With the upcoming Resident Evil 4 remake looming ever closer, fans may be looking for something to whet their appetites with. Given Resident Evil 4‘s unique identity, it’s often hard to find media that matches what the third-person shooter delivers. Narratively, it rides a delicate line between shocking horror and camp comedy in a way that doesn’t seem like it would work on paper, but in execution gives the game a voice all of its own.
There aren’t many other video games that successfully pull off RE4’s mix of tones although some like Lollipop Chainsaw and other games in the Resident Evil series have tried. For all their effort, though, games going for a similar feeling as Resident Evil 4 tend to miss the mark in one way or another whether that’s due to a lack of solid horror moments or self-aware camp from a writing perspective. This has made recommending things similar to RE4 to people who are looking for more sort of tricky. Other than a small handful of other pieces of media like Evil Dead 2, finding a good recommended companion piece for the game is a difficult task.
That is, with one exception: Chainsaw Man.
Chainsaw Man is a manga originating on the pages of Weekly Shonen Jump magazine that took the world by storm when its first chapter was published in March 2019. The manga just saw its highly anticipated anime adaptation debut earlier this week and, given the overwhelmingly positive reception to the first episode, seems to be poised to explode in popularity as its first season continues its release schedule.
Chainsaw Man is the story of a 16-year-old boy named Denji who gets possessed by a demon giving him the power to grow chainsaws out of his arms and face in order to fight other demons to keep Japan safe. If that sounds a little wacky and over-the-top, that’s because it is. Similar to Resident Evil 4, Chainsaw Man is packed full of intentionally bizarre concepts and camp comedy that give the entire narrative a level of endearing self-awareness. On top of that, Chainsaw Man also frequently pivots to chilling moments of effective horror that tonally put it right next to RE4.
While Chainsaw Man might not reach the extreme heights of randomness that Resident Evil 4 does what with the game’s boss fight against a giant mech recreation of a child dressed as Napoleon and other similarly hard-to-explain-unless-you’re-playing-it moments, it still manages to invoke the tone of the game. Moments like a demon stopping its narratively hefty rampage in order to sit down at a burger joint for a quick bite to eat or when two characters make a game out of kicking one of the antagonists in the junk feel like scenes that could be fit into Resident Evil 4 without anyone batting an eye.
Resident Evil 4 isn’t just about camp and horror, however. Part of what made it so revolutionary at the time was the way that it mixed the survival horror roots of the Resident Evil series with action so fluidly. It has excellent pacing because it’s not a constant barrage of action set pieces; instead, it has a nice ebb and flow to the way it dishes out its most bombastic moments.
Pacing issues tend to be rather common in anime and manga as different story arcs wrap up and others begin, but Chainsaw Man avoids most of the common genre pitfalls by giving readers a chapter or two of emotionally driven downtime with its characters in between its high-octane chainsaw battles. While pacing in a video game and a comic book takes two completely different forms, both RE4 and Chainsaw Man give their audiences enough time to establish normalcy before throwing them headfirst into new unnerving locations and bombastic action set pieces.
There is one major difference between Resident Evil 4 and Chainsaw Man, however: Chainsaw Man has an emotionally resonant story in a way that RE4 simply doesn’t. That’s not to say that Resident Evil 4‘s story isn’t compelling or doesn’t have great moments, but Leon Kennedy’s saga isn’t a complexly written story with highly emotional beats. The game’s premise is simple and, although there are plenty of twists and turns in the plot, it’s really intended to serve as a backdrop for the actual game mechanics.
Chainsaw Man‘s initial premise is also simple, but as the story goes on, it starts to unravel into a web of more complicated narrative turns that reveal the deeper emotions of the entire cast. While the narrative can be both silly and scary all at once, it tells a profoundly deep story about love, loss, and what it means to grow. As excellent as RE4 is in so many different areas, in terms of the narrative, it doesn’t hold much of a candle to Chainsaw Man‘s sympathetic and unlikely set of heroes.
There’s a lot of shared DNA between Resident Evil 4 and Chainsaw Man in regard to their tone and overall vibe, but neither covers the same beats giving each a completely unique identity from both one another as well as from other entries in their respective mediums. The only true shared concepts are both titles’ love for chainsaws and the devastating damage that they can do.
Resident Evil 4 is set to release on March 24, 2023, so while you wait for it, give Chainsaw Man a try. Its anime adaptation just started rolling out weekly episodes, but if you can’t wait that long, there are over 100 chapters to read either digitally or in paperback manga.
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