Ever since the death of his father, the burden of supporting the family has fallen upon Tanjirou Kamado's shoulders. Though living impoverished on a remote mountain, the Kamado family are able to enjoy a relatively peaceful and happy life. One day, Tanjirou decides to go down to the local village to make a little money selling charcoal. On his way back, night falls, forcing Tanjirou to take shelter in the house of a strange man, who warns him of the existence of flesh-eating demons that lurk in the woods at night.
When he finally arrives back home the next day, he is met with a horrifying sight—his whole family has been slaughtered. Worse still, the sole survivor is his sister Nezuko, who has been turned into a bloodthirsty demon. Consumed by rage and hatred, Tanjirou swears to avenge his family and stay by his only remaining sibling. Alongside the mysterious group calling themselves the Demon Slayer Corps, Tanjirou will do whatever it takes to slay the demons and protect the remnants of his beloved sister's humanity.
Does fantastic animation trump mediocre writing? When it comes down to it, can you ignore one to enjoy the other?
As for Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba, most of the anime community falls into one of two extremes. Either they love it for the amazing animation, an abundance of horrifying villains, and incredible fight choreography—or they hate it for subpar storytelling, shallow character writing, and unfunny comedy. The truth is somewhere in between. Demon Slayer has some of the best animation of this generation, but I can’t recommend the entire show because the writing is… pretty bad.
Our hero, no older than fifteen, carries his dying
sister as he trudges through a snowstorm, crying out in anguish. Soon after, we flashback to before everything went wrong. We are greeted with a loving family. The scene is saturated with brilliant light reflecting off the snow-covered ground, angels singing with hopeful music. They are going to die. All of them. The cold-open is completely unnecessary, it is obvious this family with zero characteristics other than ‘happy’ will be killed. Violently. The lone survivor, Tanjiro, inevitably leaves them; now that his father is deceased, he is the designated man of the family. Upon his return, he finds his family viciously murdered. Demon Slayer never shies away from violence, and we learn this immediately. Blood soaked with horrific expressions, children protecting one another in their final moments, it's all the more effective because their deaths are left to our imagination. Tanjiro stares in terror, speed lines on either side of the screen. Aside from the maximum shock factor of a happy family being slaughtered, there’s little reason to care. If you need speed lines to convey the severity of the protagonist finding his family violently murdered, then you need to rewrite the scene and start over. It plays out so predictably, and we still know nothing about him other than he was part of the happy family. He carries away the only survivor, his sister Nezuko, barely clinging to life. Soon she becomes the monster that killed her—a demon. Tanjiro vows to avenge his family and cure his sister, by becoming a DEMON SLAYER!! It practically writes itself; a horrific monster-of-the-week for the heroes to fight off, and it works. As the demonic threats become bigger threats, Tanjiro becomes a more capable fighter. There’s a real sense of progression.
Before his family was killed, Tanjiro hadn’t fought at all. Somehow he barely knew what demons were. Demons are enough of a threat in this world that there are demon-hunting squads, yet this family didn’t know about them. Thankfully through a chance encounter, Tanjiro is directed towards a ninja master. Nezuko sleeps for two years because reasons, in the meantime he has a training montage. There’s lots of pretty animation. Then one time skip later, his hair is twice as long and he is a ninja. The training arc concludes with little character progression; he screamed Nezuko’s name a whole lot to persevere (that shit got annoying fast), and that’s about it. After she finally wakes up, the master trainer has hypnotized her to believe ‘humans good, demons bad’. Not only is this a cheap way to avoid writing character development, but it also raises even more questions with the internal logic. If people can hypnotize demons to be good, why is this the only time we see it happen? Rather than integrating this information into the story, it is dumped onto us during an action scene as if the author forgot to mention it in a prior chapter.
Time after time, the action is undercut by the awkward dialogue. For example, a disembodied head demon ties it’s hair to Tanjiro’s weapon, then it is flung away and gets stuck to a tree. It struggles, then it says aloud exactly what we saw happen “I wrapped my hair around his hatchet to grab it but it got tangled up!” We could easily assume this from the shot composition and body language. Constant inner monologues, flashbacks, unnecessary comments, and awkward pauses bring the action to a screeching halt. One of the most egregious moments is when Tanjiro angrily stares at his friend being beaten up to protect his sister, two minutes later he finally yells and runs to save his friend in slow motion, cut to the ED before anything happens. They’re like five feet apart for two whole minutes and then it just ends. Early on, this was one of the main reasons many people dropped Kimetsu no Yaiba. Show don’t tell is a rule that Ufotable can follow; their staff is loaded with talent and an unlimited budget. Being a manga adaptation, the moment to moment descriptions are necessary to supplement what the paperback art can’t depict. However, a high budget adaptation like this does not need the superfluous descriptions. I frequently felt like I was watching an action movie with someone who pauses it once a minute to comment on what's happening.
About two-thirds of Demon Slayer is action scenes and one third is jarringly out of place comedy. When it works, it is a stunning spectacle; the heroes run through the dark moonlit forest chasing after vicious demons, orchestral music excellently hypes up any scene, then the breathtaking fight choreography. The background art is beautiful, occasionally the CGI backgrounds are jarring. Thick lines around the character designs make them (usually) feel suited against the realistic backgrounds. Both the demons and heroes have iconic designs with distinct color pallets. I didn’t notice a single shot with off-model character art. The use of CGI character models during action scenes allowed for dynamic 3D camera movements, unlike anything I’ve seen since Ufotable’s Fate/Zero. Occasionally, CGI models were unnecessarily used at a distance, it was still distracting.
Suspension of disbelief is bent to the point of breaking in many of the action scenes, but many find it hard to criticize them because they’re so damn entertaining to watch. Every time he unleashes his water breathing technique I was always in awe; the painterly ink-like waves with lush blues juxtaposed against the photorealistic background look cool every single time. He has tons of different water breathing styles, each with different animations and usages. A basic slash, then combos, a 360-degree slash, and a mercifully quick painless slash to name a few. The whole water breathing technique that he uses to fight is awesome, even if the logic behind it is a bit vague. As it is described in the show, you inhale deeply and it gets your blood excited! So what does that really mean? Even he says, “I still don’t get it.” On the other hand, what’s less forgivable is Tanjiro’s super-powered nose. Even before he trains, he has this unbelievable ability. He smells emotions, he smells demons from a mile away, and he smells the invisible thread that allows him to make such accurate attacks. There are other unexplained abilities like super hearing; these kids are essentially the lamest heroes from My Hero Academia, except with no in-world explanation for their powers. Demon Slayer takes many shortcuts when writing its story and characters. If only those flaws didn’t permeate through the best part of the show, I might have been able to recommend it.
Tanjiro is a good person, his ideals are unshakable. He fights for his family, he throws himself into danger to save total strangers, he even comforts the demons’ tortured souls after slaying them. The problem is, he’s too good. His ideals rarely come into question. After seeing a few randos get murdered, he learns that not everyone can be saved. However, nothing breaks him. Unlike most monster-slaying main characters, his morals never blur the lines between becoming what he is fighting against. As a shounen hero, he is what you expect, an unequivocally good person. That’s why he’s such a boring protagonist. Motivated solely by his desire to slay demons and save his sister, his personality is essentially a blank slate for the audience to project onto. Unfortunately, he’s the best character we’ve got. Nezuko as adorable as she is, has next to no lines of dialogue. Other demons can speak, for some reason, she is gagged with a stick. During the daytime she waits within Tanjiro’s wooden box to avoid being burnt, only coming out when it is convenient for the plot. When her brother is outnumbered against stronger foes, she jumps out and decapitates demons with a dive kick. It’s badass… but their unlikely partnership doesn’t make much sense within the story’s internal logic. In the first episode, Nezuko is a vicious demon, prepared to eat her brother, and somehow unlike any other demon in the show, she can stop herself. Not even four episodes later we see another kid-turned-demon immediately forget about his siblings and eat them (and he’s also able to speak immediately). She exists solely to motivate Tanjiro to save her, and that constantly made me think “Why?” Why does he need to make her human? She’s in full control of her demon form, she’s insanely powerful, she doesn’t need that gag, and if she was a human she would have died fighting alongside her brother. There are kindhearted demons in this show, people who were saved from death by being turned, so why is it such an issue? All I ask for is a story remains true to its internal logic. She’s lobotomized and nonverbal, but look at this cute demon girl crouching in a basket!
The emotional payoffs lack the impact the visceral presentation deserves. Right before or after a ‘boss’ demon is killed we always see a flashback to make us sympathize with them. Trying to get the audience to care about a villain minutes (sometimes seconds) before they die just doesn’t work. They have already lost the fight; who cares if they had a tough childhood if we’ll never see them again? Like most of the emotional payoffs in this show, there is beautiful background music to carry the lacking script, most notably the insert song in episode nineteen. Without the music, the writing isn’t enough. All of the ‘development’ for the main characters happens in flashbacks too. Nezuko gets next to nothing. In the latter half of the show, the script has less time to be redundant. Instead, it’s replaced with comedy. I hoped the other characters shown in the OP/ED would be a lot better, oh how I was disappointed once Zenitsu was introduced. If there’s anyone who likes Demon Slayer for the humor more than the action, violence, artwork, and music, I’d sure like to ask them why. The characters are around fifteen years old, and that's who the humor would appeal to. Over exaggerated reactions, crying, yelling. So. Much. Yelling. Zenitsu almost exclusively speaks with a shrill yelling voice. The few battles he fights alone are so frustrating that I was rooting for the demons. His defining character trait is ‘coward’. He does get a flashback eventually that still does nothing to explain why he is so annoying. Nearly all of the humor in Demon Slayer is jarringly placed right next to series moments. People are violently killed then within seconds cut to the main characters in a cartoony art style doing a slapstick routine. In a series as dark as this one, levity is necessary to a certain extent; however, it feels like the author tried to make the mature themes more accessible to a younger audience by using drastic tonal shifts from horror to humor. The maligned tone made the show less scary to me, but only because it was so all-over-the-place that I could barely tell what tone they were aiming for most of the time.
Tanjiro sees his family in flashbacks when he needs motivation in a fight. In the climactic moment of the entire show, he gets a new ability retconned into the story through a flashback. Many argue it was foreshadowed in the ED—however, the flashback explains a new storyline that gives Tanjiro a new power—a retcon. Inosuke is here too, he doesn’t do a whole lot but he has more relevance than Nezuko at least. Zenitsu and Inosuke are the most expendable characters. In the final arc, we get the most stilted dialogue in the entire series. A dozen new characters are introduced, each with one gimmick to their personalities. Overly cute, overly angry, completely nonverbal, they added nothing but fluff. Demon Slayer began with a roar but ended with a whimper. Even though it was poorly written, the stunning animation and grimdark aesthetic kept me entertained; it’s a shame they threw most of that out the window for filler and unfunny comedy in the final few episodes.
Either you will think this is one of the best shounen anime ever created, or you will think it has some of the worst writing in a big-budget anime to date. Perhaps even somewhere in between. You could skim a Wikipedia summary of the story, then watch all the action scenes on YouTube and you’d lose nothing. I’ll ask you one more time, are you willing to deal with bad writing to enjoy fantastic animation?
“Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.” - Leonardo da Vinci.
For a show to be good, it’s not always necessary for it to have a complex plot and a deep cast of characters. This is exactly what Kimetsu no Yaiba (Demon Slayer) proves. This show is yet another spectacle by ufotable – the studio that can take an otherwise generic shounen with a fairly linear story and turn it into a show that has fans craving for more every week. The studio has done just that with Kimetsu no Yaiba by making it one of the most popular shows of the year with its animation quality
and direction. Kimetsu no Yaiba is a show from Spring 2019 that only got a real popularity surge in Summer 2019. Half an episode of a cleverly directed and masterfully animated battle led this show to become one of the most prominent topics of discussion on online anime communities. That doesn’t mean the rest of the show isn’t a visual feast; it truly is eye candy from the first minute of the first episode to the final minute of the last.
The premise of the show isn’t original. It starts with the family of a hardworking boy who lives in a small village being devoured by a demon while he’s away. The only survivor, his sister, is turned into a demon herself and so the boy begins his journey to not only get revenge on the demon that took his family away from him, but also cure his sister and turn her into a human once again. I think we’d be kidding ourselves if we said that we haven’t come across similar plotlines in anime over the years. However, I’ve watched several shows over the years which have similar plotlines yet didn’t get a fraction of the popularity Kimetsu no Yaiba has garnered because they were done by smaller studios and didn’t have the visual prowess of what ufotable has brought us. One of the first shows that come to my mind when thinking about this is “Sirius the Jaeger” from Summer 2018. It’s got a very similar theme and protagonist to Kimetsu no Yaiba but with vampires instead of demons.
Ufotable really outdid itself here. I just can’t praise the studio enough because that’s how big their contribution has been. I wasn’t an original manga reader but I’ve gone and read the manga as far as the anime has been adapted and it does have some glaring plot pacing and character writing issues. The manga is honestly decent at best. The anime also manages to hide some very cliched moments that were scattered throughout the course of the manga.
Having said all that, there are some problems that the anime couldn’t totally eliminate from the manga. One of them is the pacing in the middle part of the anime. I felt that some fights and arcs dragged on for far too long. While this might not seem as a massive problem to people who binged these episodes, it did feel like a pain waiting weeks just to get to the conclusion of the said storylines. Come on, 2-3 episodes for a one-on-one or two-on-two fight, mostly sword-fights, is taking it too far, especially in a 26-episode season. It wouldn’t really be a problem if these arcs seemed naturally long. But they didn’t. You could easily make out that it was being drawn out to tiresome levels, and I have no idea why.
Like the narrative, Tanjirou Kamado, our main protagonist is a pretty straightforward character. Kind, gentle, selfless and caring are just some of the qualities that he possesses. His determination in the face of overwhelming opponents is nice to see, although again, it is something exceedingly typical of protagonist in a shounen. One of his most defining traits though is the love he bears for his family. He’ll go to any lengths to keep his sister, Nezuko (more about her later), the only real family that he has left, safe. On top of that, the primary motivation he has to find Kibutsuji Muzan, apparently the master of all demons, is not because he wants to avenge his family. Instead, it’s to find a cure that would make his sister human again. Throughout the season, he’s shown kindness towards everyone, human or demon. Even after becoming a Demon Slayer, he sympathizes with the situation demons find themselves in, having to rely on human flesh and blood simply in order to survive, even shedding tears for them. However, he finds out that that’s not true for every demon that he encounters. Some just kill for fun. This was a great opportunity to actually develop Tanjirou.
Unfortunately, this is where the second of my two complaints with the show begins: the handling of its characters and their development. Character development is extremely disappointing in Kimetsu no Yaiba and Tanjirou’s character is the prime example of that. Apart from his demon slaying skills, his personality as a whole did not grow much in the series. Some of the villains that are introduced have short arcs or an episode to themselves and it’s difficult to sympathize with them in that short period of time.
Now, let’s talk about the most tiresome of the entire cast, Zenitsu Agatsuma. He’s an annoying, weak, girl-chasing guy who somehow passed the Demon Slayer exams and became a demon slayer. His pessimistic nature was kinda amusing at the beginning, but it became old very, very quickly. He’s a coward who hides behind a kid when faced with a demon and has no redeeming qualities whatsoever. The only reason he’s in the show at all is for comic relief, and that gets irritating very fast. Kimetsu no Yaiba has an extremely dark and serious vibe to it so the odd moment of humor wouldn’t have hurt if it was placed well. But no, Zenitsu has to bring out his shitty personality traits 5 times every episode. And even worse, his comic relief moments kill the mood during tense situations when the main cast is against a formidable enemy that they have barely any chance of defeating. How are we supposed to take these moments seriously when he’s drooling over girls or just lying there crying like a baby?! The guy has no major part to play this season and we’re supposed to believe that he’s one of the main characters. Good Lord! Remove Zenitsu and almost nothing would change. He’s the same at the end of the season as he was when he was introduced. Easily one of the more prominent reasons that dragged the series down for me.
We then have Inosuke Hashibira, another one of the new demon Slayers. A hot-headed boy who covers his face with a boar mask, he’s got excessive pride and a love for battle. His favored opponents are demons but he doesn’t mind beating up a human if they happen to come in the way of his fights. At first, he does come off as annoying with these traits dominating his character, but he does change into a more understanding person as the story progresses. He begins to see that there are beings out there, both humans and demons, against whom he’s no better than a fly to be swatted. I honestly quite enjoyed watching him as a character grow out of his little shell.
Next, we move on to everyone’s favorite girl: Nezuko. Even after being turned into a demon, she’s shown to have incredible restraint in her demonic thirst. Without speaking a single word since becoming a demon, she’s demonstrated her love for her brother over the course of the season. The bond between the two siblings is one of the driving points of the series. Her little “demonic” idiosyncrasies are amusing to say the least even though there are certain moments which made me question the physics side of things in the show. If you’ve already watched Kimetsu no Yaiba, you’ll get the reference.
There are two supporting characters who actually had massive impacts on the story, and whom I personally really enjoyed watching in the brief screentime that they got. They're Giyuu Tomioka and Sakonji Urokodaki. These two actually shaped Tanjirou as a person going forward. Tomioka is the first demon slayer we’re introduced to, and the one that shows the path to Tanjirou to do the same. Urokodaki is the person who trained Tanjirou to be a demon slayer soon afterwards. Both of them impacted the way Tanjirou developed (although I have to say, he didn’t develop a lot) and his actions in the series are partially driven by what he was taught by them. There’s not too much else to say about the other characters without spoiling a bit since most of the remaining important characters are introduced in the second half of the season. The villains that do appear in the first half are very basic and slightly disappointing to be frank: almost all of them are shown to have a tragic history but I could never really sympathize with them. The author tries to invoke emotions with their past but fails in conveying it in an original manner that would actually leave an impact on the viewers.
Overall, the characters are easily the weakest part of the series. Zenitsu’s constant ramblings are a pain, and the writing as well as the lack of development of some other characters leaves a lot to be desired.
Visually, this show is a masterpiece. No other way to put it. In terms of animation, Kimetsu no Yaiba can compete with any other anime and still come out on top. It’s arguably the most well-animated series of the year and will go toe to toe with any other anime series you can throw at it. The animation is the reason that led to the popularity of the show and hats off to ufotable for that. Every episode is a visual feast. From the fluidity of the animation to the vibrant character designs, it’s all top-notch. Some of the fight scenes in Kimetsu no Yaiba are simply stunning and what's equally stunning is their effective use of CGI. The aforementioned battle sequences are some of the best in anime in terms of animation quality, and that’s not an exaggeration.
The audio side of things isn’t shabby either. I was somewhat surprised by the decision to have only one opening and ending for both the cours. The opening was very pleasing in the first few episodes, but I began skipping it in the latter half of the show, not because I got tired of the vocals or the music, but because it had the same visual sequence as well. They definitely could’ve done with a second set of opening and ending although this is a small issue and doesn’t put any stains on the great production quality. The voice acting is splendid for the most part sans the annoying and repetitive trash that came out of Zenitsu’s mouth. Yes, it was fun in the beginning but it didn’t hold up well. His ramblings were just plain annoying after a few episodes. That complaint aside though, I felt that the VAs did a superb job of conveying the necessary emotions when required. Special props go out to the VAs doing the demons. They created incredible tension which when paired with the stupendous animation had me totally immersed.
And of course, how could I not mention the incredible work done by Yuki Kajiura and Go Shiina? Yuki Kajiura has a history of producing outstanding soundtracks for anime like Fate/Zero and Sword Art Online (the only good thing to come out of almost every season of SAO is the OST), and she certainly doesn’t disappoint here. The OST perfectly compliments the visuals, and I thought it immaculately suited the Edo period setting which Kimetsu no Yaiba seems to be based in. The series has a multitude of soundtracks which add variety and prevents any major overuse of a particular track. Near perfect score to the overall sound department.
At the end of the day, Kimetsu no Yaiba is a typical shounen with top-tier production values and a few critical issues such as some poor character writing and pacing. Despite these issues though, I enjoyed Kimetsu no Yaiba for what it was: an anime with stunning visuals and soundtrack which managed to keep me hugely entertained for the majority of its run. Even if you don’t particularly like shounen, I’d urge you to give this a shot just for the aesthetics if nothing else.
Kimetsu no Yaiba is a pleasant surprise. Though it appears to merely be another overly grim and dark series lauded for its gore, Kimetsu no Yaiba is revealed to be much more as the series progresses. Hypocrisy, mortality, hope and despair run as prevalent themes in Tanjiro's tragic journey. The myriad ways in which this journey could reach its demise run tense in the heart and the mind of the viewer, as mercy is seldom a consideration to the demons he must annihilate.
If there is one single thing to point to with Kimetsu no Yaiba, it would be its atmosphere. Brooding, oppressive, and tense are
some of the adjectives I might use to describe the mood of Kimetsu no Yaiba. It is an anime that sucks you in and doesn't let you go... most of the time, anyway. It is around the tenth episode when things make an unfortunate change for mass appeal - the characters Zenitsu and Inosuke: screaming, obnoxious lunatics who you might expect to see from a series like Naruto or Bleach rather than a careful series priding itself in its atmosphere.
That's not to say that all the side characters should have been removed, or that battle shounen tropes are inherently bad. But certainly the show could have benefited from not having dude-with-boar-head yelling at the top of his lungs and some blonde dickweed whose raison d'etre is to burst your eardrums with his constant whining and crying. For one, perhaps two episodes, this is somewhat amusing and does well at giving the viewer a break from the despair, an intermission of sorts... not something you would expect from the entire story henceforth.
Although the roles of Zenitsu and Inosuke are somewhat diminished after the mansion arc, the story introduces the "Hashira" (or 'Pillars' in the localized dialogue), a set of nine warriors who sit atop the Demon Slaying corp as the strongest it has to offer. There are a few more normal faces here, particularly Tomioka, Shinobu, and Kanao (even though the latter is technically not part of the Hashira), but the rest are complete one-note gags much like Zenitsu and boar-face-man. A monk who is constantly in a state of tears, a strange woman who is infatuated with every man in existence, a constantly-angry clone of Bakugo from Hero Academia, and so on and so forth. While this might keep the interest of younger viewers and those of weaker attention spans, this contrast of silly and serious hampers the story and takes the viewer away from the atmosphere to such an extent that by the end of the anime's twenty-six episode run, it has mostly just become another battle shounen series.
But for a battle shounen series, Kimetsu no Yaiba is top of its class, and even on its own still a worthwhile endeavor. Tanjiro and his moral dilemma of having to execute demons while protecting his sister, a demon herself, and harboring feelings of sympathy for those he cuts down, makes for a far more compelling and human protagonist than almost all of his brethren. He is exceptionally weak at the start, but his two years of training make his moderate combat skills seem appropriate, and he is still vulnerable enough that no plot armor will allow him to cut down opponents regardless of their power. Even by the end, he is losing many of his battles.
Though still very much shounen in nature, these battles deserve some praise for their inclusion of wounds and injuries. Whereas most anime of this genre will have characters— especially the protagonist— being beaten half to death and still standing as if almost nothing happened, Tanjiro is repeatedly being crippled by broken bones, internal bleeding, and his body simply giving up on him. There is a limit to his vitality, and he cannot simply get up and retaliate at max power as other protagonists often do. If he is hit in the leg, his leg will break, and he will be unable to escape or to attack at full power. These are small details, but they make the story far more engaging by giving consequence to the battles and a very real potential for death and failure.
Anime set before the modern day are rare enough, but ones set in the oft-forgotten Taisho period are closer to zero. Kimetsu no Yaiba's setting is one of its greatest strengths, the early Taisho period being a bleak, short reprieve before Japan's foray into militarism - perhaps the darkest decades the country had ever experienced. Though the imperial revolution had long since hit Japan by this point, and swords were outlawed and replaced by firearms almost fifty years prior, Tanjiro and the rest of the Demon Slaying corps fighting demons rather than humans allows for melee combat to make sense in a setting where it ordinarily wouldn't. It's certainly an interesting contrast to see the characters wielding katanas in big cities where trains and primitive automobiles are thriving about, and the forlorn atmosphere of the period fits well with the tension and despair entrenched within the story.
The setting and the atmosphere are amplified by the moody and period-appropriate sound design, with the shakuhachi (Japanese flute) and other traditional instruments, as well as up-tempo Buddhist chanting permeating the music. There are occasional tracks that do not fit the setting or the tone of the show, and the opening theme should not have been a generic throwaway J-Pop song, but for the most part the music is a hit.
Which can be said for the entirety of the anime, really. It's a hit. Mostly. Had the manga been published for an older demographic, it would no doubt have been able to tell its story without the usual trappings of the battle shounen genre. But at the same time, a lesser-known publisher means the series would probably not have been published weekly or have been nearly as popular as it is, and so a studio as big as Ufotable would likely not have picked it up for a high-budget adaptation. So I can live with the realities, I suppose, and enjoy my time with the series. But I can also live without Zenitsu screaming my ears off.
Ah ufotable, the studio that keeps on giving. Before Kimetsu no Yaiba aired, news broke out that we’d get them animating the show. And to my delight, it’s a studio that earned its praise for its high caliber animation and consistently delivering quality content. Being their first 2-cour show (without a split cour break), Kimetsu no Yaiba is a special gift not just for the manga fans but anyone ready to experience a world of demons and dark fantasy.
With over 170 chapters and counting, manga artist Koyoharu Gotouge made this series as a dark fantasy-adventure about demons. With 26 episodes, there are some concerns about
how much content we’d actually get adapted. For statistical references, each episode adapts about 3 chapters. Most of the episodes follows these chapters by the letter and to manga fans, I think this is a special treat. Not too manga series follows this trend and some unfortunately decides to jump off the rail and follow its own path. With that being said, Kimetsu no Yaiba is a series that I recommend and there’s plenty reasons to see why.
The experience of watching this show goes beyond the realm of its visual quality. Ufotabe applied their cinematic style to bring the characters and story to life but it’s important to realize what the author wanted to bring from his work. From the start, the show had a vision. It sets up a state of tragedy that deals with life and death. The demons in this show are devices created with the purpose to generate fear, the type of feeling that viewers needs to experience when watching a dark fantasy. Often these days, I find myself feeling bored when watching dark fantasies when it relies too much on relationship developments. Instead, Kimetsu no Yaiba elegantly tells a story that’s straightforward yet meaningful to deliver its premise. We meet main protagonist Tanjiro Kamado, a determined demon slayer who stops at nothing to help find a cure for his sister, Nezuko. The first few episodes establishes their important character relationship as even with Nezuko being a demon, he refuse to kill her. In return, Nezuko uses her own skills to help Tanjiro when he is in trouble fighting demons on his own. Early episodes also shows Tanjiro learning the ropes as a demon slayer. The anime makes it clear about the reality of their world where death is common and can happen in the brink of an eye. If you don’t believe me, just take a look at what happens to Tanjiro’s family. With such a tragic setup, the anime seeks to bring hope for Tanjiro and his journey to make things better for his only remaining family.
In remembering the past, Kimetsu no Yaiba is known for showing the importance of family. Known for showing rather than telling, it should be easy to see the close relationship Tanjiro has with his sister, mother, and father. Throughout the show, Tanjiro is also known for his duty to eliminate demons although he doesn’t truly hate all of them. Rather than having a black and white philosophy, he also feels sympathy for some of the demons he faces. However, there is one demon he both fears and despises – the mysterious and powerful Kibutsuji Muzan. As the primary antagonist of the show, he is also the catalyst of tragic events in Tanjiro’s life. Let’s face the reality here: he killed Tanjiro’s family and is responsible in making Nezuko into a demon. How can Tanjiro not hate this demon? As a cold-hearted and manipulative personality, Kibutsuji is one of Tanjiro’s main obstacles to overcome during this dark fantasy adventure. Unfortunately, we don’t get too much inside scoop on Kibutsuji’s character besides what he shows on the surface. The anime limited itself with adapting his story but it’s still shown that he is one, if not the most dangerous antagonist in this show.
With the premise of demon slaying, there’s plenty of room for other characters to get their own spotlights. Some of the more prominent names include Zenitsu Agatsuma, Inosuke Hashibira, and Genya Shinazugawa. The author made these characters with conflicting personalities to bring more value to their roles. For instance, Zenitsu is initially portrayed as a coward but over time, he conquers his fears and learns to accept his role as a demon slayer. Inosuke is known for his fierce personality and competitive persona. While the show doesn’t develop his character as much as the others, he brings a unique form of fighting and charisma. And we shouldn’t forget about Genya since he first appeared in the show. Known for its foul mouth and killing desire, one should wonder how much he can really fit the role as a demon slayer. It helps that Kimetsu no Yaiba features a diverse cast of characters who are all unique on their own. On the other hand, the same principle may not apply entirely for the demons. Truth to be told, most of the demons in the show has a rather one sided personality. Most of them are known for their bloodlust and urge to kill. It’s a primary factor that can make the demons more forgettable compared to the human characters. Outside of Kibutsuji, it’s really hard to say any of these demons are actually worth remembering for this adaptation. If in the future when this gets more animated episodes, they could be worth mentioning.
Yet, ufotable is well worth mentioning again for their stellar animation and character work. It seems throughout the show, there isn’t one instance where an episode suffered quality. It manages to consistently adapt battle scenes with stylistic and cinematic choreography. Character movements aren’t wasted but instead used to showcase the different fighting styles of the cast. The show also uses a realistic environment of snow and mountains to show the harsh conditions of surviving in the wilderness. The demon designs are made with menacing elements from their aggressive nature to their killing expressions. At the same time, the anime also has room for humor with over the top character emotive performances especially from Zenitsu. Even Tanjiro himself has moments where you can’t easily forget. If there’s something to take away from this show, it’s ufotable and the director’s impressive work. They earned this praise. If you don't believe me, watch episode 19 and see for yourself.
And it’s not only that either. Music and the soundtrack used in this show creates a thrilling atmosphere. In early episodes, I could feel the show being able to tell its story by its melancholic soundtrack alone. When you take the fact of the cast being able to make the characters into life, it really sends a strong impression. The OP song “Gurenge” by LISA carries a sensational aura with its visual storytelling while the ED theme “from the edge” contains a feeling of serenity and loneliness.
Kimetsu no Yaiba is like a love letter to dark fantasy adventure fans. Based on financial reports, the first week had sold over 11k copies while the manga also enjoys a decent success. It’s not too often to see this type of series succeed but I’m so glad it’s on this road. With ufotable behind the wheels as its studio, this is no pushover when it comes to technical quality. The characters and storytelling are meaningful to its premise while maintain an aura of mystique. We really need more adaptations like Kimetsu no Yaiba.