Our story begins with Tanjiro Kamado, a poor boy living in the mountains during the Taisho era. As the breadwinner in the family, Tanjiro sells coal to the villagers and runs errands for them in return for a bit of money. After a particularly long day in the village, Tanjiro opts to stay with a neighbor for the night because the mountains are riddled with demons. But when he returns in the morning, he finds his entire family has been slaughtered by demons. Burdened with survivor’s guilt and the fact that his loving sister, Nezuko, has transformed into a part-demon from the incident, Tanjiro embarks on a journey to find a cure for his sister and figure out a way to protect himself in the long run.
When I first heard of Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba, I did not think too much about it. The plot screamed of a typical shounen series and I predicted that the show would fall flat because of its unimpressive characters and constant power-ups. But once I sat down in the movie theater, I found myself absolutely enthralled by Demon Slayer. Part of it was due to the excellent progression of the plot that was condensed into the first five episodes. I never felt bored between each episode, thanks to its well-organized plot and perfectly timed comedy that kept me entertained throughout the two hours. However, the real reason that has me singing praises for the series is none other than the main lead himself, Tanjiro Kamado.
Similar to most shounen protagonists who are usually without a purpose up until a certain point in their life, Tanjiro underwent a traumatic event that forced him to accept his demon slaying powers. However, unlike typical shounen MCs who continue their “quest” with no clear purpose except to take down the metaphorical “bad guy”, Tanjiro has a clear goal. Driven by his survivor’s guilt and his desire to cure Nezuko from being a half-demon, he quickly transforms from a young naïve country boy into a hard-working hero who understands that harboring a half-demon is dangerous and potentially suicidal. Nevertheless, he forges on to make his goal a reality. I have a particular fondness toward protagonists whose sole purpose is centered around familial relationships and to watch them either grow beyond that purpose or remain fixated on it. It’s rewarding to see these characters become challenged by differing opinions and perspectives, so I look forward to see what else Tanjiro has to offer in the future.
Animation-wise, Ufotable strikes again! Somehow, the studio understood that they couldn’t use the same flashy animation that they used in Touken Ranbu or Tales of Zestiria because the Demon Slayer manga has a very bland and blocky art style. Instead of using the arcing blades of light, columns of dark smoke, and elaborately choreographed fight scenes that they are known for, Ufotable chose to incorporate beautiful CGI backgrounds that capture the picturesque Japanese countryside, bright colors to accentuate the bizarre clothing patterns of the Taisho era, and add in an ukiyo-e-like animation flair to depict the different type of demon slaying powers. This is showcased in Demon Slayer’s opening when Tanjiro unleashes a torrent of water from his sword, which reminded me of The Great Wave off Kanagawa print design by Hokusai.
When I first saw Tanjiro execute that swing in an actual fighting scene, I think my heart stopped. I absolutely love the ukiyo-e art style because it’s a revolutionary art style that represents Japan’s international identity. When you think of Japanese art, you think of the ukiyo-e art that consists of plump geishas, bold-faced tengus, and the solitary nature pieces. It’s a hallmark of the Japanese cultural arts, so to see Ufotable actually pull off the ukiyo-e art style along with the bright colors and beautiful CGI backgrounds that is usually uncharacteristic of their style is absolutely stunning and pays a great homage to the past. I have to say, the work put into Demon Slayer really makes it stand out among Ufotable’s other works.
Another thing that caught my attention was the music. Demon Slayer sports a magnificent arrangement of violins, bamboo flutes, and enka-esque singing that really highlights the hybrid musical scene from the Taisho Era. But underneath all of that, there’s a hint of eeriness and unpredictability in the score that keeps you at the edge of your seat. This is due to the great collaboration between Yuki Kaijura and Go Shiina, both who are very well known for their musical contributions in Garden of Sinners and Juuni Taisen, respectively. You can practically hear the sudden drop in mood with a few eerie synthetic beats as Tanjiro descends down the mountain, which is Kaijura’s signature in many of her works. Meanwhile during the battle scenes, there’s a guitar riff that hypes up the audience for what’s to come next, which I assume is the work of Shiina. Their collaboration is really a blessing to Demon Slayer and I couldn’t ask for anything better.
All in all, seeing Demon Slayer at the Aratani Theatre was an absolute cinematic treat. I usually prefer watching anime series and movies at home in case the actual product is a disappointment, but this screening really changed my mind. As long as the series sports a compelling storyline, a likeable character, and quality work by the production team, then the show is sure to be spectacular and mind-blowing. I hope that everyone is able to enjoy Demon Slayer as much as I did, regardless if they saw it in theaters already or are now streaming it online via Crunchyroll, Hulu and FunimationNow!
Special thanks to Aniplex for making this screening possible!