It’s been hard avoiding spoilers for Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba over the past two years. Whether the manga was hitting yet another milestone or fans were simply gushing online; I can’t believe I was able to go into the show in 2021 with no knowledge of the plot or its characters. I didn’t have many expectations for that reason. However, all it took was one night of watching for me to realize I would have a lot to say about Demon Slayer and the concept of found family.
Editor’s Note: There will be minor spoilers for the first season of the Demon Slayer anime.
To call Demon Slayer heavy is an understatement. It’s downright brutal at times and really made me reconsider my knowledge of anime and its seemingly immortal protagonists. At most, I assumed that it would just be an action anime with a sprinkling of demonic fear. And it is that. But it’s also violent and scary. It’s sad.
When we first see what became of Tanjiro and Nezuko’s family, I knew I was in for a rough time. While Tanjiro is extremely capable, it’s almost impossible to forget that his early motivation is the brutal massacre of his loved ones. Using family trauma as a way to move plots and provide a false sense of character growth has never been my favorite narrative device. Luckily, Demon Slayer doesn’t go down that path. Tanjiro quickly decides his main goal is to save his sister and keep what’s left of his family together.
The bit of levity I needed first came when Tanjiro met Urokodaki. Who doesn’t love a stern trainer with a soft heart that he hides behind drills and quiet meals? When Tanjiro makes it back to his new home and his little family comprised of Urokodaki and Nezuko, I said “Oh this is a show for me.” From there, Inosuke is introduced, the wild child abandoned as an infant finally getting praised, and Zenitsu, a coward who only recently learned what it was like to be cared for. That’s compelling! It’s what I love!
It’s so easy to forget a show is about children once they’re put in adult situations. Trauma ages people, and anime will often portray kids as though they’re adults. Tanjiro, Inosuke, Zenitsu and even Nezuko go through a lot, but in their moments together you’re reminded that they are simply kids thrust into a difficult world. All of our protagonists have lost their families. While that partially define them, the real development comes when they’re all together.
The quickest way to get me hooked on something is to add the concept of found family. Demon Slayer is a beautiful show with breathtaking art and animation styles. Still, nothing beats the ways it’s able to show unfortunate people bonding and forming their own group. After what I’ll call “The Mountain Episodes”, I felt as though I needed a long break. Those few episodes were exhausting with how much each and every person had to go through. What had me coming back the very next night was the promise of a family reunion. Seeing the boys play training games to get their strength and confidence back together was so heartwarming.
At the end of the day, Demon Slayer manages to inject so much humor and heart into the interactions between the main characters. I enjoy a dark series. But still, I’m grateful Demon Slayer allows just a small bit of light to come through. I appreciated the goofiness and dramatic teen rivalries as much as every other aspect of the show. It’s cheesy but the number of times throughout Demon Slayer that I said “I’m so glad they found each other” with a motherly smile on my face was ridiculous.