Nov 26, 2012
Reksho (All reviews)
Complexity comes in many forms. Simplicity comes in maybe more.

Negative Happy Chainsaw Edge is a manga that hinges on an extremely thin thread to drive the story forward. The protagonist – the bored Yamamoto – borders on being so plain that forgetting his face in the next chapter can be a normal occurrence. However, he one day meets a large man with a chainsaw in the middle of battling a cute girl complete with a school uniform that has an extremely short skirt with no battle armour whatsoever. And she’s winning. Since Yamamoto is so bored with his life not knowing what to do, he decides to investigate the matter further and tries to talk to this fearless girl called Eri. And with this simple premise the story takes off.

Though the manga tries to portray Yamamoto as a bored young man without direction in his life, it also tries to deepen his personality by having him think about his life in an existential way. He does not know what to do. He does not know who he is. He wants to spice things up by having a goal – any goal – so that he has something to look forward to. And while this could be a chance to make Yamamoto truly excel as a sympathetic character, the story decides to take another turn by having him be involved in a fight between two dubious character that have nothing to do with him. It seems so random but in a way, it works.

The true driving force of this manga is Eri. Like in any relationship between two people meeting each other on a cold night while fighting a guy with a chainsaw, she starts off dismissive towards Yamamoto, not wanting him involved in her situation. But since Yamamoto is so bored, he refuses to walk away because of the adrenaline he felt during the sight of that battle, despite Eri kicking him in the nuts multiple times. In some way or another, Eri and Yamamoto develop a relationship where Eri does the fighting and Yamamoto does the encouraging even though she does not need it. In this strange manner, they grow closer and closer, fulfilling Yamamoto’s need for adrenaline and giving him a purpose to wake up every day and help Eri.

Everything happening from then on seems random and without explanation, and even then the story works. It works because of the strange relationship the two ''fighters'' share, complementing each other. The great thing is that you actually get to see that it develops. Yamamoto ended up in this because of his boredom and even though there seems to be nothing in it on the surface for Eri having Yamamoto meet up with her every day, it becomes slowly apparent that their relationship works because they complement each other so well. It’s just too bad to see that the story takes up so much time setting the context (more than half of the manga) that the real character development happens later on.

See, the writer of this manga decided to just randomly think up of a situation where two strangers meet in a weird way and end up together because their human needs are not so random. Nobody ever heard of a black-robed chain saw man battling a cute girl in the middle of the night. Nobody ever heard of a boy without direction in life deciding to risk that very life of his by accompanying this girl. But even though these situations are so far from reality, the important thing to note is that the context of the story does not matter. It is the elements of character dynamics that make the absurd story work so well in such a way that it’s believable. It is therefore a missed opportunity that the story never goes too deep in the minds of the characters to develop their personalities even further since there is so much potential to do just that.

In terms of art, the drawings are of a decent quality. You will notice the occasional quirk such as weird placement of the eyes on the face or the extremely wide mouths accentuated by thick lips for comical highlighting. But the funny thing is that these are only noticeable when the characters are drawn standing still. When the characters give the impressions of movement, the drawings are very dynamic with action being shouted all over the page. In fact, there are more little details in the drawing of the characters in motion than when they are standing still, where they would need it more. The fan service of the fighting beauty Eri is something that comes up often in the story with panty shots all over the place in the heat of the fight. It could be conceived as a sight worth seeing but ultimately distracts you from the fighting scenes and story while the drawing style isn’t well suited for ecchi anyway (though it gets better later on).

Negative Happy Chainsaw Edge is a manga worth reading if you are into random scenes without explanations all over the place. The premise of the story is simple but can be horribly confusing when trying to make sense of everything because there is no sense to be found in the first place. Despite this, the story slowly comes together towards the end of the manga when character development is at its peak showing a great character dynamic between two strangers of two different worlds. Though there are missed opportunities here and there with the character development being later on in the story and not going further with it than is possible, it is a fun manga with decent art and somewhere deep down a message about direction in life.