It’s pretty neat to be reviewing the anime and manga versions of Demon Slayer almost back to back. When Ufotable jumped on to animate this series it was definitely a big deal. The manga went from being a pretty big Jump title to suddenly being a house hold name and breaking all kinds of records. It’s easy to see why though, Ufotable easily appears as the best animation company at the moment. (Although I’ll still take Studio Pierrot as my favorite company. They are able to keep a top rate level of animation for long running shows which is just as impressive but more on that in a future editorial) Their animations are just spectacular and the adaption of the manga is quite accurate. It’s certainly top notch in that respect but of course that also means the anime can get extremely violent. Ufotable isn’t about to shy away from such things so while this series is held back in that regard, you won’t be forgetting the battles.
The series begins with a kid named Tanjiro heading down the mountain to sell some wood and gain money/supplies for his family. Unfortunately when he returns it turns out that his family was murdered by demons. The only survivor is his sister Nezuko who has also been turned. Fortunately she is able to resist the urge to eat humans but she can no longer be in the sunlight. Tanjiro convinces an ex Demon Slayer to train him so that he can fight demons and ultimately find a way to turn Nezuko back to normal. It’ll be a difficult journey since we don’t even know if a cure is possible and most people won’t trust her since she is a demon. Still, Tanjiro does not intend to give up and is ready to brave any hardship to protect her.
We get quite a lot of training initially and you can see why being a Demon Slayer is not something that just anyone can do. Most people simply wouldn’t be willing to train for years at a time risking their life in the process just to get a job that we don’t even know has a salary to risk your life against monstrous evils. Fighting demons has to simply be something you are very resolved to do. Otherwise it simply won’t work out. In fact we see this later on in the series as a lot of people either dropped out or didn’t have the proper motivation and got bumped off pretty quick.
I’ll quickly talk about the animation part right off the bat to get it out of the way. It’s exceptional as you would expect. One thing I really liked here was how the show gives all of the characters very distinct eyes. Eye colors have always been a fun anime thing and I really enjoy when titles go all out with it. For example Shinobu has very dead eyes which makes sense for such a mysterious character and then Tanjiro has two layered eyes which are cool. They just stand out. It’s a little harder to get this across in a manga although Slayer did that well there too. To date the best example of a manga doing something similar is Kaguya: Love Is War but for the most part you usually have to wait for the anime. The fight scenes are absolutely on point with Tanjiro’s battle against the spider creature getting a ton of hype back when it came out. You would see that one everywhere. The animation’s just very consistent and even small things like the little character heads for bumpers during the more comedic episodes were fun.
Naturally the soundtrack is also quite good. It really sounds like a Fate soundtrack to me at times with maybe a little Naruto on occasion. I wonder if Ufotable has some kind of jurisdiction over soundtracks so they have to have a certain style. It all works very well for the series though of course. You can expect a lot of high intensity tracks to be played during the fights really cementing how high the stakes are.
Naturally as mentioned the series can be incredibly violent. While I wouldn’t put it on the same level as Fate Zero, it’s probably right after Attack on Titan for being the third most intense series I’ve seen. Characters are blown up, ripped apart, and suffer catastrophic injuries over and over again. Since the demons can regenerate it isn’t always a big deal to them until they finally lose their head. The show isn’t afraid to just show all of this straight up. Naturally a lot of random civilians also get thrown into the crossfire and don’t quite make it.
Some of the demons have pretty twisted backstories as well. The Spider demon saga probably had the most moments like this even though it also had the most epic fights. The spider demon son who was the main villain for example would just rip another demon’s face off and liked to punish them with his whips. The father demon was also demented as he terrorized the others. It was an extremely warped version of a family and you would expect no less from a demon tribe. Still, those scenes are definitely quite dark. In the final episode we basically have Muzan crush and dismember a bunch of his demons to remind them of their place as well.
In such a world even the heroes are rather jaded to the point where you even have one of them stab Tanjiro’s sister a few times. Those scenes are pretty tough since it makes it hard for you to root for some of these heroes. It’s always good to see Tanjiro jump in to help out. He’s definitely a very solid protagonist in any medium. Nezuko also deserves a lot of credit for staying strong in these circumstances. The level of violence means I’d be recommending this to a very select crowd based on their tastes but overall it really does limit the show a lot because of how frequent it is. More realistically this wouldn’t ever make the list on my recommendations for anime viewers.
Season 1 covers a pretty good amount of content even going into the big Hashira meeting and through to the beginning of the Train section. As the train arc is getting a movie I figured the show would end with the heroes walking out of the house so it was nice that we got a bonus scene at the end here. It also makes for a good ending point with a fresh adventure on the way and the opening act stories completed. Lets turn the clock back a bit though and talk about some of the opening stories.
The first mini arc is Tanjiro’s entrance exam to becoming a Demon Slayer. To do this he must survive a few days in a deadly forest with a lot of demons. This is one of those tests where you feel like the proctors could probably keep an eye on things a little more. After all it turns out that a super powerful demon is around picking people off and nobody figured it out. Ah well, it’s fortunate for the demons at least. It worked well as a first big fight for Tanjiro and he got to show off his opening water breath techniques this way. By avenging all of the students who came before him, Tanjiro started off his journey on the right foot.
Then you have the arc where Tanjiro meets two demons who are on the side of good such as Tamayo and Yushiro. They were good allies to have around for sure. Yushiro may have given Tanjiro and Nezuko a hard time throughout but he was quite devoted to protecting Tamayo which is important. Tamayo’s mastery of medicines was also handy. In this arc the group is attacked by a pair of demons who can use a soccer ball and one who can control the direction you move in. These were definitely deadly opponents to fight and Susamaru had to be the standout villain of the series. She was really confident in her abilities and even fought Nezuko rather fairly in a battle of brawn with her kicks. Ultimately Nezuko was still getting stronger at this point so she wasn’t quite ready to win such a battle but she made it awfully close.
Susamaru’s partner isn’t quite as memorable but his attacks were great. Honestly it’s hard to see how this guy could be defeated once he gets the arrows on you. Tanjiro did a great job of surviving but that had to be one of the deadliest fights for him. If Susamaru had just kept the arrow going up it could have been the end. I assume he has some kind of ability limit which prevents him from doing so, however it’s still a great attack. This arc was a great showcase for Tanjiro and Nezuko to fight.
After that we have the arc with the house that is always changing rooms. Tanjiro and a guy he just met on the road named Zenitsu. This Demon Slayer is afraid of just about everything though so he won’t exactly be the most reliable ally to have around. The demon in charge of this mansion may not be the most powerful in a direct fight but he can cause the house to keep shifting gravity angles so if you jump at him you’ll suddenly find yourself going backwards or to the side. He can also shoot shockwaves at you while you’re disoriented. Fortunately the heroes have some backup with a guy named Inosuke who is another demon slayer in the mansion.
It was nice to get 3 different Demon Slayers at the ready here. The fight with the demon was also pretty solid here with a lot of dynamic visuals of having to get used to the place shifting so much. I imagine even the toughest of fighters would have some difficulty adjusting to such a thing. Initially Inosuke was definitely a very antagonistic member of the group though, going as far as being ready to destroy a fellow demon slayer in order to take down one of the demons. Tanjiro had to go in and teach him a lesson. It’s definitely a common theme here that Tanjiro has to headbut/punch people back onto the right path. Inosuke ends up being more of a regular hero after that.
Then we have the iconic mountain arc. A family of spider demons have been murdering a whole bunch of Demon Slayers and essentially own the mountain. It’s difficult to deal with them because they can use their strings to manipulate the movements of the slayers and force them to destroy each other. Additionally one of them has the ability to turn others into spiders and then you have a member with pure power. Tanjiro’s crew is sent over to help out and it’s quite a bold order if you think about it since they were sent in as backup for a group of much higher ranked fighters. Needless to say this isn’t exactly easy. The three of them get split up and all have to deal with their own opponents now.
It was a nice showcase for all of the fighters. Ironically Zenitsu is really the only fighter able to handle his opponent without help. I guess it goes to show that his thunder breathing is really good. The show also highlights the weakness of only knowing one style though. Then you have Inosuke’s battle which is pretty solid. He has his confidence shaken at one point but then recovers enough to attack. Ultimately it wasn’t enough for him to win but he put up a really valiant effort. Finally you have Taijiro who had the iconic fight that everyone was talking about with the final sequence. The fight’s definitely top notch with all of the speed and energy attacks going into it. Nezuko and Tanjiro also got to team up for that effort.
The spider arc is probably also the darkest one though with the origin of how the demon spiders came to be. You’ve got betrayal but also a whole lot of punishments within the ranks. Anyone who defies Rui really ends up getting punished. He shreds his own family of demons quite a bit. The flashback where he effectively takes off one of their faces is pretty brutal and he also puts Nezuko through a lot. At that point Tanjiro definitely knew he had to step in. Rui’s tactic of taking his own head off to prevent anyone else from doing so was a pretty smart idea though. We know that demons can’t destroy each other so it makes sense that if he delivers himself a fatal blow then it’ll be tough for anyone else to do so.
You can definitely be a bit sympathetic to some of the other demons. Particularly the mother one had a pretty tough road. The sister seems sympathetic initially but then she has the flashback where she betrayed another demon and you figure she’s more manipulative than anything. One of the standout scenes of the arc aside from the flashy Tanjiro fight is certainly when two members of the Hashira show up. It’s always hype when you see backup of this level. You only get to experience the first fight for an upper rank once so this was a great way to do it. Gyu and Shinobu show up to offer much needed support and also show how much stronger they are than the average fighter.
Giyu immediately shows why he is the best character in the series (At least as of season 1) here. He’s incredibly powerful but also very reliable. Giyu was quick to defend Tanjiro when it counted. He’s certainly a lot slower to jump to murdering everyone compared to Shinobu. Shinobu’s also a great character though. I appreciated her backstory of why she hides her emotions. Effectively she is trying to fulfill someone’s last wish even if she really doesn’t agree with it. Her style of combat is also unique. She’s quietly quite sinister at times with the demons and it’s hard to say if she would have even kept her end of the deal with her offer to one of the spider demons. Perhaps though, we’re also shown that she has a kind side so maybe if the spider demon had agreed to the terms she would have been okay. That said, I can’t see this demon being able to resist humans the way that Nezuko could.
Finally the show ends with the heroes training at Shinobu’s estate and also meeting up with the Hashira. Naturally a lot of these guys are all in for murdering Nezuko and don’t really want to listen to reason. Giyu appears to be the only reasonable one again, even having to step in to stop the snake pillar from crushing Tanjiro. These hero meetings are always pretty hype though because now we’re really getting to see the whole roster of top level allies. All of these guys will be important down the road that’s for sure. I was glad Tanjiro wasn’t standing for their attacks on Nezuko and quickly jumped in. Nezuko is definitely given quite a hard time being forced to restrain herself so often.
This was a nice way to end things. We essentially got a preview of the future here and the villains had a similar meeting. For contrast Muzan spent it slaughtering all of his members except for one who is given another chance. Compared to how the leader of the Slayers handled the meeting by building everyone up, it was quite the contrast to be sure. We also get a good training arc here and I would say Tanjiro once again proves to be at the front of the class with Inosuke and Zenitsu both throwing in the towel early on. You can’t be a quitter and expect to reach the same heights as someone who trained hard from the start. Tanjiro’s good deeds are always rewarded as the teachers were inclined to give him tips on how to be stronger due to this.
I didn’t really talk about the characters earlier so lets run through the main ones. Tanjiro is an exceptional lead as you would expect. He’s always a nice guy who is still resolute in his mission to take down the demons. He’s very quick to protect Nezuko as well as anyone else who is threatened as seen in the proctor exam when he stopped another trainee from threatening the overseer. Nezuko is also a very solid heroine. From the start she is able to restrain herself from eating humans which is huge and she is also quick to support Tanjiro in his more difficult fights. She is a demon after all so her abilities are quite solid even if Tanjiro tries to protect her from having to engage in these battles.
Zenitsu is pretty good at his role of comic relief but he’ll likely always pale in comparison to the other characters. He’s not exactly the most heroic guy to the point where he hesitates a lot and always waits at the back of the line. He’s not a reliable sidekick to have and he is a little too obsessed with every girl he meets. For those reasons I wouldn’t say he is a quality character. Inosuke on the other hand is pretty great. He’s a vicious fighter who doesn’t give up very often. Inosuke loves competing with Tanjiro and in this way he continues to hone his skills. I like his competitive attitude although Tanjiro pretty much never jumps at the bait which really works Inosuke up. He certainly helps the dynamic.
Then you have Kanao who will have a much bigger role in the future. As of now though she has a pretty solid role here as she starts off pretty emotionless but Tanjiro at least shows her the potential of unlocking her emotions. She definitely had a rough backstory though so it’s easy to see why she sealed her emotions off. At the time I’m sure that was very helpful so she wasn’t hurt as much as she would have been by the tough conditions. Tanjiro’s teacher was also a pretty reasonable character although I thought he did a particularly poor job at preparing Tanjiro for the road ahead. Some basic things like teaching him more about breathing for long periods of time or at least a heads up that all of the other students went missing so something may be going haywire at the school. Instead he basically left Tanjiro to his own devices and we learned later on that he partially just didn’t want Tanjiro to succeed. It’s easy to see why since he doesn’t want anyone else to die but it’s rough on Tanjiro.
Overall, Demon Slayer is definitely a pretty intense show. It has really high production values and a lot of hype moments. While the best fight has to be Tanjiro vs Rui, I would say the most hype moment of the show was when Giyu faced off against Shinobu since there’s nothing Tanjiro can really do there except hope that Giyu comes out on top. The pacing of the episodes are solid and it all goes through in a breeze. The show tends to go too far with the violence though so expect some intense scenes in virtually every episode. As long as you don’t mind thing getting a little violent then I can definitely see you enjoying this one quite a bit. If you love the concept but want something a little tamer then I’d say to check out Yu Yu Hakusho which also involves quite a bit of demon hunting while also throwing in some tournaments for good luck. It’s pretty unique that the show continues with a movie before presumably going back into show format so if you want to stay current then you’ll need to check out the movie.