Acting on your own selfish feelings versus your sense of moral value—that’s the constant moral quandary that Tatsuki Fujimoto has inflected upon the readers with the beginning of this new arc.
Asa Mitaka, an ordinary high school student at the ripe teenage age where it sets up your adult years for success or failure. One of the most important parts of your life is building a foundation of your own morality & ethics—that’s slowly shaped by the authorities in your household and by all of your negative & positive experiences. By chapter 102, we get a general understanding of who and what kind of person Asa wants to become. By the time she technically dies and becomes a fiend with the War Devil, she utters some very important statements in her last moments including, “I’d tried living just a little more selfishly.”
This sets up a character in Asa, potentially becoming the replacement for many characters the story lost in the previous arc. Is she the replacement for Power & Aki or is she the next big villain like Makima? Or is she going to be something completely different?
Asa’s Morality Told Through Bucky
What we do know about Asa is that her parents got eaten by a devil, noted in chapter 98, causing her to have a strong resentment towards devils. Bucky, the headless chicken-like devil that Tanaka Sensei uses to teach the students an important lesson in valuing life, befriends all of her classmates. One day, Bucky shows compassion for Asa and asks her to join the other students by her name. Asa, realizing that she’s been jealous and wanted to actually fit in the whole time, runs towards the other students in excitement with Bucky in her hands—only to clumsily fall over, crushing all of the classmates’ new devil friend, as its been her life theme to fall over in every bad situation.
As the class president and Tanaka Sensei take a walk to pay respects to Bucky’s grave, it turns out that the class president is actually the Justice Devil that has been sleeping with Tanaka Sensei the whole time. In the class president’s jealousy towards Asa catching the attention of Tanaka Sensei, she reveals her devil form to kill Asa. In Asa’s remaining last thoughts, she comes to many realizations. She’d rather live a “more selfish life” and understands that other people can be jealous too.
This is when the War Devil appears and takes Asa’s corpse, thus turning Asa into a fiend. The War Devil displays her ability to turn “things that she owns” into weapons. Essentially, turning Tanaka Sensei into a sword to kill the Justice Devil.
While this event is very significant to the backstory of how Asa and the War Devil became a fiend, it marks the beginning of the moral quandary that Asa most constantly go through now that she is permanently attached to this other sinister entity that requires her to sacrifice people, in order to get stronger.
Yuko, Being a Good Friend
Through the War Devil’s will a.k.a. Yoru, Asa agrees to join the Devil Hunter’s club at school, in order to go to war to kill Chainsaw Man. Once in the club, she befriends a fellow club member in Yuko. Asa gets all of these flashbacks of the “Bucky situation” and her sadness over not fitting in and ruining her social image has her uneasy, culminating with her “raw meat” shoes sitting in her locker. Now that she’s walking around shoeless, Yuko eventually sets her up with some new fresh kicks that’s representative of what a good empathetic friend would do.
Yuko is the first character after the “Bucky situation” that really does become a good friend to Yuko. Like the feeling of when Bucky tried to include her in the social activities, Yuko helps ease Asa’s negative outlook.
They bond some more and Yuko reveals that she joined the Devil Hunters Club because she “wants to become a Devil Hunter.” Eventually, they decide to head out to hunt some devils to the avoid the bullies at school.
The War Devil’s Powers
What we learn from the relationship that Asa builds with Yuko is that “the guiltier you feel about creating a weapon, the more powerful it will be,” stemming from the War Devil’s ability to create weapons that “is hers.”
Coming off an arc where Makima’s mystery of the Control Devil’s powers wowed readers towards the end—in the beginning of this arc, we seem to know all the essential abilities that the antagonist, the War Devil can do. If we go with the metaphor that the “Control Devil” is government related, it makes sense to continue that metaphor with the “War Devil.” Turning people into your weapons that you deem are “yours,” is totally an evil government thing to do.
Honestly, the War Devil’s ability to create a stronger weapon by feeling guiltier could have worked in reverse. The less guiltier you feel, the more powerful your weapons could become, fitting that government metaphor.
However, the War Devil wouldn’t need to turn into a fiend. So, it makes perfect sense to find a human that has enough of a guilty conscious of hurting others, but still have what it takes to actually sacrifice someone—alluding to Asa’s inner conflict with acting out her selfish motivations. That’s what makes this relationship and balance between Asa and Yoru so intriguing. It’s going to be a constant tug of war between these two as we’ll see later on.
All in all, the War Devil’s powers really does fit that government analogy quite well. Having no remorse for throwing away “what’s yours” just fits the government analogy perfectly.
Asa’s Morality Gets Tested
Since Yoru and Asa are now “fiend bonded” and Yoru IS Asa, she knows Asa’s true feelings regarding the death of Bucky. In chapter 101, Yoru confronts Asa’s true feelings, in regards to when she accidentally killed Bucky. Yoru states “You aren’t sorry for killing Bucky. You’re sorry that you were seen killing Bucky.”
Facing a devil that Asa cannot defeat and seeing a wounded Yuko on the ground, this leads to Asa’s biggest test yet—being forced to choose between the lines of “selfishness” or “doing the right thing.” Kill Yuko to create a weapon or try to save her?
Asa and Yoru have kind of the “angel & devil on the shoulder” trope going on. Except, Asa only has a devil on her shoulder telling her what to do. Having the War Devil’s abilities, she’s going to be constantly clashing with her own morals and values when danger appears.
Asa then flashbacks to a very profound statement that Yuko said, as she gives Asa her shoes, “if my heart was in the right place, that’s all that matters to me!”
This statement resolves all the inner conflict she’s had with all the traumatic and bitter social experiences she’s had in life. Being ditzy, falling over, being responsible for people’s deaths; even after all of these negative experiences, her heart was always in the right place. By picking Yuko up and running away, Asa chooses NOT to turn her into a weapon.
Remember that “the deeper the guilt, the stronger the weapon.” The more Asa builds strong relationships with characters, the guilt she’ll feel if she ever has to sacrifice them, would be incredibly powerful. This sets us up for an epic betrayal at some point.
In Asa’s first real hero-like resolve, she chooses to save her classmate rather than sacrifice her for her own survival. This doesn’t change the fact that Asa is too weak to deal with the devil herself, she gets close to being chomped by the Cockroach Devil’s jaw. In climatic fashion, Denji as Chainsaw Man, makes his epic return to save Asa & Yuko!
The Return of Denji as Chainsaw Man!
Like Asa being forced to save herself or sacrifice her classmate, Denji has to choose between a car filled with “old grannies and geezers” or a “young student with a bright future.” Of course, Denji chooses something that was not offered for saving and that’s a cat—reminiscent of when Denji helped saved Power’s cat.
In a goodie too-shoes kind of story, the hero saves the old people, the teenager and the cat. In reality, there are many circumstances that we MUST choose one direction, where there are negative consequences with either decision. Denji’s decision to save the cat is epically simple, whereas Asa struggles to make the moral decision. This shows Denji’s hilarious practicality and acceptance of his decision, contrasting Asa’s inner conflict that she hasn’t come to terms with until this very moment against the Cockroach Devil.
Denji’s fight scene against the Cockroach Devil was pretty satirical. It takes on the “you must choose between two things dilemma” with each decision resulting in negative consequences. There’s just so much truth to those situations where most people will struggle like Asa did, but not Denji.
Asa is quickly becoming a very relatable and likeable character. Morality, sacrifice and war, these are are all metaphorical elements to Asa’s character that makes for a compelling start of this new arc. The War Devil’s powers deriving from the strength of Asa’s guilt, has to be one of the most interesting dynamics to pay attention to because it only makes sense that Asa will eventually sacrifice someone. But, who will it be?
Asa aside, it’s going to be interesting to see how Denji, Kishibe, Nayuta and many other characters that are on the sidelines be intertwined with Asa & Yoru. All we know is that Yoru wants to duke it out with Chainsaw Man. What’s the grander story here?
This arc is certainly building up to becoming another special story. If you are liking Asa and the War Devil up until this point, the chances are increasing that we’re going to get another entertainingly wild ride. Denji’s hilarious splash return whips us back into Chainsaw Man shape, as we should be getting a healthy balance between something serious, gory and funny.