Chainsaw Man Episode 12 Delivers A Satisfying Conclusion And Anime's Best Tournament Arc

The first season of "Chainsaw Man" was one of the most anticipated releases of the year, posed as the likeliest successor to the edgy, violent "Attack on Titan" — but with a healthy dash of dumb humor. Now that the season has ended, it's hard to argue against Studio Mappa's adaptation of Tatsuki Fujimoto's manga delivering on fans' expectations, delivering energetic animation, great voice acting, and some stunning visual choices that shine a light on the author's cinematic influences.

Episode 12, in many ways, feels like an archetypical season finale for an action shonen anime. You've got callbacks to big emotional moments from earlier in the season, a character finding the emotional courage to beat the bad guy, a giant action scene wherein our hero gets a power-up, a tease into the next big arc, and even a tournament arc — sort of.

We start with Aki, who thinks back to the time Himeno first offered him a cigarette, an easy addiction to forget about the cruelty of the world and the job. When she realizes he is actually underaged, she takes the cigarette back and saves it until the day Aki would become old enough.

So, it is an emotional gut-punch when we flash back into the present and the Ghost Devil Aki is fighting stops and offers him the very same cigarette Himeno kept all those years — one with a cool "FLCL" reference. Empowered by the reminder of his mentor and friend, Aki decapitates the Ghost Devil, and beats Sawatari with the help of Kobeni, who only decided to stay with Public Safety because bonuses are coming up soon.

With the Snake Devil out of commission, it's time for Chainsaw to face Katana again.

Chainsaw meets Katana

Sure, some manga fans may scoff at the anime skipping Power fighting the zombies, but watching her so confidently declare that the next Prime Minister is going to destroy the zombie army while assuring that Denji would cover her back immediately before he backtracks and leaves her behind is way funnier and more effective.

This leads to the climactic final confrontation between Chainsaw Man and Katana Man (technically Samurai Sword, but who cares, because Katana Man is cooler). Katana Man tries to convince Denji to give up and die, but not before apologizing for killing Katana Man's grandfather — you know, the murderous yakuza that turned into a zombie and tried to kill Denji. When our dumb but lovable idiot refuses, they throw themselves out of the building and onto a moving train where we get one of the best fights of the season.

Better yet, the fight between katana and chainsaw continues the show's cinematic visual influences by drawing heavily from Sam Raimi's "Spider-Man 2" and its train fight scene. Indeed, the whole scene feels like one giant superhero movie, from the action choreography to the look of the impact frames and the cutting away to bystanders, to the wide angles showing the scale of the battleground.

Though things look bad at first for our Denji, the boy is not the same weakling he was a few episodes ago, he's been training with anime Mads Mikkelsen. So, in a scene that proves you should never skip leg day, Denji gets his first anime power-up and pulls a chainsaw out of his leg, which he uses to literally split Katana Man in two.

The Nut Devil returns!

Having defeated the villain, and in a rare moment of triumphant celebration, Denji decides to host a little tournament and compete with Aki to see who can get Katana Man to scream the loudest — by kicking him in the nuts.

That's right, the Nut Devil Returns! In a moment of poetic beauty, we come full circle. "Chainsaw Man" began its debut season with Denji talking about selling one of his nuts, and it ends with him and Aki bonding as anime besties over kicking the crap out of some other dude's nuts.

It's a scene so beautiful it gets Aki to cry, as he declares his desire to make a symphony with Katana Man's screams so good, Himeno would hear it in heaven. This is a requiem on the same level as the one in "Hunter x Hunter," a tournament for the ages, and the perfect way to end this chapter in the story of "Chainsaw Man."

It's the small pleasures in life

After the decisive victory, we get more ending scenes than a "Lord of the Rings" movie, starting with a catch-up with Makima, who explains that they did get more pieces of Gun Devil flesh off the yakuza that aided Katana Man. Now, the chunk of flesh is big enough that it is moving towards the Gun Devil, meaning Public Safety can finally begin its next operation.

I've mentioned before that, beyond the cool action scenes and the hilariously gross visual gags, Studio MAPPA's adaptation of "Chainsaw Man" is at its best when it adds some slice-of-life moments of mundanity to the chaotic story. We get another one of those in the finale, during the very last ending theme, performed by Eve. 

It's the perfect way to cap off the season, with a sequence of Aki, Denji, and Power just going about their day like normal people, like the little family they've slowly become — going to the supermarket, strolling down the park, eating and drinking, all before the two devils pass out and Aki heads to the balcony to finally smoke the cigarette Himeno wanted to give him all those years prior. Few shows, especially action shonen shows, would dedicate this long of a scene to a quiet moment of a character smoking a cigarette without interrupting it with a fight or a joke, but that's the beauty of "Chainsaw Man." 

One of the reasons this manga resonated so much with viewers is that millennial author Tatsuki Fujimoto truly understands and captures the feeling of despair young people feel, and he argues over and over that we should hang onto the small pleasures in life. Whether it's friends, coworkers, random people you are forced to share your time with, or just a lucky cigarette, you do what you gotta do to make life less miserable.