Demon Slayer Kimetsu no Yaiba (2019)
If I reduce shonen (at least in a partially tongue-in-cheek way) down to “shouting and fighting” then I’ll end up side-stepping the range of genres, storylines and characters that occur within the boundaries of the age bracket – although with Demon Slayer you’re definitely going to get those things in heavy doses, so if you’ve never come across the series then GET READY!
Still, just as important to shonen tends to be the idea of resilience and self-improvement and again, Demon Slayer has a focus there too. In fact, much of our hero Tanjiro’s appeal comes from that archetypal hero: he hates the idea of giving up, is principled, loyal and also kind. It’s a nice mix when you’re tired of morally grey protagonists and his quest to save his sister reveals that side of him fairly often, even if the show sometimes seems to get distracted by ‘upgrading’ our hero (and yeah, we need to see that stuff for sure but I missed that core motivator sometimes).
The main draw for folks who’ve seen a heap of shonen anime is probably going to be the visual elements, since they’re pretty wonderful and at times, dazzling. And not just the fighting, the costuming is pretty ace too – right down to Tanjiro’s hanafuda earings. Obviously the ‘great wave’ style of his swordplay is also pretty vivid, along with the reds and golds throughout. The show uses a lot of muted backgrounds to nice effect here too, giving those fight scenes effortless high contrast. (The early parts set in snow are just as effective too.)
As usual I haven’t mentioned much of the plot but it drew me in quick enough and while it didn’t keep up its tautness the whole way through, my main gripes tended to be with characterisation (and to a lesser extend, what felt like a bit too much recapping). Anyone who has seen the show probably knows exactly where I’m going with this too: Zenitsu.
I really wish there was a way to trim out some of his incessant screaming. That (and his cowardly nature) is usually played for comedic effect and to contrast when he does do something impressive (like his spider fight) but woah, it wore thin pretty quick for me. It’s not a deal breaker though – I’ll still watch the movie and any other series, but it does negatively impact the pacing for me and add little to his arc. Having said that, I think it’s clear there’s a chance of him having a character-development path at least.
Finally, it took me a while to come to terms with the fact that the main antagonist* Muzan is essentially Michael Jackson circa Smooth Criminal. Okay – costume-wise, at least, rather than mannerisms etc but I found it fascinating and odd, even though I was still able to put it aside and enjoy the show.
(*And for now, I’m including most of those damn puffed-up hashira in that category.)