I know it’s pretty unusual for me to write an entire post on a single book review—but sometimes, once in a great while, a story speaks loud enough to warrant more than a paragraph.
That was Demon Slayer.
I first learned of the anime from my brother, who told me it was ‘really good’. Set during the Taisho Period in Japan (1912-1926), it’s a paranormal historical fiction about a world full of man eating demons (which are basically like vampires in this context)—not something I would normally pick up. But it’s anime/manga, so I tried it. The first season, which was all that was available at the time, covers about the first seven volumes of the manga, and that introduction was more than enough to get me invested. And since new seasons of the anime were taking far too long to release (😂) I picked up the manga.
The story follows a young man who lives in the mountains as a charcoal seller, but one day he comes home to find his family slaughtered by a demon. What’s worse, his younger sister has been turned into one! But rather than give in to despair, the main character—Tanjiro—determines to find a way to turn her human again, joining a specialized force called the Demon Slayer Corps to grow stronger, confront demons, and find a cure. Over the course of the story he meets all kinds of people, gains friends, loses allies, and ultimately comes head-on with the demon responsible for destroying his family and turning his sister.
Overall, its dark, gritty, fascinating, and littered with humor and charm.
What drew me in at first was the sibling dynamic. It’s not one I often see in story, and I loved the older brother/younger sister duo who kick butt and defy norms. As a younger sister myself, it’s a dynamic close to my heart.
But as the story unfolded, bringing in new characters and new challenges, I grew more engaged. The plot was interesting and the pacing moved along at a good clip, giving little opportunity to grow bored (besides, it’s hard to get bored when Inosuke’s around!), but it’s the heart of the characters that gave this story meaning. Each one had been hurt by the demons they now hunted, stripped of their family or value. They had lost their home, and in an effort to ensure no one else suffered the same way they did, they joined the Corps to end the reign of demons. They loved much, fought hard, and connected with one another through their shared goals and sufferings.
Over the last couple of weeks I binged the entire manga series which had, thankfully, just finished its run a short while ago. I had to know what happened next. Had to know how these characters faced the challenges before them and fought the odds against them. Their enemies were great—but their determination, their drive, was greater. Surprises and twists laid around every corner and I couldn’t predict what was going to be thrown at me. The climax hit a frenzy of fierce confrontations, incredible growth, and devastating sacrifices.
Yet one thread carried through from bloody beginning to triumphant end: the desire to preserve home. Throughout the entire story, Tanjiro’s motivation is always his sister. Protecting her. Fighting alongside her. Saving her from a hopeless fate. She is all that’s left of his family on the mountain, and he will do anything for her sake. And the other characters, in their own unique ways, are driven to protect and fight for their loved ones—the family they have left after a demon attacked, the family they’ve made in the Corpse. Brothers. Fathers. Mothers. Sisters. Lovers.
They worked so hard with each other and for each other to make sure those they called home could see a sunrise without demons lurking in the shadows. And though the battle was won, not everyone lived to see that day dawn. But that sacrifice and sorrow lent a deeper, more profound beauty to the story. And after all the fighting, after the harrowing adventures and grievous wounds and seemingly endless trials, Tanjiro’s sister, who is finally cured and turned human again, implores her brother with three simple words: “Let’s go home.”
To the mountain. To the little house where it all began, where their family is buried. To that place, and from there start over.
But it’s not just those two that go, they bring with them new members of their family, coming full circle in a journey that began in sorrow and ended with joy and hope.