A boy’s life radically changes when his family is slaughtered by demons in Kimetsu no Yaiba. Only his younger sister is spared—and only because she’s been turned into a demon. This entertaining anime series from last year is wildly popular at the Japanese junior high school where I currently work. I don’t know if it’s a phenomenon all across Japan but I think the show’s rural setting might make it more appealing to students living in a rural area.
One of the most astonishing things I’ve learned while living in Japan is that many of the things in anime I assumed were fantasy or exaggeration turn out to be quite true. This includes the often comically effusive behaviour of the students and also the presence of beautiful, ancient neighbourhoods and landscapes. Parts of the area in Nara where I live look exactly the same as the neighbourhoods I see in MIkio Naruse movies from the 50s and not at all dissimilar to the feudal Japan depicted in Kimetsu no Yaiba.
The show feels very much like an illustrated manga. There are a lot of moments with minimal animation, half frozen images where we hear the protagonists’ thoughts. Like in many other anime that employ this cost saving method, the impact of the action sequences is diluted somewhat. Similarly, the shift in focus from the horror of Tanjiro’s (Natsuki Hanae) family being killed to his training as a demon slayer is too quick, the emotional weight not quite being what the circumstance requires. I’m three episodes in and the training is pretty standard stuff, like having to swing a sword one thousand times.
I’m hoping the show gets back to the eerie material between Tanjiro and his sister, Nezuko (Akari Kito), who seems ready to devour him in the first minutes of her resurrection. She’s certainly my favourite character so far, and not just because her name is close to my own Nesuko from my old web comic, Boschen and Nesuko. I doubt the creator of Kimetsu no Yaiba took any influence from me but the two characters do have some similarities.
In art club to-day, I was talking to three girls about a Kimetsu no Yaiba notebook that belonged to one of them. I was trying to say things about the show in very simple English so I mentioned a kind of interesting scene in the third episode where Tanjiro uses his sword to split the mask of a character named Sabito (Yuki Kaji). I think I was saying something like, “Sabito’s mask was cut.” Mask being a word that has plenty of currency these days. While I was talking, a quiet little boy sitting in the corner stood up and left the room. “He’s a Sabito fan,” explained one of the girls. “But he’s very shy,” said another. I wonder what it is about Sabito that this little guy seems to be so sensitive about him?
Kimetsu no Yaiba is available on Crunchy Roll.