“I’m gonna get rid of your bullying problem. Don’t come to school tomorrow.”
This was a somewhat chilling turn of events. Chainsaw Man Volume 13 continues to pick up on the bullying angle surrounding the new heroine, Asa Mitaka. Friendship is magic, but it wears off when you’re trying too hard to save a friend who you can’t really save.
Volume 13 starts off with Denji doing all kinds of silly stuff to pass the time while plotting to reveal his identity as Chainsaw Man in grand fashion. When Denji declared that he wanted a girl who looks desperate to date, Yoshida decides to hook Denji up with Asa. Both Denji and Asa would argue about Chainsaw Man and his merits/flaws. Denji reveals himself as Chainsaw Man in a cocky manner and Asa doesn’t believe him. Asa would later visit her new friend in the Devil Hunter Club, Yuko, and things start to become tense once they get into the act of sharing personal secrets.
Asa said she peed herself one time during class and couldn’t tell anyone in school, but Yuko tops Asa by revealing to her that she killed her neighbor for gambling on pachinko despite being on disability welfare. Yuko tells Asa that she signed a contract with the Justice Devil in order to kill all of Asa’s bullies. Yoru, the War Devil persona inside Asa, tells Asa that they will take out Yuko to possibly draw out Chainsaw Man. The two would fight all out in school with 4 casualties as a result. Denji even shows up to out himself to kill the Justice Devil and claim fame for it. However, Yuko mysterious disappears after the fight ends.
We later found out that Yuko herself was bullied and that she arguably made a contract with the Justice Devil to get back at bullying. She was described as someone who was mentally weak. Yuko re-appears in front of Asa’s place and reveals the main reason why she made a contract with a Devil. She wanted to have friends and be famous like Chainsaw Man. Yuko never had a real friend and felt that Asa would like her if she killed her bullies.
Unfortunately, Yuko is killed and her desire for connection cost her everything. When I think of Yuko, I think of the times where I felt that I had to do certain things to get people’s attention. I recall moments in my younger days where I reveal geek goods in front of strangers who happen to love the same stuff I did in order to get their attention. Yes, it’s cringe as hell, but I had a sense of invalidation that plagued me through most of my early adulthood. I think I wanted to make as many geek friends as possible to overcome my insecurity over not being loved enough.
It’s also chilling to see deaths at a school given various violent incidents in real life, but I do think it’s a look at the psyche of when a bullied person becomes the bully themselves.
Yes, friendships can save lives and prevent violent incidents for that matter. It’s been proven that having a support system of great friends does wonders for mental health. Unfortunately, they’re not easy to make and it’s harder to build them to a comfort level where both parties benefit from it. Getting to that comfort level is the tricky part. For people like Yuko (and Denji and Asa) for that matter, they struggle with that greatly due to their own traumas and anxiety.
I do think the bigger point to make is that there’s too much emphasis on romance than friendship. Denji’s desperation for love overrides the need for friendship (even though he has somewhat of a good reason to think that if you remember what happened in Part 1). Yuko’s lack of knowledge on how to make friends was partly due to the lack of meaningful friendship advice in her early childhood. The end of the volume illustrates how “romance over friendship” can get dangerous as Asa decides to ask Denji out on a date in order to turn him into a weapon against Chainsaw Man even though she doesn’t know that Denji is him.
Chainsaw Man Volume 13 basically shows the absurdity of people trying way too hard to get connection in any way possible. It’s hard to blame them due to poor mental health caused by various circumstances outside of one’s control. To piggyback off of Yuko’s justice motif, maybe the right thing to do is to ensure people who struggle with relationships that they don’t need to impress someone all the time to get the intimacy they truly need.