Overview (Spoilers Below):
Sometimes heroes don’t choose to be special. Before disaster strikes the Kamado family, Tanjiro leads a simple life with his normal, unassuming family. All of that changes when a demon massacres Tanjiro’s mother and turns his sister, Nezuko, into a demon, too. Cresftfallen, Tanjiro comes in contact with a Demon Slayer and becomes recruited by the warrior to join his cause. Tanjiro suddenly has a new purpose to not just avenge his family’s death and take down any demons similar to the ones who have hurt him, but to also find a way to cure his sister and bring her back to normal.
Tanjiro and Nezuko’s quest brings them in the way of Zenitsu and Inosuke, two other fledgling fighters. As a team, the group takes down the demons in their wake, improve their fantastical strengths along the way, and also learn a great deal about humanity as they move towards their destination. Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba doesn’t try to cram too much into its first season, but the characters are in a very different place than where they started once this impressive freshman season comes to a close.
Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba has accomplished a very difficult thing. On a surface level, there’s nothing very unique or impressive about this series. It’s yet another shonen series from Shonen Jump that handles the extermination of monsters. This sub-genre of anime has such clear guidelines and stereotypes that it’s very easy for these types of series to feel derivative of past works, but still easily connect and engage audiences. When Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba first came out, I was in no hurry to watch an anime that seemed to fit into a cookie cutter template and even has a title that’s as vague and uninteresting as simply “Demon Slayer.”
In spite of all of that baggage that a new shonen series like this brings with it, Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba has become one of my favorite anime of the season and a true testament to how impressive an anime adaptation can be when such love and care is put into its presentation. The team at ufotable have done extremely impressive work with Demon Slayer and they’ve turned a popular manga into a triumph of an anime that’s a pleasure to watch, even when it’s at its weakest. Demon Slayer is far from a perfect anime and it succumbs to the same pitfalls that many shonen anime do, as well as problems that are unique to this series, but the anime is still so entertaining and gorgeous that these lows for the season only amount to minor grievances during an incredible ride.
Demon Slayer establishes a steady pace over this first season that’s never too slow or too intense. Tanjiro and his team face a number of creative demons over the course of the season and there’s plenty of action that the show never becomes boring. The characters always leave their destination and move onto some place new just when it runs the risk of feeling stale. Demon Slayer’s first season is interesting in the sense that nearly every episode is a strong success, but the bigger picture doesn’t change that much. This season is very much an extended introduction to these characters and their world, even if it does get beyond that point.
Curiously, Demon Slayer does more character work for the demons that meet their end through the season than the core characters. Tanjiro, Inosuke, and Zenitsu all see development and minimal growth, but Rui the spider demon arguably gets just as much attention on his characterization. The same can be said for the show’s supporting cast, where characters like Shinobu and Kanao are serious highlights, but it also feels like it comes at the expense of the core cast. This also leads to what’s easily Demon Slayer’s biggest fault, which is that Nezuko barely gets any character development done at all. It’s a travesty how little she’s focused on for a character that’s part of the main cast and such an important part of the show. It wouldn’t have been difficult to get her marginally more involved and out of that basket. Here’s hoping that season two gives Nezuko a major upgrade.
Demon Slayer may falter slightly with the characterization of its main cast, but it makes up for it with its extremely attractive presentation. Animation studios like TRIGGER, Wit, and David Productions have made a name for themselves with their routinely gorgeous anime series, but ufotable’s work on Demon Slayer is proof that they also deserve to be in that conversation. All of the fights that take place in this series are just fantastic displays of animation. The powers of the Demon Slayers or the carnage that the demons enact are all so satisfying to watch. The series has such a distinct art style with its thick and heavy lines that gives the show character in a helpful way. The series does make use of CG effects on occasion, but it’s always to creative use and in a way that actually takes advantage of the different aesthetic rather than a means to a shortcut.
The battles and the different demons that are revealed in this first season all work well, but it also speaks to some strong world-building that the show achieves. Glimpses into the Demon Slayer Corps, the Hashira, and Muzan Kibutsuji’s Twelve Demon Moon show a much larger story that goes beyond Tanjiro and his sister. Demon Slayer hasn’t been afraid to take the focus off of its core cast and it’s paid off with how the background elements of the series have become so engrossing. There are plenty of episodes that really explore deep, human issues or become touching parables as the histories and plight of demons are shown. More than anything else Demon Slayer pushes the idea that there can be harmony between these two disparate forces.
Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba is exciting, suspenseful, hilarious, and thought provoking. It’s everything that an anime hopes to be and there’s a reason that it’s become one of the breakout anime of 2019. The first season of this show is a wonderful entry to this universe and with a lot of the groundwork out of the way there’s no reason why the second season won’t be even more entertaining. The fights are poised to be more intense and there’s bound to be traction on the whole Nezuko front. Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba is definitely going to be around for years, so if you’ve been on the fence about the show, now is the point to officially jump on board. It’s the best anime with a half-boar man that you’ll watch all year.