Critically acclaimed anime series Kimetsu No Yaiba (or Demon Slayer) follows the journey of Tanjiro Kamado, a friendly good-willed adventurer. Over the course of the first season’s 26 episodes – although more seasons and movies are on the way – he and his sister Nezuko, the latter turned into a demon forced to suppress her bloodlust, must fight an assortment of interesting, often disgusting demonic creatures. This is as part of their journey to return Nezuko to her human form. While the premise may sound basic, the show possesses a lot more depth than it may first appear – serving to show viewers why it has garnered such high praise.
Looking at the characters throughout the series, viewers get an understanding of the pain that many of them have suffered that led them to this point in their lives. All strive for a goal and none ever give up in the face of adversity. Our protagonist tackles every situation with everything he has, giving audiences a hero they can root for. The writer of the original manga, Koyoharu Gotouge, could have easily created a vengeful, broody character that strives for nothing but revenge. Instead, we see a fighter that, despite the deep pain he has endured, still finds time to offer light-hearted banter that bounces and blends with the show’s other characters.
This depth extends even to the demon characters. Whether it’s the Spider family or the drum beating Kyogai of the powerful Kizuki, viewers see motivation and redemption in their minds which help shape who they are. Tragedy comes in many forms throughout the series, be it within an action-packed sequence where the cast fight for their lives or in a quieter moment where the main group argue before bed.
Set in the Taisho era of Japanese history, the series explores the concept of overcoming odds. We see characters grow and develop skills – all depicted through beautiful animation while forming part of an emotional story. Yes, there are parts when the show dips in quality and some moments are more impactful than others, but when it lands an emotional gut punch, it lands perfectly.
Adding to the theme of overcoming odds, something that runs through the lives of everyone who has ever struggled to complete a task, is the gore. Demon Slayer does not shy away from serving viewers gritty and bloody scenes that in many settings could be too much but here actually bolster the narrative and style. Witnessing what a demon can do if the protagonist makes one false move gives audiences a further reason to cheer our hero on. This is because we can see the sheer divide of power between the fighters.
Audiences love an underdog. Yes, we know deep down that our hero will come out alive and we will see the demon fade away in a dusty black flame. Yet, it is the determination and drive that the main characters have when knocked down that only sweetens the deal when they get back up again and deliver the finishing blow to the enemy.
Ultimately, Demon Slayer is your typical battle of good versus evil. That said, adding a pinch of grey to the black and white formula enables the series to better explore topics like tragedy and overcoming odds than many shows of its kind. Hopefully, this will roll over into the show’s sequel film Demon Slayer the Movie: Mugen Train, as well as its much anticipated second season.