Recently, the internet has been abuzz about two anime shows: the MAPPA adaptation of Chainsaw Man and the Cloverworks adaptation of a somewhat obscure manga called Bocchi the Rock, and a lot of people have been discussing it online to the point of arguing which is the better show out of the two even if they’re under different genres.
With that said, I would really like to delve into what sparked this debate on anime internet and how things have kind of escalated from there but first, let’s see the elements involved.
Chainsaw Man is a manga from Tatsuki Fujimoto, author of Fire Punch and known Twitter troll, that was published on Shueisha’s Weekly Shonen Jump from December 2018 to December 2020 with a sequel currently running on Shonen Jump+. Bocchi the Rock, on the other hand, was published on Houbunsha’s Manga Time Kirara MAX on December 2017 and is still running to this day. It is written by Aki Hamaji, whose other work is a part of a collaborative book named Kyonyuu Tights.
One would think that these are two totally different series published in two different magazines that cater to two totally different age groups, so their fanbase shouldn’t even interact with each other so with that, I would say you’re probably right about that but things change when their anime adaptations got announced.
Bocchi’s anime adaptation was announced back in February 2021 and there was little to no fanfare in it. In fact, I can say that the Bocchi anime was doomed from the start because the studio that would animate it is Cloverworks, which was behind the disaster that was Wonder Egg Priority.
Chainsaw Man, on the other hand, already had the hype train that would become associated with a wildly popular series on Shonen Jump, and people have been clamoring for an anime adaptation of this for years. MAPPA heard their prayers and as early as December 2020, they revealed everything on Jump Festa ’21.
One can say that “Chainsaw Man” would be the anime of the season together with other heavyweights like SPY x FAMILY and the return of BLEACH in anime form with MAPPA’s glorious CGI animation (we’ll get to that later) and the fact that it has a solid foundation as the manga was just that popular. Bocchi, on the other hand, has Cloverworks as the studio behind it, and some people haven’t moved on from the Wonder Egg Priority fiasco. Not only that, the Bocchi manga has little to no fanbase outside Japan, so the anime has no leg to stand on.
Things would change by the time both anime adaptations get released.
No one anticipated that Bocchi would be a sleeper hit this anime season. No one anticipated that the Kessoku Band would be standing toe to toe with Ichigo Kurosaki, Anya Forger, and even Suletta Mercury for that matter. I’m not saying that Denji and pals are flopping like fish out of water with their anime but compared to what traction the Kessoku Band is getting, they’re…not being talked about that much.
Let’s take a look as to what sparked such a “heated” debate between the two series’ respective fanbases. Note that this is just a minuscule section of the anime community in general and it doesn’t represent the whole population so compared to the rest of the anime watchers out there, this is as minuscule as it gets. I am just curious about the turn of events that sparked such conversations.
1. The Chainsaw Hype
It goes without saying that in some cases if you overhype something, it loses its luster by the time it gets released and it fails to meet expectations. When the Chainsaw Man anime got released, it was already touted as the anime of the season, long before the first episode got aired.
I, for one, don’t usually follow seasonal anime for this reason: the dust hasn’t settled yet and here we are claiming that this adaptation of a wildly popular shonen manga would take over anime. This kind of thinking would lead to impossible expectations not only from the fanbase but for people who would be new to the series. This happened to Dragon Ball Super, and this happened to a lot of other anime in the past as well.
Take the examples of No Man’s Sky and Cyberpunk 2077, both games were overhyped to hell and back, and when the games got released to the public, they got mixed receptions because the final product didn’t live up to the hype.
I am not saying that the less hyped the anime is, the better. What I am saying is that do not always believe the hype a certain anime gets before release and get ready to have your expectations broken once the finished product comes.
2. Bocchi The (More) Relatable
Before I proceed in this section, I wanted to say something.
Full disclosure, I have only seen four episodes of Bocchi the Rock so far and none of Chainsaw Man. I am, however, a bit familiar with the first part of Chainsaw Man due to seeing the manga getting posted on social media. Take this section of this piece as you will because, at the end of the day, this is just my opinion and not the gospel.
For those who are familiar with both series, the stories of both Chainsaw Man and Bocchi The Rock deal with conflict. Where it differs is what kind of conflict each series would deal with.
While Chainsaw Man would deal with external conflicts like rampant demon outrage (and Denji’s raging hormones for the first arc), Aki Hamaji’s manga would deal with something most people around the world are having problems with: the ability to interact with others.
Most of the anime-watching population who know more than 10 anime aren’t the type of people who would you see be open with others so they would see themselves as Hitori “Bocchi” Gotoh, who just happens to have the same exact problem as they do.
Another thing to consider here is the setting. Bocchi The Rock takes place in 2017 Japan (2022 Japan in the anime) while Chainsaw Man takes place in an alternate version of 1997 wherein the Soviet Union still exists and demons run around and can either kill you or make a deal with you. You don’t see demons running around your hometown, do you?
Kidding aside, a lot of people, especially in the anime community, are either teenagers who are having trouble having the times of their lives or adults who keep having regrets about what they haven’t done or experienced back in high school that they always think about “what-ifs”. This is where BTR’s “seishun complex” comes in and no, it’s not just the name of its banger of an opening song.
To understand what “seishun complex” really is, we must go deep into Japanese culture, specifically, Japanese youth culture.
The term seishun in and on itself has its roots in adolescence. In contemporary Japanese, seishun literally means “youth” or “adolescence” but in the past, it would also mean spring, age, or the passage of time. In the context of anime, an anime can be considered “seishun anime” when the whole story revolves around the trials and tribulations of its characters, mostly those who are in junior to senior high school.
Hitori Gotoh and the Kessoku Band are part of a seishun anime.
This is where the term “seishun complex” comes in. Bocchi suffers from withdrawal when topics such as school, friends, and other youth-related stuff get brought up in normal conversation and in reality, there are people who are like Bocchi.
There are adults who get Vietnam War-tier flashbacks when talking about memories about their adolescence and in some cases, those experiences shape up what they are right now. On the flip side of the coin, there are people who are currently undergoing adolescence and they find themselves not fitting in to “society” that is high school and thus have a hard time working on their social skills. Thus, both sides see themselves in Bocchi who is exactly like them and they can see that, just like Bocchi, they can still make friends and develop themselves into useful members of society.
I am not saying that the world of Chainsaw Man is not relatable at all to the people who watch them because there are people who get entangled with the dregs of society in real life and while you don’t see literal demons in the physical realm, a person can still fight demons that reside in one’s head like porn addiction. What I am saying here is that Bocchi The Rock is somewhat more relatable to the general anime-watching audience than Chainsaw Man with how it resonates with the people in the anime community and the problems they deal with, thus being the sleeper hit that no one expects.
You can learn more about seishun here and here.
3. Realism vs Art
A point of contention that would be in Chainsaw Man’s favor is the animation style both MAPPA and Cloverworks used for their specific adaptations.
MAPPA opted for getting CSM as realistic as it gets by using a mix of slick 2D animation that has been their trademark since the third season of Attack on Titan and computer-generated graphics or CGI for short. Cloverworks would go the other way and go crazy with their artistic liberties that it starts to resemble the first FLCL anime.
This is where deviation from the source material comes into play as well. MAPPA played the safe route and decided to go super clean with the anime with its visuals, so much so that there is a subset of anime fans who still have an axe to grind with MAPPA (and rightfully so but that’s for another time) that they almost compared it to the visual trash that Netflix and Lidenfilms put out on compared to Tatsuki Fujimoto’s raw, sketch-like art style that gave the manga the visuals people love in the first place.
Cloverworks is not known for super fluid animation or art styles. In fact, it’s like your dime-a-dozen animation studios like Toei’s animation wing or Studio Pierrot. Their adaptation of Bocchi The Rock differs not only from the source material but with their other works like the Fate Grand Order shorts and My Dress Up Darling.
The variety of animation techniques Cloverworks used to bring BTR’s 4-koma panels to TV sets it apart from other anime this season that some scenes from the anime have already found a second life in the meme world, such as the GIF of Bocchi getting seizures on the ground you see on the previous section.
With that said, Cloverworks went above and beyond with the artistic liberties they were given for Bocchi The Rock and that immensely helped the show’s popularity but not that much that it turns into Doraemon 1973. Chainsaw Man, on the other hand, is a hit-and-miss when it comes to visuals and it is just not because MAPPA used CGI in some scenes. MAPPA is also animating 3-5 anime titles at this point thus the studio’s attention is divided between this, Jujutsu Kaisen, Attack on Titan, and Yuri on Ice, and with divided attention comes to a somewhat subpar product compared to the hype it got during the announcement.
Why am I covering this you ask? We all know that your taste in anime is not a testament to who you are as a person and people shouldn’t judge others by what they watch yadda yadda yadda but I just find it interesting that two shows, from two different genres, which cater to two different sets of audiences would clash with each other on the internet because…popularity reasons and bragging rights.
I just wanted to dig a bit deeper into what drives the fanbase of one show to go fight the other show’s fanbase and see what goes into their mind to do such and what made “the anime of the year” bow down to some cute girls doing cute things anime that has little to no promotion outside Japan and what made said “cute girls doing cute things anime” be the sleeper hit of this anime season.
That is all. I still have Lupin Zero to watch together with Bocchi.
One thought on “The Chainsaw Man – Bocchi The Rock Fanbase (Pseudo)Feud”
I was planning on watching Bocchi the Rock after I get back home. Chainsaw Man on the other hand… it looks like a ridiculous concept but I guess anything goes in fiction.