The Good, The Bad, And The Demonic: An In-Depth Demon Slayer Review

In the last few months, the world began to see the light at the end of this dark-infested tunnel called COVID-19. Yet, back in the days when the local and international restrictions were still taking place, many people found themselves getting into manga and anime. As someone who was religiously into anime in high school, then lost interest during university and started catching up to 20 series again recently, I can understand: It is an excellent medium to alleviate boredom in the smartphone era, especially when you are trapped in a seemingly endless lockdown. 

Perhaps that’s part of the reason Kimetsu no Yaiba (or ‘Demon Slayer’, as it is commonly referred to amongst my fellow English tongues) has become somewhat of a phenomenon. Truth be told, the 2019 hit didn’t even make it to my list at first. There are already a lot of animes about demon-slaying, such as My Hero Academia or Attack On Titans. You can even say, if someone was supposed to make an anime but then forgot and had to craft something at the last minute, they’d pick up this theme. That said, it felt a little exhausting to me whenever a new demon-slaying series got announced.

But, well, that all took a turn when episode 19 of Demon Slayer dropped. A particular fight scene was so beautifully animated that it was trending on Twitter. Ultimately, it piqued my curiosity, and I had succumbed to both the anime and manga series before I even realized it. By now, I can assure you that Koyoharu Goutoge’s series will remain a classic even when we’ve returned to a social climate where you have to hide a fart with a cough and not the other way around. 

An Introduction To The World Of Demon Slayer: Kimetsu No Yaiba 

For most American audiences, “Demon Slayer: Kimetsu No Yaiba” might be just an anime series on Netflix, Hulu, Funimation, and Crunchyroll, but it’s actually a juggernaut. Often abbreviated as Kimetsu or KnY, the phenomenal franchise began in February 2016 with a manga by Koyoharu Goutoge. In case you have bumped into this name many times yet still find yourself wondering, “Why is that little girl in a box?”, or “I thought that cowardly guy was asleep; how is he fighting now?”, here is a quick primer: 

Demon Slayer takes place during the Taisho era
Where does Demon Slayer take place? – Source: Wrong Every Time

The story of KnY takes place around 100 years ago, during Japan’s Taisho era (1912 – 1926). In this fictional world, a secret society, known as the Demon Slayer Corps, has been waging a secret war against demons for centuries. 

As rumors of bloodthirsty demons linger, a young boy named Tanjiro Kamado supports his beloved family after the death of his father by selling coal. Despite living in poverty, the family is happy together…until the day they are slaughtered in a sudden demon attack. 

Aside from Tanjiro, the sole survivor is his younger sister Nezuko. Yet, the tragedy doesn’t end here: A devastated Tanjiro finds out that his sister is on the verge of transforming into a demon herself. She does, however, retain her human emotions and bond with her brother, which sets her apart from most demons. 

Vowing to save Nezuko at all costs, Tanjiro sets out to become a Demon Slayer. The two embark on a treacherous adventure to track down the demon responsible for the cursed transformation. Along the way, our protagonist doesn’t only fight the literal demons but also has to face his inner ones. 

In the world of manga and anime, it is rather unusual to find one that’s set in the 1910s. It provides you a glimpse at a Japan you don’t often see in the media: Too late for the time of the samurai and too early for present-day technology. It does suit the theme of demon-slaying, though: The Taisho era was a time when the lack of electric lights gave creatures of the night many places to hide. 

Regarding the relationship between manga and anime, Hiroyuki Nakano – Weekly Shounen Jump’s editor-in-chief – said: “Normally, a manga gradually sells more copies throughout the anime’s run”. It’s somewhat true for “Demon Slayer”. Combining the genres of adventure, fantasy, and martial art to create a complex world of humans and demons, Goutoge’s work saw moderate success in its first year of release, yet was still outshone by other series on Weekly Shounen Jump such as Tokyo Ghoul or Boruto: Naruto Next Generation. Its popularity only skyrocketed in 2019 – the same year that the 26-episode television adaptation of the manga aired. 

Demon Slayer full volumes
Demon Slayer Complete Box Set – Source: Viz Media

The TV series, produced by the famous studio Ufotable, instantly received acclaim from both fans and critics alike for the stunning animation of the fight sequences. As it gained the title “best action anime of all time”, the print volumes began to fly off the shelves. Shortly after the final episode of “Demon Slayer” aired,  the manga ended an 11-year-streak held by One Piece to become Japan’s best-selling manga of the year in 2019, according to the Oricon chart.

Just a year later, in 2020, the franchise further cemented its place in pop culture by releasing “Demon Slayer The Movie: Mugen Train”. Despite being premiered during the pandemic, it dominated the box office with over $27.54 million tickets sold in Japan. The feature film even surpassed Hayao Miyazaki’s “Spirited Away” to become the highest-grossing Japanese movie ever. 

Demon Slayer: Mugen Train trailer

Some Thoughts On Demon Slayer’s Main Characters

Demon Slayer Anime Characters
Demon Slayer’s Main Characters – Source: Precious Jasmine

Whether you are an anime fan or just love movies in general, you have to agree with me on one thing: Excellent characters make all the difference in a work of fiction — even in shounen series where the action is the main attraction. 

Take Sword Art Online – the 2012 massive hit – for example: Although the “isekai” concept with the protagonist being trapped in a virtual world is nothing new, what draws us to the anime is Kirito’s story. Unlike the heroes in other series of the same genre, the Black Swordsman isn’t born with a special talent. He is a lonely homebody who doesn’t have many friends in real life and spends most of his day on the computer. His gaming experience turns him into a praised hero in the world of SAO, and his personality, as well as transformation, are relatable to a wide range of audiences. 

Sword Art Online takes a familiar concept and uses the protagonist to redefine the whole genre. In that sense, Demon Slayer also creates some memorable characters that might set the standards for other shows. From Tanjiro – the protagonist boy – to the villainous Daki, all of them are remarkable in their own ways. As viewers, I’m sure we can see a bit of ourselves in each character (except Nezuko, she’s pretty much emotionless after being turned into a demon). 

Here is an introduction to some of the key characters throughout the series:

Tanjiro Kamado (竈門炭治郎, Kamado Tanjirō)

Demon Slayer protagonist
Tanjiro Kamado – Source: OtakuKart

A kind-hearted boy with a strong sense of justice – that’s what we see in Tanjiro from the very first few chapters. After losing his father, Tanjiro follows in his footsteps by working as a coal seller to provide for his mother and 5 siblings. After the death of his family, he trains to become a Demon Slayer. 

The young boy expresses an extraordinary talent that allows him to read others’ emotions, as well as to distinguish between humans and demons. He is always seen wearing a distinctive pair of hanafuda earrings – the only thing that’s left of his father. 

Well, a young boy who has lost so much after a night is something we’ve seen enough in anime, but what sets Tanjiro apart is that he’s not blinded by vengeance. A lot of shounen protagonists are either nice and kind but completely dumb or too cool and edgy to the point where it’s cliche. Tanjiro is an interesting character: He is a bit kind and naive, but everything about him makes sense. He doesn’t step in everything, instead, he knows when to be calculated and strict in his judgments. 

We can all see why this boy cannot make mistakes: He must save his sister, and all of his actions revolve around this sole goal. Rather than seeking revenge off the bat, Tanjiro has a clear purpose, thinks everything through, and always makes thorough plans. If you see how he rushes Nezuko to the nearest (yet still far away) hospital after knowing that she is still alive instead of yelling her name and burst out in tears like most shounen protagonists, you would know what I mean. JK. 

Nezuko Kamado (竈門禰豆子, Kamado Nezuko)

Nezuko Demon Slayer
Nezuko Kamado – Source: Demon Slayer Wiki

Tanjiro’s younger sister. As Kibutsuji Muzan – one of Demon Slayer’s villains – slaughtered her entire family, he turned her into a demon-like creature. Although Nezuko’s humanity is slowly fading away, she still retains memories and feelings strong enough to prevent her from killing humans. Since Tanjiro joins the Demon Slayer Corps, she is conditioned to defend humans and attack other demons using her special abilities. However, she must restrain herself with a bamboo gag and is vulnerable to sunlight, like other demons.

What I like about Nezuko is… probably her hobby? Just like Zoro from One Piece, she loves to sleep more than anything. Sleeping also helps her regain her ability, so instead of devouring humans, she sleeps. But unlike Zoro, she can sleep while being dragged by Tanjirou. A unique talent that’s it. 

Joke aside, Nezuko is perhaps the most popular among Demon Slayer’s main characters, and is often regarded as the “best anime girl”. When you hear some characters being referred to as the “best girl”, they are very likely to be sexualized, but trust me when I say it’s not the case. Nezuko doesn’t talk much as she lost most of her personality after the incident. Nonetheless, her affection toward her brother (combined with her tiny toddler form) is so adorable. What’s more, she is strong as hell thanks to the special ability she obtained after transforming. Just like Redditor A1Rusher puts it, “nothing is more satisfying than watching a cute girl fight”.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hjDAGiHnX3E

That’s what we call “best waifu” 

Zenitsu Agatsuma (我妻善逸, Agatsuma Zenitsu)

Zenitsu Demon Slayer
Zenitsu Agatsuma – Source: Epic Quotes

A young boy who is forced to join the Demon Slayer Corps due to debt. A coward by nature, he only demonstrates his fighting abilities when he is unconscious or in grave danger. Zenitsu also has low self-esteem and is always fast to run away from potential harm. Despite all that, he is gifted with sharp hearing and has received training in Thunder Breathing techniques. He joins Tanjiro and Nezuko on their adventure. 

I’m not fond of Zenitsu at first. Sure, a whiny, crying-baby character has to be there to deliver the comic relief, and Zenitsu’s Jekyll-and-Hyde-like character is kinda cool. Overall, though, he is far too loud and annoying. To describe how this boy’s screaming and crying drives everyone crazy, someone on Reddit actually made a Demon Slayer parody without his existence. 

But, as the series proceeds, I have to admit one thing: Due to his flawed personality, Zenitsu has more room to develop than any character. He might never make it to one of my favorites, but it is satisfying and refreshing to see Zenitsu taking each to control his ability and stand up for his friends. 

This is what Demon Slayer does better than other series of the same genre: Its characters do grow and evolve instead of clinging to a trope. Unfortunately, since there are only two seasons of KnY being released, fans of the anime won’t be able to witness Zenitsu’s development as much as manga readers. 

Inosuke Hashibira (嘴平伊之助, Hashibira Inosuke)

inosuke demon slayer
Inosuke Hashibira – Source: Pinterest

A powerful Demon Slayer who joins Tanjiro in his journey. Inosuke’s backstory is a tale itself: Since his birth father was abusive, his mother fled with her infant son into the forest, only to fall in with a deadly cult. She cast her son into a river before drowning herself.  Fortunately, the boy was discovered and taken in by a herd of wild boars. 

You can say that Inosuke is the same as My Hero Academia’s Todoroki. Both young men are the tsundere of the show: They are impossibly arrogant, completely self-absorbed, and have personalities that repel more people than they attract. They act first and think later, seldom suffer the consequences of their actions, and live to become as popular as the protagonists of their shows, if not more. 

Yet, to be fair, Inosuke is vastly more likable than Todoroki thanks to his quirkiness. His hot-headed nature was pretty tame, him feeling floof is adorable enough, and his habit of forgetting people’s names is legit funny. The first time I burst out laughing at Demon Slayer was when he yelled “Kentarooo” while Tanjiro got thrown in the Natagumo Mountain arc by Father Spider. This moment is even more precious thanks to Inosuke’s wonderful VA, Yoshitsugu Matsuoka.

Inosuke’s funny moments

The Great Debate: Demon Slayer Anime VS Manga

With every franchise being released, a question will pop up: Which one is better, anime or manga? This debate has heated up in the pot in recent years as anime becomes more and more popular and visually breathtaking. Of course, such a hyped franchise like “Demon Slayer” is caught in the middle of the war. On Reddit, Quora, and almost every social media platform, you can see people being divisive about which material is superior. 

demon slayer anime
Demon Slayer Manga VS Anime – Source: Manga Thrill

As the previous part mentions, the major reason why Demon Slayer has become so popular is mainly due to its anime, which has become a worldwide phenomenon for all the right reasons. Yet, does that mean you should skip the manga at all? After taking a look at each, you will find the answer for yourself.

Demon Slayer Anime: What To Expect From Ufotable? 

Plot Progression & Pacing

I’ve got to say, the creator of Demon Slayer anime really has a unique way of setting the tone for the whole series. Right off the bat, we see our protagonist carrying a bloody girl on his back as he walks in the snowstorm. The cold air burns his lung, and though the viewers have absolutely no idea of what’s going on, the scene evokes a visceral feeling that grows bigger with each step he takes. It is the exact reflection of episode 1’s title, “Cruelty”. 

Demon Slayer Trailer

If you have read the synopsis and don’t find the plot impressive, you are not alone. That’s also why I decided to skip Demon Slayer at first: Plot-wise, the series is quite simplistic. Yet, the anime does a good job of story-telling. There is something special about how the first episode handles the string of events that turns the timid Tanjiro into a vengeful warrior, which leaves us hungry for more even when we are already familiar with the traditional shounen route. 

As the story proceeds, Tanjiro and his group go through the usual hurdles of training and battles as they learn and refine powerful abilities. Following this direction, many other series have made the mistake of becoming dull and repetitive. But, again, Ufotable knows exactly how to pique viewers’ curiosity. 

Instead of resolving each fight by the time the credits roll, many battles against demons are cut short at the most intense moments and spread across multiple episodes. The creators don’t do that just to get on our nerves: Demon Slayer is more focused on characterization, for both its heroes and demons. Our characters have a chance to express themselves, so when battles do occur, they become more meaningful. As a result, some episodes are less productive than others, but it helps the series establish its voice more quickly.

Character Development 

Since the original plot is dedicated to character development, Ufotable tries their best to follow this path. Indeed, they have done a good job portraying the backstories of Demon Slayer villains, such as Rui, Enmu, and, my all-time favorite, Muzan Kibutsuki. 

Demon Slayer Muzan
And no, I didn’t like him because he looks like Michael Jackson – Source: Pledge Times

The TV animation dedicates a lot of time to reveal who these demons were before they became corrupted, how they got like this, and what they sacrificed as a result. It’s a novel way to unify the heroes and the villains. This level of empathy does not prevent Tanjiro from carrying out his goal to exterminate these creatures, but he does take pause as he considers how his sister is now in the same situation. “Demon Slayer” wants both Tanjiro and the audience to consider how some of these demons are just as innocent or in need of atonement as Nezuko. I consider it a fascinating wrinkle that adds a deep vein of melancholy and pain to each of Tanjiro’s victories. 

Unfortunately, due to the screen time limit, the TV animation hasn’t dug deep into the main characters’ development yet. Despite having room to express themselves, by the end of season 2, the protagonist and his companions don’t grow much at all: Tanjiro is still the vengeful boy we meet in the first episode, Zenitsu is still a loud, annoying pest/coward/womanizer, and Nezuko is still a plot device crossed with a deus-ex-machina. 

At the very least, Inosuke does get some development where he goes from an arrogant loner to someone who seeks out help and friendship. Well, the Demon Slayer complete box set consists of 23 volumes with 205 chapters, while the final episode of season 2 just adapted chapter 97 of the manga. It’s not half of the journey yet, so anime lovers will have to wait long for our characters to evolve into the best versions of themselves. 

Graphics

“It’s embarrassing to say this but I teared up at around episode 19, due to how beautifully the scene was made out from the emotions in characters, dialogue/plot, and most of all, the absolutely stunning animation. All together they made it a moment I’ll never forget.”

This comment from Quora pretty much sums up everything we have to say about Demon Slayer’s graphics. We are getting near the levels of perfection in this aspect, and I’m not surprised if you say it is what takes you here. 

Tremendous animation is something we should expect from Ufotable, the production company that worked on the likes of the Fate franchise and The Garden Of Sinners. Yet, Demon Slayer is on a level of its own: The environments, the coloring, the lights, and most of all, the battle sequences look phenomenal. Animation doesn’t get any better than this.

demon slayer animation
Demon Slayer’s animation is nothing short of spectacular – Source: We Heart It

Speaking of the visual spectacles of the fight scenes in the Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba anime, the reason why the fight scenes are so remarkable is how they are actually choreographed. Everything and everyone involved in each fight moves so well, which is further helped by the sword movements and the way they are dramatized by being wreathed in water, fire, electricity, etc.

One perfect example of excellent fight choreography is in the epic fight between Tanjiro and Nezuko against Rui in episode 19: 

Tanjiro VS Rui from Kimetsu No Yaiba

Voice Acting & Soundtracks 

Demon Slayer Opening – Gurenge

While everyone is going gaga about the opening theme, “Gurenge” by LiSA, allow me to get a bit personal here: I know we can always trust Kajiura Yuki and Go Shiina to put together an absolutely stunning OST. The way they mix orchestral and Japanese traditional music gives each track an epic feel that sends actual chills to my spine. It was a beautiful accompaniment to each emotionally charged scene. 

Takahashi, the creator of Demon Slayer anime, also attributed its success to the outstanding performance of the cast. According to him, each week was getting tougher for them as they released the series during the pandemic, yet the cast still looked forward to delivering their best work to the fans. 

Their hard work indeed paid off: All the cast members have done justice to Demon Slayer’s manga characters. There was a true rawness in Hanae Natsuki’s voice acting as Tanjiro, and I actually had tears in my eyes when he was begging Giyuu to spare his sister’s life. 

Currently, you are able to get Demon Slayer’s Bluray on Amazon. A special edition is available for purchase, which includes a Special Booklet featuring character art and scene designs along with staff commentaries, Illustration Card Set, and 3-CD Soundtrack. 

Is The Manga Worth Reading? Should You Invest In A Demon Slayer Complete Box Set? 

So, is the Demon Slayer manga worth your time? This is a reasonable question, given that the anime adaptation is flat-out stunning to watch with all these breathtaking animations, superb pacing, and stunning effects. What’s more, the TV adaptation stays faithful to the original plot. 

When we have an anime of this pedigree, is it worth investing in a Demon Slayer complete box set? While every anime and manga fan is different, I usually refrain from reading manga if its anime adaptation is doing a good enough job. Yet, there are still some exceptions. For example, I began reading Tokyo Ghoul: Root A manga before it received an adaptation, and  I didn’t think its animation and cinematography measured up to the tone and design of the original manga.

Another exception is this one. After having read some issues of the manga, I feel the urge to get a Demon Slayer complete box set after all. Why?

Koyoharu Gotoge’s Artwork Is One-Of-A-Kind

Having seen a few panels as I bumped into volumes of Demon Slayer manga in the bookstore, I got the immediate impression that this was another Attack On Titan situation where the anime is just way more visually striking than the manga. However, having been a comic book collector in the past, I should have remembered that feeling when I flipped through a print volume, turned up my nose, took the leap, and immersed myself in its world. The irresistible rawness in Koyoharu Gotoge’s writing and art skill reminds me of all those moments. 

demon slayer art style
There is a special charm in Demon Slayer’s art style – Source: Web Manga Plus

A thing I absolutely adore is how Demon Slayer’s art style fits in with the series tone. The KnY manga might appear raw, unpolished, and lacking in detail, but it actually encourages the readers to be carried along by the river-like flow of the action instead of dwelling idly on any specific panels or pages. This ensures that the thumping pace is maintained. The same deliciously rhythmic and fulfilling pacing that captivates anime lovers might feel even tighter here in the manga, and that’s the advantage of reading: You can choose to read at your own speed. 

So, while I get why people say that the anime is more visually appealing, I believe Gotouge’s rough, raw art actually complements the story’s theme and rhythm. Aside from that, it also helps us connect with the mangaka on some levels. In each volume, you can find her commentary, which is delivered through a lovely alligator persona. It almost feels, at times, that Gotouge is enjoying the story with us, and that’s simply adorable. 

A Tons Of Interesting Developments

As the previous part mentions, the TV series only covers 97 chapters of the manga. Therefore, everything fans have seen in the anime is nothing more than the tip of a massive iceberg. There are still many twists and turns waiting for you to discover, thus those who simply can’t get enough of this brilliant series shouldn’t miss out on the Demon Slayer complete box set

Demon slayer manga
Zenitsu grows a lot more in Demon Slayer manga – Source: Web Manga Plus

Take Zenitsu’s character development for instance. While we can only see him as a scaredy-cat on the screen, chapter 151 of the manga marks his growth as he finally overcomes the fear and is ready to fight the demons head-on with full strength. Another example is the Hashira, which are merely teased before the anime wrapped up. If you are curious about these most powerful fighters, the manga has already shown them in action!

The Story Has Reached Its Conclusion 

In case you are wondering, ‘Is the Demon Slayer manga finished?’, well, it is. For all the success the series has gained over the last few years, many thought it would continue for a long time, but Gotouge eventually decided to put an end to all speculation. She wrapped up the manga after a string of terrific arcs to help it reach its natural conclusion. 

The Story Has Reached Its Conclusion
Will Tanjiro and Nezuko get a happy ending? – Source: OtakuKart

It is suggested that the anime series will last for three seasons. If you can wait, feel free to do so. But, if you are curious about how this amazing tale draws to a close, here is the Demon Slayer complete box set, ready for you to enjoy:

Set Your Heart Ablaze! 

Demon Slayer is one of the few stories, in both manga and anime forms, that can be enjoyed by anyone. It makes the perfect manga and the perfect anime. Whichever you choose to begin, you can rest assured that you will have a wonderful experience. You’ll laugh, cry, scream, sigh, and feel elated the entire time. 

Choosing the manga or the anime to start the journey really depends on your preference, but both are equally worthwhile investments. I’m such a fan that I chose both of them, and I’m glad that I did. 

For those boarding late, I’d suggest starting with the Demon Slayer complete box set and then seeing how the anime brings the story to life with colors and sounds. Whichever you choose, what waits for you ahead is an exciting and enjoyable journey. Draw your sword and get ready for the demon hunt! 

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