The franchise with the highest-grossing film in Japan’s history earned that acclaim.
It’s the Taishō Era of Japan’s history (1912-1926). Tanjiro Kamado (Natsuki Hanae/Zach Aguilar) is the eldest son of his family and, following his father’s death, a charcoal seller in the mountains. One day, after coming home from a trip to the nearest town, he finds out that his entire family was massacred. The only “survivor” is his sister, Nezuko (Akari Kitō/Abby Trott), who has been transformed into a demon that craves human flesh. However, when a demon slayer named Tomioka (Takahiro Sakurai/Johnny Yong Bosch) tries to kill her, Tanjiro tries to defend her and, surprisingly, she defends him, revealing that she has retained some of her humanity. Tanjiro is sent to train to be a demon slayer, soon joining forces with fellow demon slayers Zenitsu Agatsuma (Hiro Shimono/Aleks Le), a coward who becomes a master swordsman while asleep, and Inosuke Hashibara (Yoshitsugu Matsuoka/Bryce Papenbrook), a wildman with tremendous strength. Together, they work to help rid Japan of demons and hopefully cure Nezuko.
I had heard of this when it was a manga, but I had never actually read it. Then I saw it get put on Netflix a while ago, but I hadn’t watched it, since it seemed a little generic from the ads. What finally led me to try and watch it was actually reading an article about how the film that apparently follows the first season of this show, Demon Slayer: Mugen Train, broke a slew of box-office records despite, or because of, opening in 2020. It’s now the highest-grossing Japanese movie, taking down Spirited Away after almost 20 years. So, if a film can unseat a true Ghibli masterpiece, I had to check out the source material, and that was definitely the right decision.
Almost everything in this show is well-done, but the main thing this anime does better than most is pacing. The story progresses at a pace that, while not overly fast, is also much faster than almost any anime longer than 13 episodes. I realize that’s partially because the manga was complete before the anime started, but the show largely avoids the traditional anime issue of having to drag out fight scenes for multiple episodes or to have recap episodes. Instead, most of the fights are action-packed and extremely creative, particularly since they often showcase a handful of swordsmen having to overcome unbelievably powerful demons using little more than their wits and some training.
The other strength is the characters. The protagonist, Tanjiro, is one of the best anime protagonists out there, because he really is only fighting in order to save his sister. At all times, it’s the bond he feels with her and through her the rest of his family, that keeps him going and helps him maintain his extreme empathy and kind personality no matter what he goes through. It’s not that he’s naive, far from it, he just knows that there is evil in the world and chooses to be kind anyway. Moreover, he shows kindness in a believable and human way, something that’s hard to do without seeming sappy. The rest of the cast is similarly deeper and more relatable than you would expect from a show called “Demon Slayer,” particularly many of the demons who live tortured existences that they’re suppressing through their rage.
Overall, just a great series and I cannot wait for more.
If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All Time, Collection of TV Episodes, Collection of Movie Reviews, or the Joker on the Sofa Reviews.
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