2020 was bad year for business. (Well, largely *cough*Amazon*cough*.) In particular, the movie industry took a big hit across the world. With movement restrictions, mandatory guidelines, widespread apprehension and what not, it was certainly a terrible time to even get a decent run on the box office, let alone break records. Yet, one film defied all odds to become not only the highest-grossing film in Japan but also the highest-grossing anime movie in the world.
Yes, I’m talking about Demon Slayer, “Kimetsu no Yaiba the Movie: Mugen Train”. (Pretty long name, right?) For those who have probably been living under a rock, it’s the first movie installment of the Kimetsu no Yaiba (or Demon Slayer) franchise. A story of a young boy who walks on the path of becoming a demon slayer to avenge his family’s deaths and turn his demon-sister back to human, Kimetsu no Yaiba is a complete package. In fact, it had been taking the manga and anime world by storm much before the release of the movie, particularly in Japan. The manga ended an 11-year-streak held by One Piece to become Japan’s best-selling manga in 2019, according to the Oricon chart. A huge portion of the surge in its popularity is due to stunning artistry of the 26-episode anime adaption, produced by the Japanese famous studio “Ufotable”. Combined with the ease of availability of the series on popular streaming sites across the world, Demon Slayer has become one of the most recognizable manga/anime franchises. (Given the sheer global popularity of the manga and season 1 of the anime, Mugen Train’s cinematic success, though quite impressive, is not that surprising.)
But what makes Kimetsu no Yaiba so successful? And why should you read/watch it?
1. Complete emotional rollercoaster ride
Kimetsu no Yaiba is truly the perfect blend of adventure, humour and tragedy. While Tanjiro’s heart-wrenching story as well as other characters’ emotional tales are sure to rip your heart into pieces, tears will also come out of your eyes for other reasons. There is a great abundance of hilarious moments (a lot of credit goes to Zenitsu). In fact, it’s easy to forget at times that you’re watching a dark fantasy adventure anime with lots of bloodthirsty demons. And talking about adventure, there is absolutely no dearth of fighting scenes and sticky situations which take you on an adrenaline-packed ride.
2. Family bonds
Since the very heart of the story is Tanjiro’s family being murdered and Nezuko being turned into a demon, the plot heavily revolves the two protagonists struggle to cope up with their tragic loss and navigate through the new life that they’re thrown into. A very prominent and touching theme is the unbreakable bond between the Kamado siblings. It is truly heart-warming to see how Tanjiro and Nezuko derive strength from the memories with their family and strive to protect each other. They vow to never separate, no matter the challenges, and it is indeed heart-warming to witness the emotional and physical growth of this adorable brother-sister duo. The heavy emotional involvement in the story doesn’t end with only filial relationships as our young leads find a new family in the people they meet. It is quite moving to see how Tanjiro and Nezuko eventually make themselves at home in this thrilling new chapter of their lives, while always keeping their lost siblings and parents close to their hearts. Further, even the relationships of the other characters with their families (and there are quite a few cases) not only keeps you captivated, but teaches a good lesson or two.
3. Fearsomely powerful villain & the demons
No good story is ever complete without a well-developed antagonist. With the fearsomely powerful Kibutsuji Muzan as the lead villain with his legion of demons, Kimetsu no Yaiba scores high on this one. We are introduced to Muzan as the demon who was responsible for tearing apart the Kamado family and go on to learn about his coldblooded nature towards not only humans, but also his own demons. Indisputably the most powerful demon in the series, Muzan is evil personified. His special ring of twelve demons (the Twelve Kizuki), divided according to their strength and the number of humans they have devoured into Upper Moons and Lower Moons, deserve no less attention.
4. Tragic backstories of demons
Featuring prominently throughout the story, the Upper and Lower Moons add a lot of dimension to the plot with their variety of powers, diverse appearances and distinct personalities. In fact, one feature that really makes Kimetsu’s plot stand apart from a regular storyline is that the villains, Muzan and the Upper Moons to be specific, are (realistically) much stronger than the Demon Slayers Corps. The second reason also involves our dear antagonists as the tragic background stories of some of the demons gives the plot a unique depth and puts it miles ahead of the lacklustre narratives where everyone is either black or white.
5. Swords and breathing techniques
While the demons are fiercely strong, the Demon Slayers (called the Pillars or Hashira) are not much behind. Every Demon Slayer uses a special Breathing Style, which incredibly improves their swordsmanship skills, thereby allowing them to fight on par with the nearly invincible demons. We have Flame Style, Water Style, Insect Style, Serpent Style (and even Love Style!) among many others, each of which is basically a specific and concentrated breathing pattern which increases the user’s lung capacity and amount of oxygen in the body. Combined with the beautiful Nichirin blades and the swordsmanship of the Demon Slayers, not only these breathing techniques endow our protagonists with immense power, they also make the fight scenes a delight to watch.
6. Stunning animation
Which brings us to probably the biggest talking point about Kimetsu no Yaiba– it’s breathtaking animation during the fight scenes. The anime production is top-notch, from the music right down to the visuals. There is no doubt you’ll be left captivated with the beautiful flow of Tanjiro’s Water Style techniques or Nezuko’s deadly Demon Art. With the number of action scenes to increase in both severity and number in the upcoming season (and the movie for those who haven’t been able to watch), the visual appeal is going to only get better. Moreover, every character has its distinct colours and style and even the historical backdrop of the story has been gloriously depicted in the anime. Besides, the seamless flow of character design from dark and serious to dramatic and silly is a great way to add zest to the hilarious moments. Be it the stunning sceneries or the chibi characters, the visual appeal of Kimetsu no Yaiba is no joke.
7. A shounen lead who is not annoying
Kamado Tanjiro is hands-down one of the most sensible and kind characters in the history of manga and anime, particularly in the shounen category. Not only does loves his family to pieces, he touches the hearts of everyone (yes, even the demons) he meets – with his sheer kindness, compassion and integrity. While a lot of other demon slayers fail to understand his empathy for demons, Tanjiro never wavers from his path of love. From softening Inosuke’s rough edges or helping Kanao break out of her shell, Tanjiro’s magnanimity leaves an everlasting impact on the lives of his comrades.
8. Well-written female characters
The manga and anime industry have traditionally been highly male-oriented and male-dominated, which has often resulted in female characters being reduced to mere “tools” for male indulgence and their growth is more than often overlooked or even sabotaged. This is another point where Demon Slayer stands a class apart – it has arguably some of the best-developed female characters ever. If you like your anime girls to literally pack a punch, look no further. Nezuko is as much a lead as her brother Tanjiro and despite being the younger sister, she saves her oni-san’s neck more than once. It’s a sheer delight to see Nezuko belting out some incredible kicks and later on (spoiler alert!), using her fearsome Blood Demon Art. Even the side characters of Shinobu, Kanao and Mitsuri all have distinct stories, personalities and fighting styles. (In fact, Shinobu might just be the most badass female character ever.) While Shinobu lacks physical strength, her unique way of fighting is truly marvellous (without giving any spoiler, I can only say that she played a very significant role in the final battle). Her subordinate, Kanao, is the most-skilled Hashira among the newbies (which includes our main character Tanjiro). And while Mitsuri, the Love Hashira, is quite feminine at first sight, she is one of the most physically-strong demon slayers out there. Don’t let her soft heart fool you. (Oh, also she’s a big-time foodie.)
9. Crisp plot
Lastly, but very importantly, the great thing about Demon Slayer is that it doesn’t bore you or take you off the real story with countless fillers (*cough*Naruto*cough). The plot is succinctly written, with adequate time given for all the important stuff and no time being wasted on unnecessary ramblings. While I’m sure all fans would have loved the series to be longer than it is, no one would disagree that high quality content is best served crisp. And at any rate, one can always indulge in the omake (or fan fictions).
10. Unsolved mysteries
Why was Tanjiro’s family killed? Why did only Nezuko turn into a demon, and that too a completely unique one? What is so special about Kamado family’s Hinokami Kagura (Dance of the Fire God)? Why do the Hashiras worship the blind and frail Ubayashiki? What is Kibutsuji Muzan’s true purpose? There are tonnes of mysteries that seek to be unravelled throughout the story and needless to say, they keep the viewer/reader completely hooked (in the cruelly long wait for the movie, I “accidentally” ended up finishing the entire manga). The best part is that while there is ample time to whet your curiosity, the terse storyline ensures that you don’t have to keep waiting forever for the answers.
So, what are waiting for? Dive into the fantastical world of demons and demon slayers~
Have you read the manga? Watched the anime? What’s your favourite part? Who’s your favourite character? Let us know!