Fan-Favorite ‘Chainsaw Man’ Character Was Inspired By ‘South Park’s Eric Cartman
Plus, some Adventure Time influence?!
MAPPA’s adaptation of Tatsuki Fujimoto’s Chainsaw Man has been one of the most highly anticipated anime in an absolutely stellar season. I, for one, have been converted completely. MAPPA is treating the series with the same amount of love that fans been showing for years. It’s dark, it’s funny, it’s absurd, it’s gritty. And, arguably, its best character was inspired by South Park‘s Eric Cartman.
Screen Rant did us all a favor by digging up a Reddit thread from a year ago. The Reddit thread, in turn, features a translation of an interview Fujimoto reportedly did in early 2020. Given the ascendency of Chainsaw Man‘s anime, and the fandom coalescing around Power in particular (cough), one line stuck out in particular:
I draw inspiration from works that I love. For example, in Chainsaw Man the character of Power evokes Eric Cartman from South Park, a series that I adore.
Chainsaw Man regularly references Western media, a fact celebrated at length in the anime’s OP. So it’s not totally surprising that Fujimoto would reference South Park. It’s also not surprising in the sense that, once this idea is presented to you (and it was presented to me while I was cosplaying as Power), it takes about five seconds of reflection to realize this parallel makes a lot of sense.
I adore Power for many reasons. Among them is that we don’t really get a lot of female characters like Power, in anime or manga or Western film/TV, either. Power’s just as strong as the guys. She’s also highly impulsive, thinks exclusively about herself, has no filter to stop her from saying something ridiculous or insensitive, and is a vehicle for absurdism. Granted, Power does undergo some personal growth, but you know who that totally sounds like? Eric freaking Cartman. As someone who used South Park as a release from my otherwise goody-two-shoes conduct during my childhood, I love this.
Fujimoto continued on and reframed the parallel in a different way: “I’m not trying to abruptly change the turn of my story, or break the rhythm, by injecting humor. My change of tone comes first and foremost through the intervention of a ‘disruptive’ character.” The disruptive character in Chainsaw Man is definitely Power. Cartman often achieves the same affect in South Park. Makes a lot of sense, right?
Before we move on here, I need you to know something else, because it made my heart explode. Fujimoto also said that he “tried to recapture, with Denji/Pochita, the same relational dynamic as Finn and Jake from Adventure Time.” So now I know why I’m obsessed with the Denji/Pochita dynamic and why every scene with the two of them makes me melt into a puddle. Pochita forever, Pochita for life.
Is South Park Or Adventure Time Popular In Japan?
Upon hearing this, you might have a follow-up question: how popular is South Park, or Adventure Time for that matter, in Japan? And the answer to both is: not popular at all.
I have a Japanese friend who loves American shows like Adventure Time and Steven Universe. When we first met, she was thrilled to have someone to talk to those shows about. She explained that she had no one to talk about American cartoons with in Japan and was the only person she knew that watched Adventure Time (even though the Japanese dub has the same VO for Edward Elric playing Finn, which is choice).
However, during my first visit in 2016, I did see some Adventure Time merch in otaku hubs like Akihabara and Nakano. Apparently there was a cafe pop-up at the Ikebukuro Animate in 2015, where you could even meet Finn and Jake. This pop-up was seemingly met with surprise, though. So there are some fans like my friend, but they’re few and far between.
On the other hand, it seems like South Park has a healthy niche following. That being said, and tangential as it is, I have never, ever seen a South Park reference during my travels in Japan: not in the depths of otaku treasure-hunting, not at Shibuya Halloween, not at the Ikebukuro Cosplay Festival. I’d also be fascinated to watch a Japanese dub of South Park, because the Japanese language doesn’t have a visceral swear word which hits quite like “fuck” or “goddamn” or “shit” and is built to be indirect. Especially “shit” in the South Park sense. (This hit me while I was watching Nope with Japanese subtitles and couldn’t stop thinking how kind the Japanese language was compared to the on-screen English. Now imagine that, but with South Park.)
I mention all this to impress upon you a small distinction. As ubiquitous as saying that South Park or Adventure Time inspired a piece of media would be for an American creator, that’s absolutely not the case in Japan. It’s not common in the slightest. Which makes the sentence “Power is inspired by Eric Cartman” even more striking. That sentence gives me a lot of joy.
Now I’ll just wait for the South Park episode in which Cartman gets convinced he deserves a Nobel Prize.
(featured image: MAPPA)
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