Based on the homonymous manga by Koyoharu Gotoge, “Demon Slayer” is another shonen that tries to stand out from the plethora of similar titles coming out of Japan. Let us see if it succeeds.
The story takes place in the Taisho era and revolves around Tanjiro, a boy who sells coals for a living during a time when man-eating demons roam the world . One day, he returns home to find his whole family slaughtered by the creatures, while his younger sister, Nezuko, has been transformed into a demon herself. Instead of succumbing to despair though, Tanjiro decides to become a member of the “Demon Slayers” an independent organization that deals with exactly what their name states.
His purpose, however, is not just to take revenge from the demon that killed his family, but also to cure his sister. The fact that he carries a demon with him wherever he goes, however, presents its own state of issues. Eventually, meets a number of friends, including the mentor-teacher Sakonji, a “mad” demon-slayer who always wears a wild boar head in his head, and a young man who seems to like girls a little too much, Zenitsu. Tanjiro’s path, however, is harder than even he expected.
The man-eating demons and the violence that results from the concept initially make “Demon Slayer” seem as if to follow on the “Goblin Slayer” path of exploitation. However, and although the exploitation elements are not missing, the title eventually takes a turn towards the slapstick, in essence “winking” towards a younger audience. This tactic faults the overall aesthetics of the series significantly, since the director does not seem to know for sure where he wanted to go. In that fashion, the concept of racism, as portrayed rather brutally in the scene when Tanjiro meets the leaders of the Demon Slayers, the treatment of demons by their own leader, the fact that the “good guys” seem to be quite paranoid themselves and the concept of family are presented in a very engaging way, through a quite fitting extremity. On the other hand, the scenes where the tension is replaced with comedy suffer, particularly through the character of Zenitsu, whose constant yelling becomes tiresome after a fashion.
The overall design of the characters by Akira Matsushima also points towards a title addressed to younger audiences, as is the case with the coloring, which, at times, seems too vivid for the events that unfold on screen. On the other hand, the detail in both characters and background is impressive, and there are scenes that truly stay on mind with their artistry, as is the case with the meeting with the leader of the demons. Furthermore, the animation is top notch, particularly in the fighting scenes, despite the occasionally hyperbolic semblance to “Naruto”.
“Demon Slayer” has its faults, and I would place it on a lower level in terms of overall context than “Goblin Slayer” or “My Hero Academia”. However, there is still a lot to like here, even for mature audiences, while fans of shonen and particularly “Naruto” will probably have a blast.