I had never heard of 鬼滅の刃 (Kimetsu no Yaiba, marketed as Demon Slayer in the English-speaking world) before until pretty recently when I rekindled my interest in anime last year. I guess I became aware of this series when I started to see pics of a young lad with a katana accompanied by a lass in a pink kimono with a bamboo muzzle on soc media.

Not too big a fan of horror but this appeared to be more of fantasy monsterfest probably of the yōkai variety, as opposed to, err… demons of the cerita hantu kind. So, I started to watch the first episode one fine morning last month on the elliptical since I already have a Crunchyroll subscription.

The premise of this story set in early 20th century Japan was pretty good I thought. A young charcoal seller named Kamado Tanjiro returned to his home up in the mountains to find his mother and siblings killed by a demon – until he noted that his younger sister, Nezuko, was still warm to the touch. During an attempt to seek help while carrying the unconscious Nezuko on his back, he found out to his horror that she has now transformed into a demon. Out of the blue, a demon slayer named Tomioka Giyu intercepted the siblings in an attempt to vanquish the now demon Nezuko, despite Tanjiro pleading that he didn’t think Nezuko killed his family. In a last ditch attempt to grab Nezuko from Tomioka, Tanjiro was knocked out cold but just before Tomioka was almost killed by an axe that Tanjiro furtively threw. Somewhat impressed with his Tanjiro’s potential abilities, Tomioka later reluctantly instructed Tanjiro to seek out a man named Urokodaki Sakonji who can help Tanjiro’s quest of returning Nezuko to her original human state. Little did Tanjiro realise that this was his first step into becoming a member of the kitsasutai (Demon Slayer Corps) himself.

This first season of the 鬼滅の刃 anime has 26 episodes during which time you see Tanjiro’s journey into becoming a demon slayer, doing his first solo mission after a couple of years being trained by Urokodaki. During this journey, Tanjiro is joined by Agatsuma Zenitsu, a cowardly demon slayer with blonde hair who could do one fighting move and fancies Nezuko, and Hashibira Inosuke, also a demon slayer who is a bit of a nutcase previously raised by wild boars as a kid. I have to say I quite like Inosuke just because his boar headgear has a comical divergent squint, and he can be humourously borderline stupid at times.

(Kamaboko is the pink/white fishcake added as a condiment/garnish in Japanese noodle soup.)

On this journey, Nezuko is seen to be able to handle her own due to her demon physicality, if not providing valuable assistance to Tanjiro. Despite this fearsome side of her, Nezuko is otherwise pretty placid and is very childlike, and when she is in this state she is often drawn with cute dotted eyes. As she doesn’t eat the living unlike other demons, she tends to sleep a lot to regain/preserve her energy.

Apart from the combination of characters that I feel works so well together in the story, the demon fight scenes are one to watch in this series. Each demon they encounter appear to be of different abilities and typically of increasing strength (reminiscent of encounters in any decent RPG), which sees a fresh approach to the battle every time this ensemble encounters a demon, or two.

Now, while I’d like to comment further on the animation but I would like to first describe the manga. The reason for this is that the final episode of this season segues into the film 劇場版「鬼滅の刃」 無限列車編 which essentially translates into The Infinity Train arc of the series.

As the film is yet to be shown on these shores, no thanks to the pandemic, I couldn’t wait – hence, I began reading the manga from volume 7 onwards. The manga was written/drawn by a mystery mangaka named Gotōge Koyoharu (portrayed as a croc with glasses in the manga’s preface). The art in the manga is actually pretty run-of-the-mill, with the comic effects occurring pretty often, usually in the form of an exasperated Zenitsu, eyes all a-bulging, and of course the adorable non-demon state Nezuko with her blank dot eyes. The reason I am pointing this out is the difference between the artwork in the original Gotōge manga and the anime.

The anime is made by ufotable, a studio which made (the disappointing, IMHO) GOD EATER which I saw a few years ago. I would have to say that back the days of reading Naruto and Bleach manga, I found drawn fight scenes are very difficult to interpret on paper, and the same is seen when I was reading the 鬼滅の刃 manga. The overall anime art is stylised beautifully, enhancing what is drawn in the manga. And thanks to the use of clever CGI, the battle scenes are exciting to watch onscreen. I really loved the ukiyo-e-esque look to Tanjiro’s mizu no kokyū (water breathing sword fighting style) and while you may argue it is stylistically different to the rest of the animation, it fits really nicely to the overall look of the anime. Compare the animation below to its manga counterpart above.

Fight scenes notwithstanding, the average scene in the anime is pretty well done, even when emulating the comic looks on the characters faces. The CG for a moving background also didn’t look overtly obvious. Thumbs up to the studio for enhancing the original appearance of the drawn manga images in the anime.

By the time the anime reached the point where the three young slayers were pitted against the spider-like high-levelled demon, Rui, I couldn’t help but to reminisce the development of Kurosagi Ichigo in Bleach (being the only shōnen anime/manga that I followed, better than Naruto). I guess the character development of someone improving one’s skill/power as a trope would be the same in any story, and since I last saw Bleach almost a decade ago, I didn’t find this character development angle in 鬼滅の刃 tired at all. The comparison I made to Bleach didn’t stop as in the latter portion of this 26-episode season, Tanjiro was introduced to the hashira (pillars) – nine top-ranked demon slayers each with a different breathing technique and character trait to boot, all reminiscent of Bleach‘s own Gotei 13.

As for the music in the anime, the songs (紅蓮華, from the edge and ) sung by singer-songwriter LiSA are fantastic. As she seems to be the go to artiste for anime-related songs of late, it feels like the studio spared no expense in enhancing the already superb experience of enjoying the series. One tune that caught my ear was the forlorn 竈門炭治郎のうた (The song of Kamado Tanjiro) which was played during the epic battle with Rui. This song was composed by Go Shiina (one of the two composers responsible for the 鬼滅の刃 soundtrack) and sung by Nakagawa Nami. The orchestral music combined with Nakagawa’s sweet voice just sends shivers up my spine. I had to go to the Japan Apple Music store to buy this tune for my iPhone.

At the time of completing this post, Aniplex posted a tweet with a YouTube teaser of the second season covering Yūkaku-hen, or the Entertainment District arc. The animation in the teaser is jaw-droppingly awesome and I can’t believe this is meant for TV (set your VPN to Japan to watch the teaser video below).

And to date, I have no idea when I can get to watch the film which covers the Mugen ressha-hen. I had a quick look at the manga tankōbon volumes and the first season covered the first six, the film covered two and if this second season is purely the Yūkaku-hen, then it should cover the next three volumes. A lot did happen in the first anime season/six manga volumes, and I do hope the Yūkaku-hen forms the first half of season 2, with the second half covering the next three which makes for a superb arc to watch. But looking at the remaining volumes of manga, I wonder if season 2 could be purely the Yūkaku-hen, while the subsequent arc be made into a film, with the final arcs be divided into season 3 and a final film to complete the series.

How can I attempt to formulate a guess as to how things will pan out in the anime? I actually finished reading the manga last Thursday, and I have to say I don’t think this will take away the enjoyment of anticipating the anime in the coming couple of years, as I am sure it’ll only make me more excited to see it on TV/cinema. All because the following arcs are pretty lit.

Even if you are a casual anime fan (like me), I think you’d love 鬼滅の刃. Highly recommended!