“Whenever happiness is destroyed, there is always… the smell of blood.”
A family massacred. An innocent younger sister, now transformed into the very bloodthirsty demon that killed her family. An eldest son, fighting to save what is left of his sister’s humanity. A burning desire to avenge human lives that have been lost. As swords and demonic powers clash, a war rages on between human beings and demons, two sides that are forced to coexist in the same world.
All of these components come together to create Kimetsu no Yaiba (鬼滅の刃), otherwise known in English as Demon Slayer (the literal translation comes out as “Blade of Demon Destruction”). Demon Slayer is a Japanese anime that has recently taken Japan, as well as the rest of the world, by storm. Originally a manga featured in Weekly Shōnen Jump magazine, the anime, currently consisting of only 26 episodes, has gained immense popularity across the globe, especially following the release of its first feature-length film. The film serves as a direct sequel to where the anime’s series finale left off.
Demon Slayer follows Tanjiro Kamado, a young boy living in Taishō-era Japan (1912~1926). He lives with his family, which includes his mother and five siblings, up in a remote mountainous area. Kindhearted and hardworking, Tanjiro is beloved by his large family, who depends on him as the eldest son to support them. They live a simple yet happy life together on the mountain, despite his father having passed away a short while ago.
However, darkness soon befalls this happy family. After a trip into the village at the foot of the mountain, Tanjiro returns home and is horrified to find that his entire family has been butchered. He finds the bodies of his mother and young siblings tossed about in their house, blood spattered everywhere. It’s a horrific sight, to say the least (warning: don’t get too emotionally attached to the family members for the short time that they’re alive). Much to Tanjiro’s shock, he finds that his younger sister Nezuko is still breathing, but gravely injured. As he carries her down the mountain, desperate to seek medical help, she attacks him. He quickly realizes that Nezuko may not be dead, but something worse than death has happened to her: she has been turned into a demon, the very creature that caused the demise of their family members.
Tanjiro, with the help of a mysterious member of a secret organization called the Demon Slayer Corps, is able to save Nezuko without killing her. She may be a demon, but she is different from the other demons that plague the villages of Japan; she still possesses the same kind, caring qualities and emotional depth as when she was human. She is able to survive through lengthy periods of sleep, instead of eating the flesh of other humans, which is an ability that is almost unheard of in the demon world.
Determined to someday find the cure and turn Nezuko back into a human being, Tanjiro decides to train vigorously and join the Demon Slayer Corps, hoping that his interactions with various demons across Japan will lead him closer to a cure that will bring his sister back. Along the way, Tanjiro not only faces a multitude of scary demons with insane Blood Demon Art abilities, but also meets and teams up with other members of the Demon Slayer Corps. Each character in the series is unique and entertaining, from the way their character is visually designed, to their fighting skills and abilities, to their compelling personalities.
During their journey, Tanjiro and Nezuko are eventually accompanied by two other soldiers from the Demon Slayer Corps, Zenitsu and Inosuke. Inosuke is a muscular, hard-headed, and stubborn man with an ill-fitting pretty boy face. He is wearing his signature boar’s head for a majority of the time, not even taking it off to sleep at night. He is obstinate and primitive in nature, but his jagged double Nichirin swords (and his fighting ability) are truly something to behold.
Zenitsu, on the other hand, is pretty much the sole reason why I didn’t give this show a solid 10/10 score. He may have blonde hair and a sick lightning bolt katana, but the guy is a complete wimp. I’m sure his wimpy-but-is-actually-good-at-fighting trait is appealing to some, but his constant high-pitched screaming and chickening out really got on my nerves while watching the series. I suppose he serves as a necessary contrast to Tanjiro (after all, not everyone can be a fearless and skilled warrior, because that would be boring), but his pitiful, insecure cowardice makes him fairly unlikeable at times.
It feels important to note that the “demons” in the show, known in Japanese as “oni” (鬼), are not like the traditional oni that are often found in Japanese folklore and fables. Traditional oni are typically red, blue, or green in color, have 1~3 horns on their head, and are large, fat creatures that wield giant kanabō weapons and steal human babies for eating. While this traditional basis is evident in the various demons of Demon Slayer, some of the demons’ designs are modernized, in accordance with the Taishō setting of the series. This transition is especially clear in the case of Muzan Kibutsuji, the most powerful demon in Japan and the supreme leader of the Twelve Kizuki (Demon Moons). He, for the most part, looks like a typical human being, complete with a silly fedora hat that showcases the rising popularity of Western clothing during that era. The various designs of the demons, along with the great diversity in their abilities and Blood Demon Art (basically their own unique demon powers), is one of the most fascinating components of the anime.
There are so many different elements of Demon Slayer that make it one of the best animes I have ever seen: the stunning blend of 2D and 3D animation. The excellently choreographed fight scenes. The fun variance within the anime’s signature characters. The blend of traditional Japan with the introduction of Westernization. The balance of fun, humorous interactions vs. the dark and terrifying realities of monsters living among humans. The value of family and loyalty. Do I really need to give you more reasons to watch it? All 26 episodes are available on Hulu and Crunchyroll, although I’ve yet to find the movie sequel Demon Slayer: Infinity Train anywhere (trust me, I looked on every illegal site out there). We’ll have to wait until 2021 to find out what happens next to our hero Tanjiro on the titular Infinity Train.