Denji gives a peace sign in 'Chainsaw Man'
(MAPPA)

Denji’s Age Was a Shock to ‘Chainsaw Man’ Viewers and Characters Alike

Shounen manga are typically center themselves around teenage male protagonists, but that’s not a hard-and-fast rule. Kaiju No. 8‘s Kafka, for example, is 32 years old. Hugely popular series like Gintama, Cowboy Bebop, One-Punch Man, and Sakamoto Days feature protagonists in their 20s. So a shounen hero doesn’t necessarily have to be 16 or 18.

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Enter Denji, the protagonist of Chainsaw Man. When we first meet him, he’s living a life completely devoid of the usual age markers. He’s forced to work off his father’s debt to the yakuza, seemingly never having had the luxury to attend school. Denji quickly gets recruited into becoming a Devil Hunter, which gives him a government-sanctioned job, complete with white-collared shirt and tie. The uniform makes Denji look less like an immature teenager and more like a (still highly immature) adult.

We’re never told Denji’s age until tens of chapters / several episodes into Chainsaw Man. And when we finally learn it, it’s not only a surprise to the reader—it’s a surprise to the characters around him.

I want what’s best for my boy

Denji first reveals his age in Chainsaw Man in the aftermath of the Infinity Devil battle. All the Devil Hunters get together for a work hang at an izakaya (a Japanese bar with lots of small plates for sharing).

But Denji isn’t drinking beer. Denji’s drinking juice. He reveals to his co-workers that he’s 16 years old.

This shocks everybody around him, which gives the viewer license to be shocked, too. Until this moment, I personally thought Denji was in his early twenties. Unlike most teenage shounen heroes, we never see him around parental figures or in some kind of school setting. When we meet Denji, he seems like a working adult trapped in a cycle of poverty. The fact that Denji’s actually the stereotypical age of a shounen protagonist feels like a true reveal.

However, if you’re reading the manga, you know that Chainsaw Man takes place over a healthy amount of time. You know, for instance, that Denji turns 17 near the end of the first saga. No spoilers, I promise.

Denji is still 17 when Chainsaw Man‘s second saga starts up. However, the course of the second saga’s action spans over several months as well. It’s highly likely that, at some point, Denji will turn—or already has turned—18.

In other words, since he lives in Japan, someone can legally buy him that beer.


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Author
Kirsten Carey
Kirsten (she/her) is a contributing writer at the Mary Sue specializing in anime and gaming. In the last decade, she's also written for Channel Frederator (and its offshoots), Screen Rant, and more. In the other half of her professional life, she's also a musician, which includes leading a very weird rock band named Throwaway. When not talking about One Piece or The Legend of Zelda, she's talking about her cats, Momo and Jimbei.