quite the hectic job and every week is a battle against the clock. An English manga editor is primarily a project manager who hires translators and letterers to prepare the manga pages and makes sure that everything is in order before the chapter is released online or the book is printed.
BUT WHY THO: Now, the spooky season is pretty much here and VIZ Media is publishing volume 1 of Tatsuki Fujimoto’s Chainsaw Man. What are some of the elements of the title that resonate with you?
ALEXIS KIRSCH: Two elements that really stand out with Chainsaw Man are its unpredictability and dark humor. You can never tell what will happen next because the series doesn’t seem to follow any of the normal rules for a Shonen Jump manga. Cool-looking characters are introduced and then immediately killed off, repeatedly. The plot and imagery often go places that you never could have imagined. And then right in the middle of some dark turn in the story, there will be a ridiculous moment that you can’t help but laugh at. This is a very unique manga. It may not appeal to everyone, but it’s been steadily gaining a strong following over the last year.
BUT WHY THO: When it comes to localizing Chainsaw Man, have there been any surprising moments that may surprise readers? A word that was difficult to translate or a scene?
ALEXIS KIRSCH: This is one area where the series has been pretty normal. It’s not a particularly wordy series, so the process has been pretty smooth. One challenging part was a chapter that featured a song or poem that was in Russian. Actually, we were asked by the editor in Japan if we could translate it into Russian for the Japanese release. Luckily, we had a worker in our IT department who knew Russian! We were provided with Japanese text of what the song was supposed to be, which I translated into English and then that was translated into Russian. It then went into both the Japanese and English versions.
The interesting thing is that because the Japanese release only had it in Russian with no translation into Japanese, ours did the same. Which meant most readers couldn’t even understand what was being said. However, I saw that fans online quickly translated it back into English and were discussing it. The text wasn’t actually significant to the plot or anything, but it was nice seeing the fan community getting together to solve this riddle of sorts.
BUT WHY THO: Chainsaw Man is definitely an action series but it also some s-tier horror elements to it, from devil design to the action sequences themselves, what are some of your favorites?
ALEXIS KIRSCH: I don’t want to spoil things for those who aren’t reading the chapters on a weekly basis on the Shonen Jump website, but I think most fans would mention the Darkness Devil to this question. By the way, the latest weekly chapters are free on the Shonen Jump site and [the] Shonen Jump app. No reason not to jump in right now! The entrance of the Darkness Devil is one of the most surreal and mind-bending things I’ve ever seen and you have to see it to believe it! Though even the first two chapters of the series have some really bizarre creatures in the Zombie Devil and the Muscle Devil. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg!
BUT WHY THO: While the first volume is coming out, we’re on chapter 85 through Shonen Jump and Denji has a solid fanbase across social media. Why do you think Chainsaw Man is resonating with readers?
ALEXIS KIRSCH: I think we might be in a place in the industry where a lot of English-reading fans have been into manga long enough that they could be getting a little bored of certain recurring elements in Shonen Jump manga. This must be a challenge for a creator as well. Do you target a new fan who has just discovered manga? How will someone who has read thousands of volumes react to that series? Chainsaw Man doesn’t really seem to be inspired or similar to any other series that have come before it. Or at least, it’s pulling from a wide variety of things, rather than just what is popular. This makes it really fresh and helps it stand out. The series also somehow manages to be very simple and yet deep. Some chapters have very little text and yet we often see large discussions sprout up every week.
BUT WHY THO: Who is your favorite character in the series and why?
ALEXIS KIRSCH: I think we need to give Makima her due here. This is a very complex character. I don’t want to spoil the latest developments, but I have really enjoyed reading fan comments each week and how they’ve jumped around from people loving her to hating her and then loving her again. This is a series with a strong supporting cast, even though all of them seem to get killed off… Power is another favorite and I hope we see more from her in the future!
BUT WHY THO: The amount of manga that American readers have access to through the Shonen Jump subscription is immense! Do you have any particular favorites in the catalog right now?
ALEXIS KIRSCH: Yes, I tried to count all the chapters and I think it’s over 15,000. Might be closer to 20,000 now as we add a bunch every week. If you like Chainsaw Man, you have to check out Fujimoto Sensei’s previous series, Fire Punch. If you thought Chainsaw Man was insane…whoa! It’s not a Shonen Jump series, so it is much more gruesome and mature. So keep that in mind. You also might never be the same after you read it. I’ve warned you!
For a more light-hearted story, Hikaru no Go is one of my all-time favorites. It’s about a young boy who pursues the ancient board game of Go after being possessed by the spirit of a Go master from centuries ago. The story-telling and characters are wonderful and it’s definitely worth a read. There are a lot of hidden treasures in our Manga Vault just waiting to be discovered. And there’s great variety too, so there should be something that appeals to anyone!
If you’re looking for a new series to pick up, Chainsaw Man is the perfect way to start October right. With over 80 chapters of the series already available in English on the Shonen Jump App and over 15,000 chapters of other manga, there is a lot to dive into, and we hope you start.
Chainsaw Man Volume 1 is available from booksellers October 6, 2020 and you can purchase through our affiliate link here,
Kate is co-founder, EIC, and CCO of BWT. She’s also a Certified Rotten Tomatoes Critic, host, and creator of our flagship podcast, But Why Tho?. She also manages all PR relationships for comics, manga, film, TV, and anime. She has an MA in Cultural Anthropology and Religious Studies focusing on how pop culture impacts society.