WARNING: This article/review contains spoilers from the first few episodes of Demon Slayer. If you haven’t watched the show, I implore you to do so before you read this. You have been warned.
2019 has a fun year for anime, with many popular series returning much to their fans’ delight. Attack on Titan and My Hero Academia continued their epic arcs, while One-Punch Man and Mob Psycho 100 both got much-anticipated second seasons. But in the midst of all these returns, 2019 also gave us what might be the best shonen we’ve seen in years.
Demon Slayer (Also known as Kimetsu no Yaiba) is an adventure anime based on a manga written and illustrated by Koyoharu Gotoge. The series began appearing in Shonen Jump magazine in 2016 before receiving its anime adaption and premiering on April 6, 2019. So far, there are 26 episodes in the anime series, with the manga still ongoing.
The story follows Tanjiro Kamado, a kid growing up in Taisho-era Japan with his family. After his father passes, Tanjiro takes it upon himself to work in order to provide of his mother and siblings. However, his happy world gets torn apart when he returns home to find nearly every member of his family slaughtered by an unknown demon.
The only member of his family to survive the attack is his little sister Nezuko, although she is far from unscathed. As Tanjiro tries to carry her to get help, Nezuko viciously attacks him as they tumble down a snowy hillside. It becomes apparent that Nezuko has been transformed into a demon herself.
A demon slayer in the area notices the attack and comes to Tanjiro’s aid, attempting to slay the demon Nezuko. Not wanting to see his sister slaughtered as well, Tanjiro’s attempts to fend off the demon slayer. Then, in a surprising twist of fate, Nezuko adamantly defends Tanjiro when he gets knocked to the ground, showing that there is still a part of her human side somewhere inside her new demon vessel.
Now, Tanjiro must go on a harrowing journey – with Nezuko riding in a basket on his back – to become a demon slayer himself in order to track down the demons responsible and to find a way to turn his little sister back into a human.
I’ll say this right now: every bit of praise you may have heard about this anime is well earned. The story is well thought-out and paced perfectly, with very little filler in-between the major action-filled battles that shonen are known for. The characters, heroes and villains alike, are diverse and all add their own charms to the show.
Along his journey, Tanjiro meets two other powerful demon slayers that assist him: Zenitsu, an overly anxious swordsman who truly doesn’t know his own strength, and Inosuke, a spastic fighter with an underlying good heart and a boar’s head for a mask.
The villains are gloriously unique, each with their own vicious powers and intense personalities. From a set of triplet demons that fight with their own blood, to one that uses drums to control spacial dimensions, to a family of spider demon who control people with webs. While the beginning of the show feels a bit like a monster-of-the-week type setup, it all begins to become interconnected when the real enemy makes himself known.
Demon Slayer is also a visual masterpiece with an incredible blend of hand-drawn and CGI animation, with no loss in quality between them. Tanjiro’s fluid sword movement is represented quite literally by vibrant displays of flowing water with each attack. Quite frankly, this anime is without a doubt one of the most beautiful and vibrantly satisfying additions to the shonen genre I have seen maybe ever.
It’s a refreshing take on shonen that goes quite a bit deeper than the “Dragon Ball-Naruto-MHA” archetype and very well could be used as the basis that defines the genre going forward.