Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba Anime Impressions

f1fe5c7a43cb2f38f4152a58f89479821554508873_full.jpg

Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba

A Refreshing take on interactions with demons in anime

Sometimes we stumble upon a great anime that has such a gravity that it’s hard to turn away from. That's the kind of anime Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba is. 

On April 6, 2019, Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba aired. It is considered to be a dark fantasy adventure anime from studio Ufotable (who did work on Fate/Zero, God Eater and more) and licensed by Aniplex of America. The anime adaptation’s art style is met with mixed reception but it overall positive, as well as a different take on demons interacting in an anime like this.

Typically we see a protagonist just slaying demons until they reach their goal, but in this show the main character Tanjiro holds on to his kindness, even with deadly adversaries all around. He empathy to everyone and everything, demon or otherwise. This is shown in a few scenes where he uses his words to put demons to rest peacefully after their battles, strengthened by his persistence to get them to change instead of having to finish things off in a violent way. 

Let’s dive into the show’s plot. Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba takes place in a modern-esque fictionalized Japan. It follows a young man named Tanjiro Kamado, who sells charcoal to support his family that live on a mountain. He goes into a city that is near the foot of their mountain home to sell their charcoal.

One day he stays out late selling out of his wares then heads home and he is stopped by another villager who lives just inside the woods. This villager tells him he shouldn’t travel at night because of the demons that wander the mountain after dark. Tanjiro is hesitant at first but ultimately takes the old man up on his offer to stay the night at his house and to leave once it is daylight again. Upon returning home Tanjiro smells blood and rushes in to find his family has been slaughtered by demons in the night.

The only surviving member of the family is his young sister Nezuko. When carrying her and trying to get her to help, she suddenly changes into a demon. After a short battle between the two, Tanjiro seems to get through to her even though she is now a demon. The two are then attacked by a Demon Slayer, forcing Tanjiro to fight to protect his sister.

The Demon Slayer goes to land a final blow on Tanjiro when Nezuko protects him. Moved by this unique situation, the Demon Slayer leaves them unconscious on the ground with a note to find another Demon Slayer that trains recruits. Upon waking up, Tanjiro and Nezuko begin their journey to find this recruiter and search for a way to turn Nezuko back into a human. 

There is a lot of nuance in this anime, despite the straightforward setup, from facial expressions to phrasing that changes the meaning of many things. Each character in this story is quite different from one another. Tanjiro Kamado, our main protagonist, is kind with gentle eyes and a great amount of determination. He isn’t opposed to asking for help, which sets him apart from plenty of anime tropes in Shonen. Nezuko Kamado, the sister, worked diligently around the house and was seen as a beauty in her home village, but after turning into a demon she can change her size, doesn’t talk, and is usually carried around by Tanjiro. She isn’t helpless though, she is very strong and shows it by supporting Tanjiro a majority of the time. When they team up they are unbelievably formidable.

We also have characters like Zenitsu Agatsuma, another member of the Demon Slayers. Unlike Tanjiro and many others, Zenitsu is cowardly. He tends to run away, but when he becomes overcome with fear and anxiety he passes out and fights unconscious. This pushes his limits beyond himself and he fights at a superb level with his instincts alone. Insosuke Hashibira is another Demon Slayer with a short temper. He falls into more of a typical short-tempered anime trope but shows a real type of growth as the series continues. He grows from just a hot headed friend/enemy that rushes into combat and puts himself in danger to a friend that begins to think and use strategy and becomes able to control his temper, at least somewhat.

Demon Slayer also has a memorable antagonist in Muzan Kibutsuji, the big bad. He is the progenitor demon and first of his kind. He looks young and handsome but is utterly ruthless. He is overly cruel but at the same time cunning as shown by his ability to live in normal human society. Muzan even has a family but treats his subordinates as pawns and discards them as necessary. Muzan also curses each of his followers to die a cruel and gruesome death if they so much as utter his name. This paranoid defense sharply contracts his narcissistic megalomania. 

The art of Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba also follows a sort of different approach. There are mixed feelings to be found in the comments and threads about the show and manga but all in all, it is pleasing to the eye and lets the nuance through just as needed. In the anime, the art style changes up depending on the fights and usually shows the water breathing style as a type of actual water surrounding Tanjiro and his blade. Other art styles for the other Demon Slayers have not been shown as of episode 15, but they are sure to come. 

Pacing can make or break an anime and Kimestu no Yaiba gets it right. Each moment spent is learning and developing the characters in some way shape or form. Not every moment can be a hunt, and not every moment can be a battle. There has to be moments of growth and interaction between characters to tell a great story and in this story, the justice done is fantastic. Thus far, it is hard to be bored while watching and the show doesn’t feel like a chore just to get to the next large conflict or issue. 

So far, this anime exceeds expectations. Personally, I have to say that I love seeing new angles taken on stories and anime like this. The story has a sort of form, but it not totally predictable. The characters are strong, but they are not overpowered with exception of the big baddies.

The female characters are not treated as fan service either. This is a huge boon because the market is oversaturated with stock huge-boobed and toothpick thin or fragile female characters who have no depth or are stuck in a love story. It can be argued that Demon Slayer has love story elements, but it is between a brother and sister who want to protect each other as family, not a sexual love. The main character Tanjiro shows more empathy as a character than any I’ve seen, especially so early on in a story, as he continues to do so episode after episode. While he is kind, he doesn't hesitate to kill demons when he must but he still shows them empathy and that kindness goes the distance for each and every character who has an interaction with him from enemy to friend. 

To add to more of what we feel about Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba and why you should check it out, not everything revolves around the main character Tanjiro. Each of the characters has their own quirks, flaws, and growth. Each supporting character gets spotlights as well and do not just rely on Tanjiro. The show emphasizes the need for teamwork and using their training. No one is using something incredibly overpowered to win at a pivotal moment. They are just using their training and figuring out how to overcome a situation with what they have together. 

All of these unique elements combine to blend into a great experience. This is definitely a recommended story to read and anime to watch. 

Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba the anime was adapted by Ufotable (the same studio behind Fate/Zero, Fate/Stay Night: Unlimited Blade Works, God Eater, and Tales of Zestiria X) and was announced in the Weekly Shonen Jump on June 4th, 2018. The animated series premiered on April 6th, 2019 in Japan was directed by Haruo Sotozaki with scripts from the Ufotable staff. Yuki Kajiura and Go Shiina do musical composition for the show. Akira Matsushima is the lead character designer and Hikaru Kondo was the producer. The series will air for 26 episodes and was licensed by Aniplex of America, who announced that they will be streaming it on Crunchyroll, Hulu, and FunimationNow. AnimeLab is simulcasting the series in Austrailia and New Zealand.

Starting in late March, there were 5 episodes theatrically screened in Japan for 2 weeks. On March 31st, 2019, Aniplex of America screened them in Los Angeles. In July 2019, it was announced that the series will premiere on Adult Swim’s Toonami in the fall. 

For more anime coverage, check out my first impressions of Dr. Stone, a show that combines shonen with science.