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Does Chainsaw Man's My Hero Academia Cameo Make Him Canon In The Universe?

Cameos, love them or hate them; they sometimes are the only way of making two universes ever come together — often for the sake of rewarding fans who have the keenest eye. In anime, little Easter eggs are more common than full individual character cameos, but they aren't nonexistent. In "Full Metal Panic," four "Death Note" characters (L, Light, Misa, and Mr. Yagami) all show up in a very brief shot. In "Death Parade," Light can also be seen sitting on a sofa waiting for his turn to be judged by an arbiter.

These types of cameos are often just recompenses to the attentive viewer and do not usually hold any deeper meaning. It may be up to each individual audience member to decide if, for them, the different anime worlds are actually one and the same. One such case which got fans scratching their heads happened in Chapter 259 of Kohei Horikoshi's "My Hero Academia."

Chapter 259 and the start of the war

Chapter 259 takes place at the beginning of what is known as the "Paranormal Liberation War Arc," one of the most intense arcs in Horikoshi's shonen series. The TV adaptation of this arc is present in "My Hero Academia" Season 6 which premiered its first episode, "A Quiet Beginning," on October 1, 2022.

In this long and action-packed arc, the side of the Heroes and UA students clash with the villains' Paranormal Liberation Front; led by Shigaraki Tomura (Kōki Uchiyama) who is, at the beginning of the arc, in a comatose-like state as his body is altered and tampered with by the wicked Dr. Kyudai Garaki (Minoru Inaba).

In Chapter 259, we see nearly everyone from the heroes' side as they are gathered in waiting to start their high-stakes operation. On one of the frontlines, as illustrated on a full page in the chapter, we can see heroes like Edgeshot (Kenta Kamakari), Mt. Lady (Kaori Nazuka), Gang Orca (Shuhei Matsuda), Kamui Woods (Masamichi Kitada), Midnight (Akeno Watanabe), Cementos (Kenta Ōkuma), Fat Gum (Kazuyuki Okitsu), and Tamaki Amajiki (Yūto Uemura).

Where's Denji?

Many fans who read this chapter noticed how, drawn behind Fat Gum's right shoulder, is a "hero" who had not appeared before in Horikoshi's work, but is nevertheless highly recognizable.

The protagonist of Tatsuki Fujimoto's "Chainsaw Man," Denji, can be seen drawn in his Chainsaw Devil form on that same page. This might have made some fans wonder whether the Devil Hunter could possibly be canon in Horikoshi's universe. However, that is unlikely, as both series' supernatural power systems are distinct and incompatible — not to mention the difference in nature of both manga and their genres. "Chainsaw Man" is a far more graphic and gorier shonen than "My Hero Academia," and has its superpowers based on the Devils birthed out of human fears, rather than on innate quirks. Nevertheless, it may be up to each fan to decide if they want to view Denji's inclusion in the chapter as a sign that, someway, somehow, he is a part of the world and ready to kick some villains' butts.

"Imagine if this will be Denji's first appearance in anime format as well," commented Redditor u/haterchris at the time. Unfortunately, the cameo did not transfer over from the manga to the recent anime adaptation. As some fans noticed, Denji was substituted in the Season 6 trailer for a run-of-the-mill "Saw Man." This may have likely been Studio Bones way of avoiding copyright infringement.

The good news is we can actually see Denji for the first time in anime with the "Chainsaw Man" TV adaptation making its recent, blood-soaked debut on October 11, 2022.