Demon Slayer, based on the manga by Kyoharu Gotouge, is a thrilling anime series directed by Haruo Sotozaki. Climactic fight scenes and emotionally endearing character arcs make it a genre-defining contribution to shonen anime, one that could even surpass such classics as Naruto and One Piece. The “Entertainment District Arc,” which recently finished airing, is a cathartic and satisfying continuation of the story that elaborates on the show’s overarching themes of family and overcoming trauma.
Demon Slayer follows the journey of a young man named Tanjiro Kamado, who suffers a traumatic loss after most of his family is brutally murdered by a “demon” (a hostile humanoid entity who must survive by feasting on human flesh). His only surviving family member is his younger sister, Nezuko, who has transformed into a demon. Following the attack, Tanjiro dedicates his life to joining the Demon Slayer Corps, a covert organization specializing in hunting down demons, to eliminate the man who killed his family and turned his sister, Muzan Kibutsuji. Tanjiro is also interested in finding a way to turn his sister back into a human. Along the way, he gains new friends and allies, including the hopelessly anxious Zenitsu and the boar-head wearing Inosuke, as he faces a number of deadly foes who all challenge his abilities and his spirit.
The story is highly cathartic, exploring dramatic and pressing themes, such as how to remain loyal to family in the face of trauma. This theme is especially well represented in the bond between Tanjiro and Nezuko, who tirelessly defend and support one another throughout the entire series in truly inspiring displays of love and affection. Goutouge juxtaposes their powerful bond against the more bitter relationships of some of the demons they encounter, particularly, in the first season, with Rui and his family. Rui was once a physically weak and fragile child who gained strength after becoming a demon. However, he became violent and killed someone to sustain himself. His parents, fearing what their son had become, resolved to kill him and themselves to die as a family. However, just as his father was about to kill him in his sleep, Rui awoke and, unaware of his family’s entire plan, murdered his parents in a fit of rage. As a demon, Rui began to construct a found family with other demons to replace the bond that he felt his parents had broken. However, he would routinely abuse and mistreat the members of his new family, particularly his mother and sisters, subconsciously feeling threatened by the possibility of being betrayed once again.
Similar to Tanjiro and Nezuko, Rui has suffered terrible losses in the past. This forces Tanjiro and Nezuko to confront their own relationship and how they have stuck together despite the intense emotions they feel. Ultimately, they work together to defeat Rui. Tanjiro informs Rui that he has let his negative feelings and resentment towards the past corrupt his ability to form a new loving familial bond. However, rather than the story ending bitterly with a defeated Rui being killed, in a truly touching moment, Rui is shown reuniting with his parents in the afterlife, who tell him the truth, allowing his soul to rest in peace. Therefore, rather than Demon Slayer being a simple, cruel gore-fest, it is clear that the show cares deeply about its characters and the emotions they feel, which ultimately makes for a very moving experience.
Overall, this arc is a brilliant exploration of the difference between a healthy relationship built on love and loyalty and a hateful one built on fear and distrust. It is especially relevant given how both relationships emerged from incredibly harsh circumstances involving a demonic transformation. However, how the relationships differ is in their response to the harsh trauma they endured. Tanjiro and Nezuko remain deeply caring and supportive towards one another despite what happened to them, exemplifying how a commitment to love in the face of adversity leads to a more positive existence than giving in to hatred and resentment. This resolve allows Nezuko and Tanjiro to come very close to defeating Rui and ultimately surviving the encounter.
Demon Slayer continues to deliver these exploratory storylines in the latest season. Sotozaki now contrasts Nezuko’s and Tanjiro’s relationship with the relationship between the brother-sister demons Daki and Gyutaro. Daki and Gyutaro were born into extreme poverty in the lowest class of the Entertainment District, a district with a high concentration of sex work. As a child, Gyutaro was severely bullied due to his physical appearance and poor hygiene. In contrast, his sister, Ume, was revered because of her physical beauty. She became a source of pride for the unfortunate Gyutaro, and when she would later become a courtesan, Gyutaro served as her bodyguard and debt collector. However, at one point, in a fit of rage, Ume stabbed the eye of one of her samurai customers with a hairpin. In response, the samurai and brothel manager burned her nearly to death. Fuelled by rage, Gyutaro murdered them both before desperately carrying his dying sister throughout the district in search of help. Eventually, they were approached by a high-ranking demon who transformed both of them, with Ume becoming Daki. This is an excellent backstory that establishes troubled and nuanced villain characters in both Daki and Gyutaro. Their past also serves as the ultimate foil to Tanjiro and Nezuko’s relationship, which, although is a stable and loving one, was also destabilized due to a traumatic experience. Like Tanjiro, Gyutaro had something very serious happen to his little sister, whom he cared deeply about, and did everything he could to protect her. However, over time, Gyutaro let his anger toward the situation and hatred of humans surpass the love he had for his sister. His relationship with his sister became solely a means for both of them to exact their revenge, and in the process, they began to view each other with contempt. This dynamic serves as an emotionally poignant contrast to Tanjiro and Nezuko’s relationship, despite both arising from similar circumstances, thereby excellently tying the story together and giving way for dramatic fight scenes in classic Shonen style.
In their battle, Tanjiro and Nezuko are both confronted by their intense feelings of anger towards their situation through Daki and Gyutaro, who, much like them, had their loving brother-sister relationship be devastated by an incredibly harsh experience. At one point, after seeing Daki seriously injure Tanjiro, Nezuko goes on an uncontrollable rage, to the point where she almost harms innocent civilians. She is only soothed once more when Tanjiro sings her a lullaby from their childhood, which grounds her again in the gentle loving feelings which lead her and Tanjiro to undertake the quest in the first place. Her confrontation with her intense anger almost overshadowing her love makes her burst into tears, demonstrating how truly close she was to becoming like Daki. This intense moment calls into question the fragility of love in the face of hard times, making it a truly captivating and powerful scene, which the moving soundtrack and gripping voice acting convey excellently.
Later on, Tanjiro comes face to face with Gyutaro, who seemingly has a decisive advantage in their battle. When all seems hopeless, and it is incredibly unclear how the conflict will resolve, Tanjiro is forced to confront the hatred inside him through Gyutaro, who mocks him and almost decides to transform Tanjiro into a demon. This moment serves as the biggest test to Tanjiro’s will in the series to date, who must resist the urge to give in to his rage and become like Gyutaro. Ultimately, Tanjiro, along with the help of Zenitsu, Inosuke, and Tenjen (the Hashira accompanying the trio on their mission), continue battling to take down both Gyutaro and Daki in what is arguably the series’ most climactic and important battle yet, which is conveyed beautifully through Ufotable’s commendable animation style and the epic battle cries of Demon Slayer’s talented voice cast.
The Entertainment District Arc is the perfect follow-up to the story. It serves as the ultimate test to Tanjiro and Nezuko’s relationship and their willingness to do good in the world by pitting them against a truly evil brother-sister duo who were ironically once much like them. The show also demonstrates how both Tanjiro and Nezuko almost succumbed to their anger, illustrating how even though they love and care for each other deeply, their dedication can still be obscured by intense circumstances. Therefore, this arc provides a nuanced look at how the path of love and virtue is not necessarily the easiest to take and how even the strongest relationships can risk deteriorating due to resentment. The arc also illustrates how good has a way of always prevailing over evil, which serves as a fulfilling conclusion to this dilemma. More than just delivering an inspiring story, however, the anime adaptation beautifully conveys it through its brilliant artwork and cinematography and its superb animation style, accompanied by the gripping soundtrack and the strong emotions conveyed by the voice cast. Ultimately, all these elements prove how Demon Slayer is a pioneer for the future of Shonen storytelling and a must-watch for any anime fan, old or new.