Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba (Season One)
In Taisho Era Japan (1912-1926), Tanjiro Kamado returns from a trip to sell charcoal to find his family slain by a demon, with one exception- his sister Nezuko- who has been transformed into a demon. Seeking revenge on the demon who did this- but, most of all, seeking to find a way to change his sister back into a human- Tanjiro is trained as a Demon Slayer by a mysterious man named Mr. Urodaki, but this is just the beginning of his journey...
Production company UFOtable worked on Garden of Sinners as well, and whatever issues I had with that show's story, the background art was often beautiful. Same here, especially with 3DCG enhancements; forests and other landscapes here are absolutely gorgeous.
The demons are certainly formidable foes. Quite aside from their taste for human flesh, they are often insanely strong, and can regenerate lost body parts- even a whole body, in time. Only beheading by the Slayer's nichirin swords, or sunlight, can kill them. (One Slayer, we learn, HAS found a third way to do the job, though.) Some of the demons also practice Blood Demon Arts- demon magic- while the Slayers have nothing to oppose that except their swords, their skills, their wits, and their resolve. Most of the demons have come to relish their own horrible table manners (and crude jokes, though the humans don't manage better in the humor department-more later); but some were people made into demons very much against their will (much like the vampires in Shiki), and retain some of their memories of their former human existence. Tanjiro certainly has a personal reason to understand this, and it gives him a nuanced view of his opponents that will turn out to be absent in some other Slayers. We'll in fact get the backstories of some of the demons, which make them almost pathetic creatures. But one who deserves NO sympathy, who can NEVER be forgiven, is their own "final boss", the perpetrator of misery to both humans AND the demons under his command, the Sauron/Voldemort of the demon world, named Muzan Kibutsuji. But it's the defeat of THAT one that might be required to restore Nezuko's humanity.
Tanjiro, for his part, is a pretty Standard Issue hero- cheerful, good natured, as noted having a nuanced view of his opponents, but nevertheless resolute. ABOVE ALL ELSE, resolute. (We have in this show the shonen trope of the hero's being able to carefully think through his attacks in the middle of charging toward an opponent. I really don't think anyone's brain works QUITE that fast, but OK.) He does have one near-superpower: an unusually keen sense of smell.
Nezuko, though, is a true marvel. Despite now having a demon form she nevertheless retains much of her humanity, including her devotion to her brother, but now that's enhanced with the ferocity and strength of a demon. She's as formidable as Tanjiro in a fight against demons, when she's literally let out of her box. (Tanjiro carries her around in a crate on his back- remember, demons can't be exposed to sunlight. I would think having an extra 50 kilos or so on his back would slow him down in fights, but he seems to manage OK.) She saves her brother's hide more than once.
Tanjiro acquires a couple of sidekicks during the show, and it's here that I formed the opinion that while the show does action extremely well, and pathos well enough, it kind of flops at comedy.
I'll start with Inosuke Hashibara, since he's simpler- as in, simple-minded. (We only get brief glimpses of his past.) Inosuke always wears a boar's-head mask, partly because his fighting form is "beast" themed, but also presumably because he's ashamed of his face. (I won't say WHY here.) His main character trait is an over-the-top competitiveness, which Tanjiro can manipulate to his advantage: once Tanjiro models the tactic to take down a demon, Inosuke will not rest until he's taken down as many as he can the same way, just to show who's the more proficient slayer!
The other sidekick is Zenitsu Agatsuma. This guy has two different personalities. The dominant one- which I utterly hated- is a one-note hysterically whiny coward; he even gets upset, like a child, when he has to take bad-tasting medicine. His shouting and screaming are NOT funny, and become incredibly irksome.
On the other hand, there's a different Zenitsu that the show sometimes lets out, though during combat he typically only emerges when the hysterical one succumbs to a fit of "the vapors". THIS Zenitsu is reflective, compassionate, and, while recognizing his own inadequacies, wants to change. ("I want to become a competent person.") Zenitsu has a crush on Nezuko; maybe THIS Zenitsu, the thoughtful one, might, with a lot of work, actually become worthy of her.
We'll also meet the Hashira, the elite of the Demon Slayers. (Both the Slayers, and the Demons, have ranks.) The Hashira each seem to have their distinctive odd character traits. A few of them seem to have been fighting monsters so long that they've become sadistic monsters themselves, but their Master seems to share a deeper vision with Tanjiro- despite the fact that the Master is physically blind. I did VERY much like Lady Shinobu Kocho, who, in her first appearance, somehow manages to be cheerful, sarcastic, and scary as hell all at the same time. (She's the third outstanding female character in this show- besides her and Nezuko, there's also a demon "doctor" who was the most sympathetic character on the demon side next to Nezuko herself of course.)
Oh, one note: at one point, our heroes have to defeat demons living in a house. Since demons are destroyed by sunlight, I would have tackled this a little differently than just entering the house. I think a better idea would be to get a crew together at dawn, march to the house, remove the roof, and then take down the walls. With good planning, I'd think the interior could be cleared by sundown. Just a thought...
The show represents the opening chapters of a much longer saga. I liked Tanjiro well enough; I also like Zenitsu when he's in his "calm" mode, and I LOVED Nezuko and, to a lesser degree, Lady Kocho. The demons' magic was interestingly varied, and the demons themselves were often treated with surprising sympathy. It's certainly an ambitious show, and with some very good characters (including three VERY strong female ones) and its stalwart hero I was willing to overlook some painful attempts at humor (especially Zenitsu's ranting and raving.) — Allen Moody
Recommended Audience: Blood and gore, beheadings, stabbings, and generally gruesome special effects. Things can get pretty dark in this world. Call it movie R (recommend for 16+).
Version(s) Viewed: Streaming on Crunchyroll
Review Status: Full (26/26)
Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba (Season One) © 2019 UFOtable
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