Kimetsu no Yaiba turned out to be a harder anime to review than I initially thought. Much of this is due to inconsistencies in the series, but one of the other issues may just be that I’ve been watching anime for too long. I imagine that if I had seen this movie back when I first tried Bleach, Kimetsu no Yaiba could very well have been a starter anime for me. Today, I can’t help but see the flaws, even if some moments are dramatically successful.
The initial setup of Demon Slayer is very simple. Tanjiro lives with his family in the mountains and after a trip to town he is delayed and does not return until the next day. When he arrives, he discovers that his family has been massacred and it is with relief that he realizes that his sister Nezuko is still alive. At least until she tries to attack him. Nezuko has been turned into a demon and Tanjiro vows to find a way to bring her back to life.
There is already a small lack of logic here. I understand that Tanjiro needed to get stronger to protect his sister and make sure she doesn’t attack anyone. He also needed to be able to get close to demons in order to learn more about them. But becoming a killer of the thing you’re trying to protect seems a bit counterintuitive. However, this works in Tanjiro‘s favor as a character. He sure slays demons throughout the story, but he’s not a hot-blooded killing machine, nor the screaming protagonist who just wants to be the strongest because he has to prove something. Tanjiro remains a compassionate human throughout the story and he has genuine compassion even for those he is forced to take down.
Honestly, if the story had remained focused on Tanjiro’s quest to cure Nezuko and learning about demons, focusing on the siblings and developing the evil demon that turned her, this anime would have been absolutely perfect and a unmissable visual experience.
Unfortunately, he wants to play with the big shounen and so keeps expanding his cast and adding “humor” at odd moments, doing quests and tangential arcs that don’t have much to to do with the main objective and, in general, to bloat what should have been a simple, tight storyline into something overcooked.
It was Zenitsu‘s introduction , followed closely by Inosuke, that made me lose my taste for a relatively solid series, albeit a bit predictable and too prone to repeating information. To put it simply, these two characters provide nothing but noise and poor attempts at humor. While they each have moments where they’re more tolerable and sparkle, they’re really unnecessary to the central plot and make up a lot of the clutter that detracts from the viewing experience.
Zenitsu screams all the way. His thing is that he’s cowardly and scared all the time, but once he passes out, he becomes incredibly strong by mastering a move perfectly. Zenitsu does have a few redeeming moments where he acts valiantly, but they don’t make up for the general irritation he creates in every other scene with his incessant moaning and generally unsympathetic personality. He may be there to make people laugh, but he’s just not funny. And if we were looking for Tanjiro, any demon slayers who think all demons are monsters that should be killed without hesitation are fine. We don’t need Zenitsu.
Inosuke is also useless and boring. He’s so stupid, his constant aggression and general attitude makes it very hard to want to have him around. Like Zenitsu, he has a rare moment or two where he does something and it feels like he’s taking a turn, but then at the end of the battle he’s back to where he started and he is irritating enough to wish it was choking on that stupid boar’s head (okay, maybe that was just me).
What makes these characters even more insufferable is that they are now clearly part of Tanjiro’s party for reasons that don’t make sense, since they seem to have met by chance and before they appeared, Tanjiro was simply guided by his crow. It would make perfect sense for them to arrive on a mission and go their separate ways to meet up later, but they just hang around like a bad smell.
Add to that the other demon slayers we meet towards the end of the first season who are all ‘goofy’ personalities and honestly the supporting cast needs a little work. Worse still, Tanjiro and Nezuko ‘s on-screen time is reduced in many episodes to accommodate the ever-expanding cast, so the focus ends up being diluted to the point that one almost forget what started the whole story.
Visually, Kimetsu no Yaiba is impressive. Although the majority of the footage takes place at night due to the nature of the demon, good use of lighting and color makes it easy to follow the on-screen action, which is smooth and of high quality. The demon fight sequences are visually great moments and are times where the characters shine. A return to fighting demons was always welcome, as the in-between moments when the characters rest or recuperate were almost always intolerable, full of bad attempts at humor, and generally crowded.
However, even in the fight sequences, Kimetsu no Yaiba can’t help but go overboard. After the final blows were struck, the number of times the story paused to allow for a flashback or reminiscence of the demon’s life, sometimes for a long time, before moving on thing, was ridiculous. The killing of a supporting character spanned three episodes, and honestly, given that the character was dying, I didn’t really care about his tragic circumstances. You either had to establish that before the fight or let it go.
Before concluding, I must commend this anime for introducing the villain, Muzan Kibutsuji. Although he only made rare appearances throughout the story, each one gave us a sense of dread and the construction of a villain worth fighting. There’s definitely more to learn about him, but I thoroughly enjoyed his screen time during this first season.
In the end, I’m torn. This anime has some strong points, especially when it comes to animation and visuals, and even the protagonist and his background are pretty solid, but with so many other issues, this anime ends up being mixed. Some viewers really loved this anime and got a real buzz out of it. It is definitely worth trying. For my part, at the end of the season, I felt a little tired and I certainly considered many ways to kill off some of the less necessary characters.
Basically, give it a try and it might work for you and become one of your favorites, but even if it doesn’t, there are enough positives to make it an interesting viewing experience, even if it is imperfect.