Despite the mountains of hype that the Ufotable mega-series Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba has received in the past and present, the anime has always suffered from a bit of a character problem. While demon slayers, Hashira, and demons alike are drawn with eccentric differences which establish them as separate entities, based on the textural illustrations by manga artist and writer Koyoharu Gotouge, their personalities fail to succeed in that same level of notice. They’re fine, but with the level of success the series has, fine should be a bar easily cleared.
The supporting characters need a shake up
Thus far into the series, regardless of the devastation they’ve witnessed or the comedic gags which lean into rough animation style and rounded, chibi figures, there are only two characters worth rooting for: Tanjiro and Nezuko. In part because we’ve been with them since the very beginning, but also due to the two being the ones best and most consistently fleshed out of the entire cast. They’re the ones who drive the story and accelerate the tension. While we might not be caught in a constant state of worry about whether or not they’ll outlive the episode, we’re invested to the point where we’re concerned anyway, despite our better judgment and knowledge of what it means to be the protagonist.
That lack of character connection beyond a small few increases the understanding of just why the action sequences are so beloved — an aspect easy to understand and get on board with. Utilizing different forms of animation and specifically the grace and movement of 3D filmmaking, Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba is a crossover anime for a reason, palatable for the general public and regular week-to-week fans as well. It’s event television, with each episode managing to up the physical stakes. Boiled down, Demon Slayer is greater at being a spectator sport.
If they could manage to merge the heightened visuals with introspective character work that goes beyond what we already know the series would find the missing piece. Season three starts strong because its main battle focal point allows for the main characters to operate in a similar landscape, with the strongest dynamic, the sibling relationship between Tanjuro and Nezuko, being allowed time to shine as they unite and utilize their increased strength in battle in what first appears to be an impossible fight.
The biggest gripe is that Tanjiro’s most constant allies to this point, Zenitsu, and Inosuke, aren’t as enjoyable as the writing finds them to be, Season three has been its arguable best due to relying on Tanjiro’s charm as a protagonist, his stubborn big-brother-isms, and own sense of humor especially when pressed to a spot of desperation such as when he’s training.
Fresh faces and less gags create a better dynamic
Compared to Tanjiro’s friends, the Hashiras Mitsuri, Muichiro Tokito, and fellow slayer Genya all make for greater supporting characters and foils for Tanjiro.
Mitsuri’s distinctive and fan favorite character design strikes a solid balance of formidable strength and humor, with Nezuko in particular warming to her instantly. And while Genya is posed as a clear antagonist to Tanjiro at the start, throughout just the seven episodes so far this season we’ve been given greater insight to his character and motivations than we’ve yet to get for either Zenitsu or Inosuke.
Perhaps the most interesting of the three additional cast members however is the young Mist Hashira, Tokito, whose ambivalence towards Tanjiro and his cold demeanor towards the child of a sword maker put him at odds with our protagonist. Younger than Tanjiro himself, the series does great work in his characterization as to depict him so that his iciness isn’t read as cocky or ego driven, but instead is due to his diligent nature that sees everything as an equation. It makes his shift when he goes to defend one person rather than sacrifice them for the sake of the whole village all the more potent because we’ve seen how Tanjio’s nature has appealed to him.
This traces a similar vein as Tanjiro’s dynamic with Genya, whose tragic backstory mirrors Tanjiro and Nezuko’s. While Genya has one older brother alive, the Wind Hashira, they’re not on speaking terms, and the flashback shows the moment where they lost their younger siblings by the hands of their mother who’d been changed into a demon. Shocking in it’s revelation, it too makes his shift in perspective hit harder because while he’s far from a changed individual, he can see Tanjiro’s sincerity and respect it enough in battle.
Tanjiro is finally allowed to shine again
All of which highlights some of the bigger issues of the first two seasons — the series forgets that Tanjiro is an excellent protagonist. He’s also, seemingly, easy to misinterpret, due to a truly ludicrous article published earlier this week that is asisnie in its misunderstanding of this character. Instilling empathy into every fight, Tanjiro fights with the understanding of the repercussions of violence and his actions. His warmth and need to protect has been key aspects of his characterization since day one, making the tragedy he endured and the weight it leaves him shouldering all the more potent and devastating. It also means that the bulk of the story could be left to him, without the filler aspects of other main supporting cast members, and the show would be better off because of it.
With the current battle seemingly hitting final moments it will be interesting to see — for non manga readers — if we get to stay in this village for much longer, or if we’re back to the status quo. For the sake of the show and the characters currently making up the main lineup, here’s hoping we get more than the anticipated arc to spend with them.
Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba – Swordsmith Village Arc is available now to stream on Crunchyroll.
Featured Image Courtesy of Ufotable