Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba is a manga written and illustrated by Koyoharu Gotōge. I haven’t read this manga (waiting until comic book stores are open again to find the English version), but I’m watching season one of the anime on Netflix with my youngest. After watching most of season 1, I felt compelled to write something about it as it is an excellent example of storytelling.
Plot: The anime starts out with as saccharine as beginnings as you can get. Tanjiro Kamado and his whole family are a bunch of cutesy cinnamon rolls. Tanjiro is an obedient, family oriented boy, with all the traits that will get absolutely get you bullied on the American playground. However, after watching so much disfunction and dystopia, it was a refreshing start for me. I know enough about story craft to know this set up of idyllic mountain life in Taishō era Japan would not last.
Don’t read this section if you don’t want any plot spoilers for the first episode.
Skip down to “What I Liked” section.
Tanjiro is delayed by an elder, who insists that Tanjiro stay the night at his house because demons run throughout the mountains, feasting on human blood during the night. Tanjiro, being the sweet boy that he is, does as he’s told and figures the old man just wants company. The viewer learns through inner monologuing that Tanjiro plans to brighten the old man’s life with visits from his cinnamon roll family so that he isn’t so lonely and crotchety, and dismisses this demon talk as nonsense. (A lot of inner monologuing goes on in this series and is an anime trope I had to get over to enjoy the story.)
When Tanjiro returns home, he finds his entire family slaughtered except his sister, Nezuko. Unfortunately, she has been made a demon.
A demon slayer appears, intent on killing Nezuko. It’s Tanjiro’s bravery, defending his sister and her defense of Tanjiro that changes the slayer’s mind. He sends Tanjiro off to a master, who will train Tanjiro and possibly help him find a cure for Nezuko’s demonism.
Tanjiro goes on a hero’s journey style quest to find a cure for his sister Nezuko, finding himself among the ranks of Demon Slayer Corps along the way.
What I Liked:
- The hero isn’t propelled into action to avenge his family’s death. His motivation is to save his sister Nezuko from the fate of being a demon the rest of her life or being slayed by a demon slayer.
- Tanjiro’s first mistake is not taking an elder’s wisdom seriously. It cost him his family. Respect for elders is something lacking in a lot of entertainment.
- Friendships and family are important and community is emphasized. Loners aren’t successful for very long.
- Overlooking your friend’s shortcomings and seeing their value. There are some annoying characters along the way, but Tanjiro befriends them anyway, inner monologuing away about their good qualities.
What I didn’t like:
- The inner monologuing of all characters. The expository “telling” in the omniscient point of view could sometimes be redundant. Sometimes fight scenes got weighed down by this, but it is an anime trope, not exclusive to Demon Slayer.
- The overreactions/acting. The screaming characters can be a bit much for me, but also a trope and I simply turn down the volume.
Would I recommend Demon Slayer:
That depends on who’s asking.
Fantasy writers seeking to improve their craft, teenagers, and anime fans? Yes.
People who don’t like cartoons or overly dramatic dialogue/monologue. No.
Hope you’re all doing well.