Now, brave heroes! Go forth on to a new adventure!
Kimetsu no Yaiba (鬼滅の刃, lit. “Blade of Demon Destruction”… Well, it’s not the best title) is a historical fantasy shounen adventure/battle manga by Gotouge Koyoharu
(吾峠呼世晴) about a young boy slowly growing up into a man as he tries to cure his younger sister (who helps him fight for now) from having become a demon. He is an idiot, and he is joined by two other idiots. It’s like The Three Stooges meets action adventure. It didn’t look like that’s what it would be at first, with the MC looking all smooth and cool on cover pages and volume 1, but naw he’s just a big ol’ goof. This is one of my favorite new series.
Kimetsu no Yaiba feels like it kinda fell out of a different time, and thus when it debuted (and I started reading it) I really thought it would be axed. For a while, it really felt that way, like each week the next chapter would be the last, but here it still is and it’s now one of the stronger titles in Weekly Shounen Jump. I wouldn’t say it’s excellent in any particular regard: the battles are pretty good, the comedy is quite good, and the characters are very good, but I don’t often think of it as SUPERB. It’s a solid manga that I’ve got no serious complaints about, and if you’ve read what I have to say about Ika Musume, then you know I believe that to be a darn good thing.
The series begins with protagonist Kamado Tanjirou, a little boy and the first born son of a large family that has a business of selling coal. They seem poor, and the father of their house died recently, but Tanjirou does what he must. Also, he has a scar on his forehead and a strange sense of smell (he can smell as well as a dog, basically, but can also smell things like “emotion”). These are just things about him and don’t actually have any noted significance. Like, he just has a good nose, and he just has a scar. Maybe the scar’s from coal stuff? Maybe we just don’t know yet? /shrug
Anyway after going out to sell some coal a neighbor bids him to rest at their home rather than go back up the mountain to his family for the night. Apparently there are demons about. While Tanjirou isn’t really concerned, he still listens. When he comes back the next day, he smells blood. His entire family has been killed.
He finds a small hope in that his sister Nezuko’s body is still warm. In a panic, he takes her body and starts marching out through the snow hoping for aid. Then, his sister wakes up.
As I indicated in the intro of this article, his sister has lost her mind and become a bloodthirsty violent demon. Apparently his family was slaughtered by a demon, and for some reason that same demon transformed Nezuko into one of their kind. Tanjirou manages to fend her off and get through to her, but a moment after doing so
Sasuke a mysterious dark swordsman appears and tries to kill Nezuko.
This is Tomioka Giyuu, and despite looking and seeming to be like a character I hate, he’s ended up being one of my favorite characters. Tomioka is a demon hunter, and he seems at first completely intent on killing Nezuko, who Tanjirou believes is different from other demons. However, instead of just killing her he goads Tanjirou into attacking him to save his sister — to prove his determination and be a man, basically. Tanjirou tries and fails, but when Tomioka witnesses Nezuko protecting her brother’s fallen body, Tomioka decides to incapacitate her instead of killing her. When Tanjirou awakens, he tells the boy to seek out an “Urokodaki Sakoji” and vanishes.
With Nezuko now somehow pacified (it seems she’s become nocturnal) and muzzled with a distinctive piece of bamboo, the siblings’ adventure begins.
Of course, the manga doesn’t properly start for a while. Kind of like World Trigger it takes a while to establish itself properly, though unlike World Trigger it’s consistently entertaining for a first time reader all the way to the latest chapter. Actually, I held off on reviewing this manga until the latest chapter because I wasn’t certain what the series’ direction would be. It’s kind of hard to tell for a while. Now, it’s easy. Anyway, I don’t want to go over every single thing that happens so I’ll try being succinct.
Until chapter 9, Kimetsu no Yaiba is basically “training, training, establishing setting, training”. Don’t worry, it’s not dull and has a kind of episodic feeling. It also transpires over years, so Tanjirou (who mainly narrates this part in an amusing manner) becomes a teenager by the end of it all. Anyway, Tanjirou meets the elder Tomioka told him about, and it turns out the guy is someone who trains demon hunter swordsmen. After managing to prove himself, Tanjirou gets training from Urokodaki to learn the “Breath of Water” style of swordsmanship. His ultimate goal will be finding out if it’s possible to turn a demon back into a human, and to do so he needs to become a demon hunter partly to survive, partly to learn from demons he’ll meet on his travels.
I’ll talk about this swordsmanship stuff later. More summary now.
Tanjirou eventually learns what Urokodaki wants to teach him. They’ve become a bit like family in that time, although Urokodaki is a hardass, and with his blessing Urokodaki sends Tanjirou off to take the proper test to become a demon hunter. So, we get an arc on that. In it, we should note how demons Tanjirou defeats tend to have depressing backstories. You’re reminded that all the demons are actually just cursed humans, though its arguable how much you can forgive them (which is a source of internal conflict in the series). Tanjirou who knows their scent of sadness (and can understand the suffering of demons that MUST kill and eat others, being related to one who struggles and does not feed), tends to pity them and comfort them in their last moments, or at least try to kill them painlessly.
Again, I’ll come back to this later, but Tanjirou is really cool.
Tanjirou passes the test and becomes a demon hunter. He receives an official blade for demon destruction (a “nichirin” blade), which turns black in color in his hands. A color which means…nothing apparently. Rather, it’s unknown, and no remarkable swordsmen have ever had black blades.
And finally, with chapter 10, the series properly starts.
The series follows an arc-based episodic kind of structure where there’s the grand goal of eventually healing Nezuko. Tanjirou having become a real demon hunter means that is his job now, so he gets sent places by a talking crow to go slay demons and stuff (the messenger birds always amuse me). His sister, who he carries around in a box on his back (she can shrink or grow a bit in size), helps him when things get rough, which is awesome.
For a while it’s just Tanjirou and Nezuko. Where the series really, really starts is when we’re introduced to the third and fourth main characters, who can be seen in the first page of this article. After that, they join together and go on missions together, as a tiny party of dumb heroes.
But again, more on that later.
You get some of the vibe of this series from the first many chapters but indeed it takes about 50 to fully come into its own. The relaxed/comedic atmosphere is always there since Tanjirou is a pretty pleasant guy, and aside from that there’s the “horror” aspect with how disturbing some demon designs are and how screwed up some of the deaths are. It’s also a little sorrowful what with the inherent plight of the demons. That’s basically Kimetsu no Yaiba in a nutshell.
As for the action in this series, it’s interesting and I feel pretty unique. The art style of the manga reminds me a bit of old Japanese art; it’s pretty mostly rather than intense. Interestingly, Gotouge-sensei never uses two-page spreads. I think there are two or three color page spreads for cover pages or a cast introduction, but otherwise only single pages in this manga. Weird!
(Since this was written, there has at least been one.)
Anyways, all the demon hunters also use attacks and fighting styles based on breathing methods, which is pretty odd. Tanjirou’s “Breath of Water” style focuses on grace and flow, while other swordsman have other methods. They go against demons who tend to have kooky special powers, where they have to figure out how the power works, then deal with them through teamwork or skill. Through these fights, the inexperienced Tanjirou is often really beaten down and his narration through them can get pretty funny.
Anyway, they’re entertaining and reading them week to week isn’t frustrating so I’d say the pacing is good.
So finally, let’s start talking about the characters, since I think they’re one of the series’ greatest strengths.
Once we’re in the 20s of chapters we are introduced to Agatsuma Zenitsu and Hashibira Inosuke. Zenitsu is a womanizing coward idiot who’s acquired a lot of debt and apparently became a demon hunter because he had no other choice at the time and figured why not. However, he sucks, and he can’t fight for anything.
Unsurprisingly, we learn that he has a technique, though. His Breath of Thunder style is based on blinding fast speed, except he can only use it when he’s fainted from total fear. There’s more to it than that, but it’s cool and I find Zenitsu super likable because he’s pathetic. He’s one of my favorite characters. By the way, like Tanjirou he has a super sense — hearing in his case. It seems all the major characters have such a thing.
Next we have Inosuke, introduced as “what the hell? Is that a pig-man?”
Inosuke is a beast-like, easily angered, thrill-seeking wildman idiot who shows up shortly after Zenitsu in an explosion of intensity. His special sense is “touch”, not that he really ever brings it up. Inosuke is mysterious at first; he shows up in a house of demons and just starts slaughtering them. I couldn’t tell if he was actually a demon hunter or instead just a crazy bastard wearing a boar’s head. It was a mix of both, actually.
Inosuke is the biggest baka in the series by a country mile, having been raised in the wilderness on his own and being entirely self-taught (his style is “Breath of the Beast”, and is just ruthless and graceless; all other swordsmen, Zenitsu included, had mentors and learned refined styles). He beat up demon hunters, stumbled into the final selection exam to become one, and got two blades because he likes two blades. He is very unruly, and causes a lot of trouble, like an untrained animal. He does, however, come to respect Tanjirou who is very firm with him (though this firmness also pisses him off, and in a way you can think of him as Tanjirou’s rival). He doesn’t totally understand other humans, being a wilder, but he demonstrates the most character development through the series. It’s subtle, and enough to make me ultimately say “Inosuke is cute”. He’s one of my favorite characters. There’s also a hilarious secret under his boar mask.
Once these three have assembled, and they’ve gone through one arc working together, the series is really in full swing. There’s a lot of comedy to it, and they interact with one another excellently. Also Tanjirou, now having people to really talk to (Nezuko doesn’t talk), shows himself to be stubborn as hell and also kind and mature. He has the denseness of a shounen protagonist, but he feels like he’s his own character. He often misses the point of things or doesn’t understand things, but still tries. He’s literally hard-headed, infinitely concerned about the well-being of others, fiercely protective, and an all-around swell-guy. In recent chapters, ~romance~ was teased here and there, and I’m totally up for it because Tanjirou is gosh darn great. He’s one of my favorite characters.
My absolute favorite character comes in late. She’s one of the more complex characters in the series, her design is fantastic, and I just plain like her.
All these characters make the series fun in different ways. Tomioka’s a grouch with a good heart, Zenitsu’s obnoxious but still tries, Inosuke is just fantastic, Tanjirou is one of my favorite “shounen battle manga” protagonists simply for being so pure of heart, and this lady’s just noice.
And there isn’t much to say about the antagonists of this series that I haven’t already, but there’s a lot I could say about the main villain of the series, the one turning people into demons and generally being a real bastard. I won’t say a lot, though, because spoilers and this review’s going longer than I expected!
The main antagonist of this series is a “Smooth Criminal” version Michael Jackson-looking demon who acts like a mafia boss. We don’t know his goals, yet, but he seems supremely selfish and supremely powerful. He’s furiously cruel and quite terrifying. He shows up very early on in the series, and I think his appearance might have been what kept Kimetsu no Yaiba from sinking into oblivion. He’s great, and genuinely very intimidating.
And, that’s it.
I highly recommend this series. I think it’s just good reading, and now’s a great time to pick it up what with it solidifying its format. Please, check it out! Sadly it isn’t available in English officially, and only three chapters were translated into English by Viz (it’s up to date in scanlation). I wish Viz would pick it up, but I guess it’s too late now…
You can still support the series, of course! You may purchase Kimetsu no Yaiba from CDJapan, Bookwalker (guide), honto (guide), or ebookjapan. I hope you’ll read it. Alright, that’s all from me. Thanks for reading, see you next time.