This feels a couple of years too late, but as Demon Slayer was put up on Netflix I felt like giving it a rewatch and finally putting a review of it up here on my blog, after it fell to the “too busy” wayside in 2019. Obviously to say this series has seen an increase in popularity since it aired would be a massive understatement, but how does the first half of what is now the first series hold up when you cut past all the hype? Let’s take a look!
Tanjiro Kamado is a teenage boy who lived happily with his family until one day when he arrived home to find his extended family all murdered apart from his younger sister, Nezuko. Sadly Nezuko is alive but had been turned into a demon, and in order to bring her back to the world of the living Tanjiro will have to become a Demon Slayer…
*spoilers appear from here on out!*
I wonder how many times this shot was used in the trailers heading into the anime’s release?
Much like when I’ve talked about other more recent Shonen Jump adaptations, the biggest hurdle they have to make is to avoid the generic protagonist pitfalls, and while Tanjiro does tick a few boxes he is easy to root for and care about, and that’s the key point. The opening episode does a good job establishing him as a nice, helpful young kid who definitely didn’t deserve to see his mother, two brothers and two sisters slain, with one, Nezuko, ending up trying to kill him as a vampire-like demon. The fact he soon goes through hellish training not because he wants to get stronger, not because he wants to become the best but because joining the Demon Slayer core means potentially finding a way to cure his younger sister of her demonization and bring her back to normal. It’s a refreshing idea to have such a pure-hearted goal, and to see him eventually becoming a strong fighter who can slice demon’s heads off all because of his love for his sister is pleasing in an entirely different way than normal.
So Tanjiro is saved by a high ranking Demon Slayer named Giyu Tomioka, who also binds Nezuko’s mouth and tells him to head in the general direction of a teacher called Urokodaki. As he spends the better part of two years training his sister sleeps, Tanjiro’s new master later theorising that she is replacing the need for blood with sleep. Our hero is sent for a final exam and passes, slaying a demon who had in the past devoured several of Urokodaki’s students. He soon heads off on his first few missions, carrying Nezuko in a box on his back that can protect her from sunlight, his sister also popping out of the box to assist her brother from time to time, including his first real demon fight. This soon leads to Tanjiro coming across the big bad of the series: Muzan Kibutsuji, the man who creates all the demons and possibly the only man with knowledge of how to save his sister. The confrontation doesn’t go well, especially as his scent tells Tanjiro that it was Muzan who killed his family, and doubly so because they’re in the middle of a bustling town and Muzan is posing as a regular human husband and father.
Tanjiro gets taught the lesson of “Don’t piss about in front of a powerful man with a sword”.
Muzan escapes but Tanjiro’s escapades gains the interest of a friendly demon named Tamayo and her companion Yushiro. She is interested in Nezuko’s ability to survive without the need for blood and soon the group agree to help each other out, Tanjiro being told that the more blood samples he collects from people close to Muzan the quicker Tamayo could potentially find a cure. This is all put on hold when they’re attacked by two of Muzan’s lackeys Susamaru and Yahaba, who attack with deadly tamari balls and weird object-controlling eyes on his palms respectively. The group beat them, and Tanjiro learns of Muzan’s “Twelve Kizuki” (classic villain group with numbered positions!) before heading off on his next mission. It’s here he meets fellow newbie Demon Slayers Zenitsu Agatsuma and Inosuke Hashibira, a complete coward who can do amazing things while in a trance after fainting and a crazy fight-obsessed man wearing a boar mask on his head, respectively. Together they overcome a couple of demons in a manor, one of whole can tilt and turn the rooms with a beat of his drum, which was a fun idea.
That’s where we leave the story. I haven’t mentioned yet the main star of the show: the animation. Ufotable are rightfully famous for it and they haven’t soiled their reputation here, that’s for sure. Smooth as silk and extremely well detailed and animated fight scenes are the highlight each episode.
Imagine a meter measuring amusement on one end, annoyance on the other. Scenes like these would see the needle swinging back and forth, over and over…
The only bad is Zenitsu’s cowardly comedy can go a bit too far… or so far that you can’t see it any more. His proper introduction, begging a random woman to marry him so he doesn’t die alone, is funny… then kind of annoying… then a bit too shouty. This happens a lot during the walk to and through the manor, occasionally funny but more often than not annoying. It gets better in the second half, but not by a lot…
Inosuke: the first of many Demon Slayers to want to slay Nezuko for being a demon… makes sense!
Demon Slayer’s first thirteen episodes are a perfect example of the Shonen story done right. It focuses on our main protagonist and his struggles first, then slowly opens up the wider world and the threats he’s going to be facing over the course of the story, then adds in some companions for good measure. Then add in the stunning animation and there’s no wonder this became the hit it is. Give it a shot, you know you want to!