The devil you should know: a “Demon Slayer” review for newcomers

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“Demon Slayer” is a Japanese animated television show, more commonly referred to as anime, that debuted in Japan in April 2019 to great success both commercially and critically. Why this is relevant in February 2021 may not be readily apparent, unless you’ve looked at Netflix recently to see it has been added to the list of shows in America. Even better, it is available in both the original Japanese audio and an English dubbed version. This was originally going to be a review of “Cyberpunk 2077” but was changed last minute for one reason: “Demon Slayer” is potentially the best introduction to anime for a newcomer.

“Demon Slayer” is widely considered to be an achievement in the genre, both for western and Japanese audiences. Anime is one of those interests I have where I must walk on eggshells when discussing or sharing, especially with new people. There are innumerable tropes in anime that make no sense to a western audience unless they Google them, and even then, it likely won’t have the same impact if you have no attachment to it. Anime can also have an unfortunate tendency to contain gratuitous sexual or violent content, which has been a turn off for people in the west and even in Japan.

Thankfully, “Demon Slayer” has almost none of these issues. It has universal humor, action that is visually interesting and no absurd sexualization or sexual situations. Moreover, it has a rich but digestible amount of traditional Japanese culture and myth to give it an appeal that shows from the west can’t capture. The story of “Demon Slayer” is also phenomenal, finding a balance in being a simple story and containing a lot of depth.

Above all, “Demon Slayer” is a visual masterpiece. It’s got style, high production value, and doesn’t cut corners, something I can’t say for a lot of other anime that has come out. The show blends modern animation techniques with a striking watercolor style of animation that emulates classic Japanese art seamlessly, to name but one of its frequently beautiful sequences of animation. The look and feel of “Demon Slayer” automatically set it apart from its counterparts and adds to the many strengths of the show.

With a title like “Demon Slayer,” one can guess this show has an element of action to it. The action in the show is intrinsically tied to the caliber of animation, so it’s already in a great place. It gets better when you see how much thought is put into some of these fights, with the scenarios being perfectly complemented and executed by the stellar animation. The fights all feel meaningful too, with many of them ending in ways you wouldn’t expect, and they hold many implications for the greater story.

With a show this great, I have no intention of spoiling the series, but I will do my best to give an understanding of it. The show takes place in early 20th century Japan (between 1912 to 1926) and follows Tanjiro Kamado and his sister Nezuko Kamado, the two survivors of a gruesome slaughter. Nezuko is afflicted with a demonic curse, with Tanjiro realizing the only hope for his sister is through the secret group known as the Demon Slayer Corps. The two set out on a journey that will take them far and wide; they face dangers from demons to their fellow man in search of a cure for Nezuko, and for answers as to what happened that bloody winter day. 

The cast does expand throughout the course of the show and I absolutely love every single one of them. The voice acting is solid from both the original Japanese cast and their English counterparts.

Currently, “Demon Slayer” has only one season with 26 episodes that are under 30 minutes in length, but a second season is confirmed with a rumored release date of Fall 2021. Additionally, the feature-length film that was released in Japan should be hitting the states soon. If you haven’t watched it yet, regardless of if you wish to get into the anime scene, I can’t recommend it enough.

Photo credit: IMDb

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