The Saitama Chainsaw Massacre by Hiroshi Sakurazaka from Hanzai Japan

hanzai japan reviewed by Renee Asher Pickup

Hiroshi Sakurazaka’s story The Saitama Chainsaw Massacre opens with the refrain:

I love Takumi.
I love Takumi.
I love Takumi.
I love Takumi more than anyone. I love Takumi so much I could die. I love him more than anyone in the whole world.

It seems to stand in contrast to the title promising blood and gore, but Sakurazaka delivers on both. The lyrical quality of the prose is reinforced as we go through the story with Fumio, the brokenhearted girl intent on wreaking havoc with a chainsaw.

Fumio’s story weaves between chainsaw horror, surrealism, and science fiction. As Fumio tears through her high school with a chainsaw her detached narration is still enticing due to Sakurasaka’s use of repetition and the incredibly relatable feeling of being dumped and abandoned by a good friend in the same day. The story jumps around quite a bit and sometimes this is a hindrance but fun things like Fumio’s recollection of her grandfather’s dubious history of chainsaw fighting add a certain amount of charm to the story, that helps level out the blood and gore. Other details, like her best friend’s belief in past lives and alien control are clever set ups to keep the reader on their toes.

Fumio’s single-minded mission – to kill Takumi and herself, no matter what, blinds her to the reality that something is amiss at her high school. Though to be fair to our narrator, it might be hard to take in minute details while lopping your favorite teacher’s head off with grandpa’s chainsaw. The clues we get come mostly from the friend, and her quirks and odd beliefs about her friendship with Fumio make it hard to parse what is reliable.

The story makes incredible use of the unreliable narrator, especially paired with unreliable secondary characters. It’s easy to believe Fumio would miss these details because her tunnel vision is believable and real. The story does get bogged down at points with elements that are never fully resolved and there are parts of the ending that feel a little cheap, but overall it’s a fun story with a lot more heart than I expected from something with “Chainsaw Massacre” in the title. The connection the reader forms with Fumio is enough to forgive some of the lesser elements of the story and root for her in what turns out to be an amazing final battle.

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